News / London

The London forest you can really sink your teeth into

London’s answer to the Garden of Eden is coming along well, and people are being invited in.

The Carolinian Food Forest, growing in South Branch Park at the end of Dillabough Street, is now into its third year of planting, and the natural feast is starting to become available.

It’s a social project, a community enhancement and an experiment in urban farming. The idea is to have a forest, within the city, that’s full of edible things. Anyone can walk through and, if they know what they’re doing, find things that are good to eat.

How do you know what you’re doing? Jessica Robertson will teach you.

“I would recommend that, the first time they come, they come to one of the events like a foraging workshop so they can learn what’s here,” said Robertson, who volunteers for the forest project as well as working on it through her business Wild Craft Permaculture.

Robertson is a specialist in creating gardens. In particular, she creates gardens that are “resilient and regenerative” because they mimic ecosystems, and that’s exactly what the edible forest is designed to do.

“It doesn’t look like a typical forest,” Robertson said. “It’s not as dense. You need better spacing between the trees to get enough light through, to have understory spaces.

“But basically it functions in the same way as any other forest. It’s a self-sustaining ecosystem.”

Back up a little: understory?

That’s one of the seven layers of a food forest, each providing different types of produce.

The upper layer, for example, is the overstory, and in the London food forest it includes black walnuts and hickory.

Other layers are offering, or getting ready to offer, apples, currants, gooseberries, choke cherries, garlic and even some edible flowers.

The plan is that, one day, the forest will be mostly self-sustaining, with little work required to keep it thriving.

But, like any forest, it keeps on growing.

Robertson will lead a walk through the forest, explaining its ecosystem and the food that’s available at 10 a.m. July 13.  There’s also a foraging walk planned for 7 p.m. July 14.

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