One of the first and most inspiring classes in the Permaculture in Action Roots and Seeds Course is on Southern Appalachian Forest Gardening. As we consider applying the Principals of Permaculture to design regenerative community and food security here in our region the potential of a thriving forest economy becomes incredibly exciting.
Managed according the Permaculture principals, the bounty of yields are not limited to plants, but include fungi, animals, and medicines; materials for buildings and crafts; fodder and mulch; charcoal and firewood; habitat for predators of pests.
Fungi and herbs can yield excellent prices: oyster mushrooms fetch up to $18/lb., dried mulberries up to $30/lb., and dried Reishi mushrooms up to $50 /lb. Elderberry syrup sells for $680 a gallon.
In a forest, some trees can be coppiced, yielding 6-10 tall straight sprouts from each stump, and prompting higher yields of such things as mulberries, hazelnuts, and chestnuts.
Another yield of a forest is carbon sequestration. Forests, unlike annual agriculture, actually build instead of depleting topsoil. Plus forests create rain!
The top ten products of a Southern Appalachian forest, in ease of growth and propagation are:
1) Elderberry, which grows from cuttings, in moist or dry locations. Elderberry is an immune booster, excellent for flus or colds and a wonderful addition to meads and cordials.
2) Sochan, a wild, perennial edible green.
3) Appalachian Reishi, a medicinal mushroom that grows on dead hemlock trees (of which, unfortunately, we have many due to the wooly adelgid infestation)
4) Oyster mushrooms grow on poplars (our most common tree)
5) Chinese or European Chestnut. These nut trees yield more calories per acre than corn and be made into flour. Though our American Chestnut was wiped out in the early 20th century, Chinese or European chestnuts can produce in 3 years. They are being bred with the American Chestnut in hopes of restoring this keystone species to the Southern Appalahcians.
7) White oak acorn which has less tannins than other acorns and can also be made into flour.
8) Mulberry. These delicious berries can be dried or made into wine and the bushes can be coppiced for easier harvest.
8) Wild turkeys.
9) White-tailed deer have provided an important source of protein for generations and now with no natural predators remaining in our forests risks overpopulation and disease.
10) Lambs’ quarter and amaranth. OK, that’s really two different crops but both are extremely easy to grow, pioneer species. So they can help begin the succession of healing clear cuts in to healthy forests.
If you’d like to know more about the potential for a thriving food forest economy in our region watch Zev’s talk at TedX Katuah last year.
And join us for the Roots and Seeds 14-day Course this May through October. For information or to register email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Michelle 828-230-3845.