Exploring Forest Gardens in Chile – Maqui harvest

Greetings from Chile where my wife and I are working for the next little while, exploring, learning and teaching. We’ve got some upcoming courses and lots of great photos and examples of South American Forest Gardens. Stay tuned.

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Forest Labyrinth near Temuco

The thing that I love about teaching Forest Gardening in Chile is that there is a similarity in the plants from our Gondwana Connection and it is a real treat to see Nothofagus forests full of Proteaceae plants, maqui bushes and wintergreen fruits. A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of helping our friends harvest Maqui to freeze and dry so that it would last the year.

Vero and Jenny looking for Maqui berries

Vero and Jenny looking for Maqui berries

Maqui is a great plant and a great fruit. Details on the cultivation of the species have been kindly aggregated by Plant For A Future, a crucial forest gardening resource. There is also a cursory description on wikipedia. Maqui holds significant cultural value here in Chile and its fruits and leaves were used as food and medicine as well as in fermentation. Maqui is similar to a number of less edible Australian and New Zealand species which makes it a primary forest garden candidate as an ecological analog. A species that is serving the same ecological function as an existing species but is more edible.

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Veronica testing the berries

Maqui fruits have a short harvest period, they can dry out quickly so we needed to head out everyday and select the ripe fruits. These are a popular food for birds so by incorporating it into a forest garden you will be helping the workers that keep the forest garden going. There are male and female plants so make sure you plant a few so that you can get fertilization happening. Maqui is rich in anti-oxidants and has the bonus fun effect of staining your tounge black/blue. Fruits were then cleaned and sorted for drying, freezing or sale at market.

IMG_5547Maqui can be eaten on its own or fermented into a cider (hence the english name: Chilean Wine Berry). I love to add it to smoothies and it makes a great tea once it is dried. A great plant to keep in Forest Garden it fits in at mid-succession and requires frost protection.

See if you can get some growing. Speak soon.

Dan

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