Food Forests – A Primer

Wanted to share a wonderful article passed on by our friend, Suren, that reviews perennial staple crops aka food forests.

A food forest is what I depend on when we don’t have vegetables growing in the dry season of Jan 15 – April 15. Of course it is possible grow veggies all the year round but the amount of effort and water it takes in the dry season turns me off when I see the struggle the plants go through just to survive. Instead, I go to the trees and ask for food. At the risk of repeating the menu in these months, we are mostly dependent on perennials like moringa leaves, drumsticks, banana stem, banana flower, raw banana and Thavasi (Star Gooseberry, Katuk). Storable tubers like yam and taro and squashes like red pumpkins also come in handy.

The only perennial fruit we have now is bananas. Papyas will start yielding soon and join the category. They both live forever in the form of their offsprings.

Coconut trees yield throughout the year and nourish us as a fruit, vegetable, oil seed, mulch and manure. They live for 100 years.

And we need to learn how to extend perennials across other food groups like grains and pulses.

I consider food from such perennials a superior and more natural form of food for many reasons. And most of those reasons are beautifully articulated in this article that talks about perennials for different climate zones.

After a couple of years, our soil may support veggies and grains in dry months also. Even then, I’d like to experiment with techniques that mimic a forest soil structure like HugelCulture (thanks Rohan) more than growing them the normal way.

And I really wish efforts to amplify these species receives more funding and research grants than all the GM experiments on corn and potatoes to “eliminate hunger”.

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