A visit to Rodmell Food Forest, an adventure in edible biodiversity

Nestled on a slope with views of the downs and the sea beyond, Rodmell Forest Garden is open every Wednesday to volunteers to learn more about forest gardening, share the produce over lunch and enjoy being in the wild garden. This week, coordinator Nancy and Grow Cook Eat coordinator Gemma went along to find out more about this local haven of edible biodiversity.


Over 10 years, Marc and the garden’s Wednesday volunteers have been tending, weeding, mulching, propagating a food forest. By making the most of different levels of plants – from the mulberry tree to the lemon balm on the ‘forest floor’ – the team have managed to create a garden that is both productive and minimises the human interference to let natural processes take the lead.

Arriving at the garden, head gardener Marc and volunteers were busy at work pricking out and planting seedlings. Despite this flurry of activity in caring for ‘annual’ plants, a large part of the garden is dedicated to perennials.


Annual plants – live or bear produce for one season only. From potatoes to tomatoes, the majority of plants in our modern diet are annuals.

Perennial plants – live and bear produce for many seasons. Raspberries, strawberries and other soft fruits are examples of familiar edible perennials. But there are a plethora of less familiar plants that have become increasingly rare in our diets. They have the benefits of being low maintenance for the gardener, stabilising the soil and performing better in times of drought due to their more developed root structure.

We managed to borrow Marc for a tour of the garden, which took us on a journey of medicinal and edible perennials: from babington’s leek to cardoons to perennial cauliflower. We tasted as we went – umami Chinese mahogany, aniseed sweet Sicily seeds (and flowers and leaves). We were also fed with memories of the garden in different seasons, like a kiwi tree bearing a glut of sweet and crunchy December fruit and vats of rosehip ketchup.

The annuals are evidently very happy nestled alongside their perennial neighbours and a special mention must go to arguably the best broad bean patch in Lewes District (unverified – please do send in any competitors).

After giving a hand with pricking out flower seedlings and an escapade in the potato patch, we left the team to a well-earned lunch and an afternoon of sheep shearing for the micro-flock of three Shetland Sheep. 

The garden is open every Wednesday to volunteers from 10am-4pm, and accessible via public transport for the adventurous with a scenic 20-30minute walk from Southease Station. 

For more information, visit their Facebook page or get in touch at catchthemonkey@hotmail.com

welcoming wildlife with a pond (watch out slugs, the toads are coming)
Umami Chinese mahogany leaves were a new discovery

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