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You Can Forage from the Floating Food Forest That's Heading to NYC

This summer, New Yorkers will have the chance to get in touch with nature and their food when a “floating food forest” moors at various spots around the city.
Photo courtesy of Swale/Mary Mattingly.

Restaurants in even the biggest of megalopolises often tout their relationships with tiny idyllic farms, proudly telling you how they work directly with a farmer to bring you fresh fruit and vegetables from Eden—while outside the restaurant's front door rats and pigeons preside over a kingdom of decay.

For the city-bound resident, fresh produce is almost always delivered through an intermediary. It's often expensive, too. This summer, though, New Yorkers will have the chance to get in touch with nature and their food when a "floating food forest" moors at various spots around the city. The floating platform full of fruit and vegetable plants, dubbed Swale, is inviting the public aboard to forage for free food.

Swale is part public art and part public service, pushing sustainability in a variety of ways and hoping to challenge the idea that fresh food is a luxury. Its platform is made from repurposed shipping containers from the Port of NY/NJ, and many of the plants are perennials, so perhaps the barge will be around for longer than just the summer. The Swale project will also release a cookbook to help people use what they harvest.

"The question we really want to ask [is] almost utopian: What if healthy, fresh food could be a free public service and not just an expensive commodity?" Mary Mattingly, an NYC artist and Yale fellow who came up with the concept for Swale, told Tech Insider.

Swale will make its debut on June 28, and is currently slated to open at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Visitors will get to wander the barge and harvest food from any of more than 80 species of herbs, trees, and flowers. Among those that will be available for picking are chard, arugula, basil, thyme, bok choy, ramps, ginger, and blueberries.

Mattingly is working with local schools, gardeners, and organizations to pull off the endeavor; when it's finished, you might see what looks like a weird, moving island on the Hudson or East River. If you do, head for it—a public park that you can eat is the best kind of public park. (And take your reusable grocery bag, as you probably don't want to be the guy with plastic bags.)