In the past few years, green infrastructure programs have been on the rise in urban communities across Canada. With over 82% of the population now living in urban centres, urban forests are playing an increasingly important role, as people realize the numerous benefits that trees add to all aspects of our cities. There has been a recent movement of re-inviting food back into our cities and reconnecting people with their local food systems to promote a more wholesome lifestyle. In come edible trees.
The term ‘edible trees’ describes trees that produce fruits, nuts, seeds, berries and pods suitable for human consumption. Edible trees in people’s yards, orchards, community gardens and open community landscapes make up our edible forests and involves the transition of replacing and adding to ornamental and decorative plants with edible trees along boulevards and in public spaces and parks.
An article published by the Department of Landscape Architecture at Selcuk University in Turkey explored the importance of edible landscaping in urban areas. The article talks about how edible trees help build community. Connecting people to their food sources has social and recreational benefits such as improved health and food security in a region. Celebrating local edible trees in community gardens encourages people to gather together to care for, harvest, and learn about different trees, while inviting them to be more connected to their land and food and building a food community around them. Making tree harvesting accessible to the public gives people a sense of pride about their community and encourages people to explore their own city.
Local edible trees also enhance a sustainable locally-grown food supply, improving dietary variety and nutrition. Edible trees teach people about the importance of clean eating, such that having access to a reliable source and enough nutritious food improves quality of life. As well, food grown locally saves resources by reducing the amount of fuel used to transport food long distances.
A study published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening discusses the important role that edible trees play in community development in areas of Seattle. Transforming a city’s ornamental public green spaces into edible landscapes through things like community and stakeholder partnerships demonstrates support for social stewardship, environmental practices and an investment in a sustainable future.
Since 2012 , Tree Canada’s Edible Trees program, a program designed to promote the planting of edible trees in communities, has provided funding to over 150 communities across Canada to plant over 10, 000 edible trees. Municipalities, schools, and community gardens can apply for edible tree grants, which enable them to plant fruit and nut trees in their neighbourhoods.
With approximately 1 in 12 Canadians experiencing food insecurity, planting edible trees in our communities and neighbourhoods seems like a common-sense approach and a way to plant for our future.