IN A space no bigger than a four-car garage, Christel Schrank has created a flourishing public Food Forest, home to hundreds of edible and multi-purpose plants.

The self-confessed "crazy plant lady" stood in the vacant area next to the River Heads Community Hall four years ago with a dream of turning it into something special for the Fraser Coast community.

Four years on and the space is now unrecognisable.

"The community garden opened and to get there, there was this vacant block of land with nothing there," Ms Schrank said.

"So I thought, well, the public needs something like this and if they are anything like me ... they want to see something, they want to walk amongst it, touch, feel and maybe taste it.

"I thought, 'I'll share my collection of edible plants with the community'.

"If you stand in the same position now you can barely see the hall."

 

IN THE GARDEN: A turmeric leaf in flower.
A turmeric flower. kerrie alexander

There's plenty of green-thumb favourites hidden amongst the forest including rosemary, chilli, oregano, parsley, basil, bush tucker, Asian edibles, fruit and nuts, perennial lettuce and spinaches, permaculture plants, salad bar wicking tubs, and much more.

Whatever the plant, she said, they all had a purpose.

"Basically all the plants here serve a couple of purposes, not just one," Ms Schrank said.

"It could be edible and can provide shade, it could be edible and attract bees, butterflies and birds.

"I'm also passionate about native stingless bees and I plant lots of things for the birds, bees and the butterflies and if you can eat it yourself - it's a bonus."

 

BEFORE: The site where the Food Forest is now was just an empty block of land four years ago.
The site where the Food Forest is now, was just an empty piece of land four years ago. contributed

Ms Schrank said the main purpose of planting the veg forest was to provide food to eat all year around - not just when the season is right.

She now tends to the garden twice a week and often gets a helping hand from other passionate volunteers.

Talking to The Indy on a tour of the thriving garden, Ms Schrank said there was enough salad growing to feed two families.

"The other purpose is to give people something to enjoy and also educate people about what can be grown in the region, and easily," she said.

"It's also nice just to relax, enjoy and learn."

 

IN THE GARDEN: Betal leaf is grown on a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and kava.
Betel leaf is a creeping vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and kava. KERRIE ALEXANDER

Two of Ms Schrank's crowning glory is a thriving dragons blood tree she raised from a seed and the Moringa Oleifera from India - known as the miracle tree.

"The ferny looking green thing behind the gum but in front of the paw paw is the moringa, which local Indians use to harvest for their dishes," she said.

"I put it in salads but I've never tried their dish, which is made with coconut milk."

Ms Schrank said the annual RiverFest on Saturday will be a great opportunity for the public to take a self-guided tour of the forest and pick a few edibles to try.

Many of the plants are labelled with plant notations so the public know exactly what they are looking at.

The garden is also open to the public all year-round and is situated next to the community garden.

"The garden is well established now and has got to the stage where you can do that."

The Food Forest is located next to the River Heads Community Hall, 45 Ariadne St, River Heads.

Visitors can take a plant list from the brochure holder for reference or visit the River Heads Food Forest Facebook page.