Nature today | Food forest edges provide food for humans and animals

Madelon was 50, lived in Amsterdam and did the appraisal. For more than 25 years, it has had a postage stamp garden with dozens of edible perennials in the downtown area. Will that be enough for her graduation assignment in sustainable agriculture? Permaculture is an acronym for the two words perennial and cultivation: planting with perennials. The task was to design a drug, but that does not seem possible. She painted and described her own garden and this was the beginning of her first book: A Small Edible Garden with Perennials.

Soon, ten years later, KNNV Publishers will publish its third book “Voedselbosrand”. Madelon has visited and mapped dozens of food forest boundaries and can talk about them infectiously. We notice this when we meet her in a cafe on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

How It Started: Pioneering Ketelbroek

“Wouter van Eyck is one of the Dutch pioneers,” says Madelon. Van Eck started Food Forest Ketelbroek in 2009 in a barren cornfield near Groesbeek. Offer courses and tours and make the concept of “food jungle” very popular. In 2016, he founded the Food Forestry Foundation in the Netherlands (VBNL) with four others. According to this basis, a food forest is “a vital ecosystem designed by humans modeled on a natural forest for the purpose of food production”. And food production, that’s what Ketelbroek does! In a video for De Volkskrant, Wouter explains and shakes a medlar tree with a chef. Numerous fruits fall to the ground with shocks. Journalist Mac Van Denther has written a book and article on Ketelbroek.

Forest Food Schlink Forest

Madelon Oostwoud (what’s the name…) now has a food forest in the North of Holland: Schellinkwoud. On a neglected wild plot of just over one hectare, a huge amount of edible plants, herbs, nuts and fruit trees were planted. The Food Forest website states: “If you stop your car at the embankment and walk toward the fence, everything changes. The wind dies, the light becomes more beautiful, the temperature becomes more pleasant, the sun begins to shine. Smells and colors flow towards you.” Although Madelon would like to show us – the staff of Atlas Natural Capital – the jungle, we made an appointment in Amsterdam. There she works with a friend in a garden with edible plants. More on that later.

Forest Food Schlink Forest

New book Edge of the Food Jungle

We ask Madelon why she wrote a book called “Voedselbosrand”. What is this anyway? Madelon points to the back of the book. “Food forest edges are edges and rows of crop plants and trees, with a variety of foods for humans and animals. Think of the boundaries of an agricultural plot between fields, meadows, and large garden hedges.” “More light falls on the edge than light deeper in the forest. Take blackberry bushes. They thrive on the edge of the forest, not so much in the woods. It may also be practical to start with a yielding ‘feature’. If it is ‘catch’,” explains Madelon. , you can repeat the concept. One such boundary, for example between lawns, really makes a huge difference to plants and animals!” The book also includes a list of 250 edible plants.

One of the edible plants from the Food Forest Edge's list of edible plants.  American wine grapes are larger than the most famous Japanese wines

From the soil of Berko

Madelon describes the edges of the various food forests in the Netherlands. Who takes the lead, what grows? You always draw a map with the location, dimensions, and names of edible plants. “Then my background in drawing and design comes in handy,” laughs Madelon. One example from her book is “Van Perkouwse Grond” by Haneki Kwik. This arboretum is located in the Green Heart of the Krimpenerwaard. Near the house grow herbs, artichokes, strawberries, raspberries and castoreum. Then the edge of the food forest begins with peaches, pears, nashi, black currants, plums, and wild lemons, among other things. Birds were also thought. They’ve got their own fence at the southeast end of the plot. (text continues below image)

a map


Another example in the new book is the hedge planted by Remy van Beekom at Eext. He and his wife bought a 1,600-square-meter house in the summer of 2018. They are now building an “edible paradise” there. When it came time to build a new fence, Remy and the neighbors decided it would be a mixed fence. The old fence had partially collapsed and the rest might have collapsed as well. Not only should a new hedge form a divider between gardens, it should also support bumblebees, bees, butterflies and birds. The hedge now includes hawthorn, black horn, yellow dogwood, wild cardinal’s hat, bush pea, wild honeysuckle, elderberry, hazelnut, rose and much more.

yellow dogwood

From stamps to bequests

The examples from the book “Voedselbosrand” have different surfaces, from a few tens of square meters to several hectares. Madelon explains, “Large trees need space, both under and above ground. They need a good-sized plot. In a full-grown food forest, trees and soil life balance out, which is much more difficult in a small plot. The edge is proportional to nutritious plants.” In places where it is not possible to create a full forest. You can work with productive plants even in a small garden – just look at my first book!”

rich soil life

Soil Measurement According to Madeleon, an important characteristic of a successful food forest and forest edge is the life of the rich soil. “The soil is no-till and uses no pesticides or fertilizers. Soil life provides nutrients. Alfalfa, for example, binds nitrogen from the air and thus supplies the soil with nitrogen.”

Madelon painted the roots of such a plant, with characteristic nitrogenous nodules. “A simple measurement of soil life is done by sticking a shovel into the ground,” Madelon says. “If it’s good, and you look closely, it will crawl on the life shovel into the soil.” Interesting in this respect is the earthworm map in the natural capital atlas. Check how your environment scores!

animals celebrate

Madelon: “Of course, birds, butterflies, mice, moles, and many other animals can be found in food forests and the fringes of food forests. They forage, they eat seeds, they defecate and dig the ground. Curly thorny bushes attract small birds and hedgehogs. They especially like hedges of thorny varieties such as Gooseberries, hawthorn and black horn. They feel safe in it. Hedgehogs, amphibians, insects, and birds find shelter and food in and under bushes in the winter, especially if you leave the leaves behind.” More advice can be found at the bottom of this article.illustration of a hedgehog
Madelon also points to the Food from the Forest platform, which invites people to measure the biodiversity of their food forests. The platform contains data from nearly two hundred food forests. Madelon made the measurements for this platform at Food Forest Schellinkwoud. “It is very fun to do and above all very useful. Measurement is knowing! “

Heaven’s closed gate

Blackberry BushAt the end of the interview, we walk Madelon to a park at the back of the Olympic Stadium. The park is located between the river “De Schinkel” and the museum tram route to Amsterdam Bos. “I was on a waiting list for a year when I met an old lady with whom I now share this garden. I didn’t make anything out of it, but I did add a lot. All the plants I add are solid, edible and therefore usable in the kitchen.”

Madelon searches her bag, jacket and pockets. But there is no place for the park key. We were a little shocked as we stood in front of the closed gate. Until my colleague notices the watercress between the bars. The drooping branches of the currant bush. There’s also ripe blackberries and canter, too!

Apparently we have to keep an eye on the treasures under our feet. Edible plants are everywhere. They don’t stick to the boundaries we create. Nice and wise lesson!

Curious about Food Forest Edge?

You can order Food Forest Edge from KNNV.

Tips to get started with yourself

  • “First, remove the tiles from your garden!” Read our article on tile rockers.
  • Note before planting. Where does the wind come from? Where does the water stay? This is important in your choice of planting.
  • A raspberry or raspberry bush is beautiful, fun, and fits just about anywhere.
  • Where dandelion (from the compound family) grows, chamomile, Jerusalem artichoke and marigold grow well.
  • Pruning moderately or “alternating” pruning. This way there is enough food for insects and birds.
  • Biting rabbits or bunnies or sweeping damage from roebuck? Protect young trees with a metal mesh that is flexible and high enough around the trunk.
  • Make your own compost. Madelon: “Composting results in beautiful black soil from the scraps left over from the kitchen. This material is invaluable for your planting material.” See also the Atlas article “You Can Learn to Compost.”

Make a delicious pesto from wild garlic with this recipe from Madelon

You may have already found your first wild garlic of the year. You can make delicious pesto with it. Fortunately, the plant is no longer protected, and it was removed from the so-called “red list”. Wild garlic not found? Then use, for example, nettle, trout or watercress.

Choose young leaves (fresh tops). Rinse with cold water, then clean and chop finely. Mix a handful of veggies with olive oil, a handful of aged cheese or pecorino, and a handful of nuts of your choice. Puree it using a stick blender or food processor and pour in enough oil so that it is spreadable but not runny. Season with lemon, pepper and/or salt and garlic if desired.

Read more:

Text: Dieneke Schram-Bijkerk, Atlas Natural Capital
Images:; Madelon Ostwood Archive. Rosetta Stumble Arnold van Fleet Lisbet Derven Bora ekerci

Leave a Comment