The Edible City

I believe that we will need to produce food in our urban centres, because I can’t figure out how else we are going to meet an increased demand from our cities. With over 50% of the world’s population living in them, currently relying on an unsustainable agricultural system to deliver all the nourishment they need, it’s not hard to understand that something will need to change.

In order to meet this need in the ways of a permaculturist, I have dedicated my working hours to the concept of Edible Cities.

I have always been seeking for knowledge and skills that will help me to survive under any circumstances. How to build a shelter, how to make fire, how to find food… so for me, designing the edible city started out as a personal quest of finding out what wild plants I could eat, and then took the turn of also including plants commonly found in gardens. After refreshing old knowledge from when I was a kid and adding on a large number of new plant-friends, it just felt wrong to keep all the knowledge of this tasty, free food to myself.

My own version of the Edible City was presented as “City Salad”; hosted salad tours through the city of Gothenburg, Sweden. Me and my colleague Emma Petersson would walk around in areas where we knew there were lots of edible plants and start presenting them: Their name, when to pick them, where to find them, how to prepare them, and so on. The tours were marketed through Facebook; the first tour had thirty people, the second (in the pouring rain) about fifteen, and the third had some forty-five people showing up. There was a really good vibe during these walks. People would open up to each other because they had a common topic – food – and the group always knew more then just Em and I so the act of sharing knowledge was also a big part. 2012 was our first year trying this out, but for sure we will keep on hosting tours for many years to come. It’s so much fun!

Now, there’s no way we will feed an entire city population only from wild plants and edibles you can find in your garden. Teaching people about this opportunity is just a way of opening their eyes and stomachs for the possibility of food production within cities. Step number two is to scale it all up to have more food growing both inside large buildings an out in the open. There are so many positive layers of this! I would love to live in a building where on top of the roof there was a large greenhouse, producing vegetables for all the households. You could put down your order of food and then pick it up on your way home, or join the gardeners in the greenhouse to harvest some on your own. Or, what if we could design production of leafy greens into all our tall buildings which have an open and often unused atrium? They’re just waiting to become greenhouses… and then, imagine if when you bike back home, you could stop in any of the parks to see what’s on the freshly-produced-menu out in the open.

To me, the Edible City stands for a whole new sector within the economy, social interaction, community and city planning, health and nourishment, etc. I think that the issue of food production soon will be on every man’s table, because it really is a question about security and survival. Therefore, I was super exited to get the chance to do a TEDx Talk on this topic, and I’d like to share that with you (see video at top).



2 thoughts on “The Edible City

  1. Very interesting talk. Not sure if I would recommend eating city-harvested fat-hen though. Like Klara said in the talk it’s good at picking up minerals and nutrients, but it also accumulates chemicals in the leaves. For instance, I wouldn’t eat fat-hen from a garden treated with pesticides, as it would probably contain the pesticides in the plant itself. A big city like Gothenburg would be pretty polluted but, yeah, as long as it’s not close to a road it’s probably okay. Just wanted to add a little disclaimer. :-)

  2. Thanks for a great talk.
    Klara, you walk the walk.
    Foraging, from leaf to stalk.

    Where do vegetables come from? In the beginning all vegetables were wild, were they not?
    Its great to find the original foods just around the corner. The lime tree is a part of a design already. The landscape architects like them becauase of their beuaty and because the trees tolerate the city conditions. I have been told Robert Hart has a pollarded lime tree in the forest garden. Pollarded so you can pick the leaves easier. My bees love this tree and make a great honey from it too. The taste was reason why it has been planted around many mansions and palaces around Sweden. If those of you on the northern hemisphere dont want to wait for the leaves, then go out and pick the reddish buds of the tree. They are edible too.

    Now you got me longin for spring, to make friends with the plantain lily. /Pontus

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