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The Lost Forest Gardens of Europe

The Lost Forest Gardens of Europe

europe hazelnut orchard mossy shade forest garden filbert farm

Contents

  • People of the Hazel: Europe’s indigenous cultures return after the glaciers retreat, bringing their most cherished tree with them

  • The Continent-Wide Orchard: Mesolithic people create Europe’s post-glacial ecosystems as vast forest gardens

  • A Changing Climate: millennia of drastic fluctuations in the climate lead to the creation and spread of grain-based agriculture

  • Strength in Diversity: early farmers innovate resilient crop mixes and companion planting to guard against climate change

  • Hybrid Cultures: Europe’s new creolized societies mix the best of hunter-gatherer and farmer cultures, practices, livestock, and crops to create entirely new ways to grow food

  • The Domesticated Forest Garden: farmers in the Mediterranean adapt their region’s hunter-gatherer forest gardens into diverse multi-story farms, creating resilient agricultural forests of domesticated crops that exist to this day

  • Towards a New Culture: imperialist monoculture farming systems take precedence in Europe, but the indigenous forest garden methods survive in the margins. These ancient methods are nearly forgotten, but they can provide a framework for rethinking the way we live and grow food in a changing climate.

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Introduction

In the hills above the Po river in northern Italy, there are a handful of farms that look almost the same today as they would have three thousand years ago.

There are rows of short pruned trees, with fruit-laden grape vines festooned between them. The trees are common natives in the area that produce fruit, firewood, basketmaking materials, and fodder for farm animals. The grapes are ancient cultivars that have been grown here for millennia. Between these rows of grapes and trees are diverse plots of cereals, hayfields, vegetables, and herbs. In a single field, one can find all of the staples needed to live and support the farmstead, and more to sell at a high premium…

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