Like the edible candy forest in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," a park in Seattle is designed to be eaten. But unlike the junk food forest of Wonka's factory, which only a few children got to taste, Seattle's edible ecosystem will be all-natural, healthy and free to the public.
Two acres of inedible grass in Seattle's Beacon Hill area are being replaced with a forest of apples, plums, walnuts and other food-bearing trees. Beneath the canopy of fruits and nuts, an understory of berry bushes will grow in partial shade.
"All of these plants work together like a forest ecosystem, but they are edible," one of the park's designers, Glenn Herlihy, told the Seattle Times.
Bee hives will help pollinate the plants and provide tasty honey. Other beneficial insects will be attracted by flowers that have been strategically planted as a way to combat pests without using poisons.
The goal is to mimic nature while providing free, healthy food to the local community. Citizens will be invited to harvest foods on the honor system.
"It's simply just good ethics," Herlihy said. "Help yourself, don't take it all and save some for anybody else."
The first harvest is expected in spring of 2013, but the trees will take a few years to bear fruit. Eventually, the park may be expanded to 7 acres, making it the largest food forest in America.
Photo: Apple orchards in Kolomenskoye, Moscow, Russia during spring. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Корзун Андрей.