Food forest design in the Mediterranean (Portugal)

We are designing a food forest in Portugal, which aims at becoming a heaven of biodiversity and an educational research center. We want to reach 100% food self-sufficiency, thus we are planting both annuals and perennials, in a multi-layer, multi-habitat system.

Our food forest includes self-sowing annuals (like chicory, kale, turnips), an herbaceous layer (the Mediterranean species like rosemary, thyme, lemon verbena), climbers against south facing walls (kiwi, grape, passionfruit), swales, sunk beds and miniponds to create a humid microclimate, and tree guilds adapted to hot dry summers (olives, citrus, carob, pomegranates, avocados, guavas).

Importantly, we are adapting our plan to the scenario of extreme climate change, by inspiring ourselves in the Moroccan oasis food forests (including date palms) or by using desert edible species like mesquite, tamarugo, acacias, dragonfruit or opuntia. Some species will be used for extraction of essential oils besides other ecological roles (lemon eucalyptus, clary sage, lavender). Finally our design embraces subtropical species, to locate in sheltered spots: moringa, mountain papaya, or bananas; and a sort of “ecosystem gardening”, attracting endangered fauna - like hummingbirds, dragonflies, fireflies, frogs or owls - by planting flowers and doing a pond with recycled graywater.

Income and food are to be shared by the local people and we hope to inspire others with our project. Such food forests would create resiliency for local people, not only offering income opportunities, but increasing food security and the biodiversity of the area.


Born 1981 in Portugal, passionate about gardening since age 6. Studied Biology at university and PhD in Medicine in Austria. In 2006, discovered permaculture while visiting intentional communities. In 2010, coordinated environmental education in Iceland with young volunteers. Then joined the ecocommunity of Sólheimar in Iceland. There worked with disabled people, practice and lectured permaculture and launched a business with organic cosmetics. In 2014 began conservation of endangered plants. Recently returned to Portugal doing forest garden projects.

Conference session: