The Enchanted Edible Forest
Surely, it had to be enchanted. What else could account for the intoxication in the air – the perfumed scent of peaches, apples, lemons and plums, the aroma of lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme. Everywhere you looked there were fruit and nut trees forming an open canopy, with the bounty of their gifts limning the branches — pears, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Barely visible shrubs yielding raspberries, blueberries, currants and hazelnuts filled the earthen hollows with other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts making their scattered debut throughout the seasons. Native wildflowers, herbs, wild edibles, and perfectly colored and curved perennial vegetables blanketed the earth in a cornucopia of plenty.
Looking across this woodland web of ecological wonder, where food and medicine is cultivated, where birds, bees, butterflies and insects congregate, where soil replenishes and redeems, and where vines, trees and arbors of hanging kiwis, grapes and passion-flowers adorn nature’s nave like small sacraments, you suddenly realize this is not fantasy, but a true to life edible forest, a celestial shrine, a green cathedral, anointed with gratitude, tended with reverence and venerated by all.
This life force, or what is being called, “a park to be eaten” is currently underway on two acres of land in my newly adopted home of Seattle. In a gesture of unimagined cooperation, agreement and simple goodness, this edible ecosystem will be all-natural, healthy, and free to the public. The goal is to mimic nature while providing free, healthy food to the local community. Citizens will be invited to harvest food on the honor system. “It’s just good ethics,” one of the designers said. “Help yourself, don’t take it all and save some for anybody else.”
‘As a new citizen of the Emerald City, I couldn’t be prouder,’ I murmured in silent tribute, as though my arrival on the scene like the Elf Queen Galadriel in a wisp of gossamer, sprinkling a wave of fairy dust from my ecologically-engineered wand had something to do with Seattle’s inspiration.
The Japanese farmer and philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka once said,
“The ultimate goal
is not the growing of crops,
but the cultivation
of human beings.”
How we garden reflects our worldview. It is a testament to ourselves, our livelihood, and the legacy we leave behind. It’s objective is not merely the growing of things for survival, or the industrialization of farming as a means to control, contaminate and cash in on our nation’s polluted and plundered food supply, but the life-affirming cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and of acting in the world. Forest gardening gives us the experience of what it means to feel the dirt, scatter the seeds, cradle a bulb, all the while teaching us how the planet works, how life blooms, dies and resurrects, and how we, as a species, can master our collective destiny, assuming our rightful place as part of nature doing nature’s work.
Seattle’s first harvest is expected in spring of 2013, although the trees will take a few years to bear fruit. There is talk that the park may be expanded to seven splendid acres, making it the largest food forest in America.
Image: Green Cathedral, Joel Barr, Painting in Oils