Madelon was fifty, lived in Amsterdam and made status. For over 25 years, she had a stamp garden with dozens of edible perennials downtown. Would that be enough for her permaculture graduation assignment? Permaculture is a contraction of the words permanent and agriculture: agriculture with perennials. The task was to draw a property, but it did not seem possible. She drew and described her own garden, and that was the beginning of her first book: ‘A small edible garden with perennials’.
Soon, ten years later, KNNV Forlag publishes its third book ‘Voedselbosrand’. Madelon visited and drew dozens of food forest boundaries and can talk contagiously about them. We notice this when we meet her at a cafe on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
How it started: pioneer in Ketelbroek
“Wouter van Eck is one of the Dutch pioneers,” says Madelon. Van Eck started Food Forest Ketelbroek in 2009 on a barren corn field near Groesbeek. He held courses and tours and made the concept of ‘food forest’ so familiar. In 2016, he founded the Food Forestry Foundation in the Netherlands (VBNL) along with four others. According to this basis, a food forest is ‘a vital ecosystem designed by humans based on the model of a natural forest for the purpose of producing food’. And producing food, that’s what Ketelbroek does! In a video by Volkskrant, Wouter explains and shakes out a medlar tree with a chef. The many fruits fall to the ground with dunk. Journalist Mac van Dinther wrote a book and an article about Ketelbroek.
Madskov Schellink Skov
Madelon Oostwoud (what’s in a name …) now has a food forest in North Holland: Schellinkwoud. On a wild and neglected plot of well over an acre, she planted an enormous amount of edible plants, herbs, nut and fruit trees. The food forest’s website states: “If you park by the dike and go down, towards the fence, everything changes. The wind decreases, the light becomes even more beautiful, the temperature becomes more comfortable, the sun begins to shine. Scents and colors flow towards you. ” Although Madelon would like to show us – employees of Atlas Natural Capital – the forest, we made an agreement in Amsterdam. There she works with a friend in a garden with edible plants. More on that later.
New book Madskovkant
We ask Madelon why she wrote a book called ‘Voedselbosrand’. What is it anyway? Madelon points to the back of the book. “Edge forest edges are edges and rows of crop plants and trees with a wide variety of food for humans and animals. Think of the basic boundaries of agricultural land between fields and meadows and hedges of larger gardens.” Madelon explains: “There is more light falling on the edge than deeper in the forest. Take blackberry bushes. They thrive on the edge of the forest, not so much in the forest. It can also be convenient to start with a resilient ‘edge’. If it ‘catches’, you can repeat the concept. Such a boundary, for example between meadows, already makes such a big difference for plants and animals! The book also contains a list of 250 edible plants.
From Percow land
Madelon describes different food forest edges in Holland. Who took the initiative, what grows? She always draws a map with the location, dimensions and names of the edible plants. “Then my background in drawing and design comes in handy,” laughs Madelon. One of the examples from her book is ‘Van Perkouwse Grond’ by Hanneke Koek. This kindergarten is located in the green heart of Krimpenerwaard. Near the house grow herbs, artichokes, strawberries, raspberries and nasturtiums. Then the food forest edge starts with, among other things, peach, nashi pear, black currant, plum and wild lemons. The birds have also been thought of. They got their own hedge in the southeastern tip of the plot. (The text continues below the image)
Remi .s hæk
One of the other examples in the new book is the hedge that Remi van Beekum planted in Eext. In the summer of 2018, he and his wife bought a house with 1,600 square meters of land. They are now building a ‘dining paradise’ there. When it was time for a new fence, Remi and the neighbors decided that it should be a mixed fence. The old fence had partially collapsed, and so would the remaining part. The new hedge should not only form a partition between the gardens, but also support bumble bees and bees, butterflies and birds. The hedge now houses hawthorn, blackthorn, yellow dogwood, wild cardinal hat, pea bush, wild honeysuckle, elderberry, hazel, dog rose and much more.
From stamp to estate
The examples from the book ‘Voedselbosrand’ have varying surfaces, from a few dozen square meters to several hectares. Madelon explains: “Large trees need space, both below and above ground. They need a good size plot. In a full-fledged food forest, the trees and soil life come into balance, which is a lot harder on a small plot. An edge with “Nourishing plants fit in places where a complete forest is not possible. You can work on giving plants even in a small garden – just look at my first book!”
Rich soil life
According to Madelon, an important characteristic of a successful food forest and forest edges is a rich soil life. “The soil has not been cultivated and no pesticides or fertilizers are used. Earth life provides the nutrients. Clover, for example, binds nitrogen from the air and thus supplies the soil with nitrogen. “
Madelon drew the roots of such a plant with the characteristic nitrogen nodules. “A simple measurement of the life of the earth is performed by sticking a shovel into the ground,” says Madelon. “If it’s good and you look good, it’s going to crawl on the shovel of earthly life.” Interesting in this regard is the map of earthworms in Atlas Nature Capital. Check how your environment scores!
Madelon: “Of course, birds, butterflies, mice, moles and many other animals can be found in food forests and food forest edges. They forage, eat seeds, defecate and dig up the ground. A fold of thorny shrubs attracts small birds and hedgehogs. They especially like hedges with thorny varieties such as gooseberries, hawthorn and blackthorn. They feel safe in it. Hedgehogs, amphibians, insects and birds find shelter and food in and under shrubs in winter, especially if you leave the leaves. “More tips can be found at the bottom of this article.
Madelon also points to the Food from the Forest platform, which invites people to measure biodiversity in their own food forest. The platform contains data from almost two hundred food forests. Madelon made the measurements for this platform in the Food Forest Schellinkwoud. “Very fun to make and above all very useful. To measure is to know!”
The closed gate to paradise
At the end of the interview, we go with Madelon to a garden at the back of the Olympic Stadium. The garden is located between the river ‘de Schinkel’ and the tram to the museum tram to Amsterdamse Bos. “I had been on the waiting list for a year when I met an elderly lady with whom I now share this garden. I did not take anything out of it, but added a lot. All the plants I add are solid, edible and therefore useful in the kitchen. ”
Madelon searches in her bag, jacket and pockets. But nowhere the key to the garden. Slightly stunned, we stand in front of the closed gate. Until my colleague notices arugula, between the rails. And the overhanging branches of a currant bush. There are also trot and ripe blackberries!
We must apparently keep an eye on the treasures under our feet. Edible plants are everywhere. They do not stick to the limits we devise. A beautiful and clever lesson!
Curious about Food Forest Edge?
You can order Food Forest Edge from KNNV publishing house.
Tips to get started yourself
- “First, remove the tiles from your garden!” Read our article on tile lashes.
- Observe before planting. Where does the wind come from? Where will the water be? It is important in your choice of planting.
- The mulberry or berry bush is beautiful and fun, and they fit almost anywhere.
- Where dandelions (from the composite family) grow, chamomile, Jerusalem artichoke and marigolds will also grow well.
- Prune in moderation or prune ‘alternately’. That way, there is enough food for insects and birds.
- Nibbling hares or rabbits or sweeping damage from roe deer? Protect young trees with flexible and sufficiently high metal mesh around the trunk.
- Make your own compost. Madelon: “Composting creates beautiful black soil from the cutting waste from the kitchen. That material is invaluable to your plant material. “See also the Atlas article ‘You can learn to compost’.
Make delicious pesto of wild garlic with this recipe from Madelon
You may have already found the first wild garlic of the year. You can make delicious pesto with it. Fortunately, the plant is no longer protected, it has been removed from the so-called ‘Red List’. No wild garlic found? Then use eg stinging nettle, trout or arugula.
Pick young leaves (fresh tops). Rinse with cold water, pat and chop finely. Mix a handful of greens with olive oil, a handful of old cheese or Pecorino and a handful of nuts of your choice. Chop with a hand blender or food processor while pouring enough oil in so that it becomes spreadable but not liquid. Season with lemon, pepper and / or salt and possibly. garlic.
Text: Dieneke Schram-Bijkerk, Atlas Nature Capital
Photos: lenaleen.nl; archive Madelon Oostwoud; Rosita Stumpel; Arnold van Vliet; Liesbet Dirven; Good luck