George Remedios (38) was nine when he planted his first tree in Mumbai. Today, he grows full-fledged food forests in the city.

Seeing his family suffer due to increasing pollution, he decided to set up ‘Turning Tide’, a not-for-profit organisation, which has been increasing the city’s green cover since 2020.

Food forests, which take years to create, have multiple layers which consist of tall trees, shrubs, ground cover and root layers. And George has mastered the art of planting diverse edible plants in limited spaces.

“Along with tree saplings, we plant brinjal, tomato and okra seedlings that form the shrub and bush layer. Then comes the grass and root layer. Then we plant creeping varieties like pepper, along with a fungi layer, where we start planting mushrooms,” he says.

One of their initial forests was in an SRA (slum rehabilitation authority) project in Vakola, Mumbai.

Here, one can find 20-foot-tall coconut trees, papayas, guava, pomegranates, bananas, Indian jujubes, two or three types of mango trees, and drumsticks.

“We plant up to 50 trees in each food forest,” he adds. These forests can be found in Kalina, Powai, Bandra, Byculla, South Mumbai, Panvel, and Yeoor Hills, Thane.

George says that they have mapped a five degrees Celsius difference between the temperatures inside and outside the forest.

He says they have tied up with institutions like orphanages and old age homes to care for the saplings after they grow into trees.

Food forests serve dual purposes by both beautifying the area and efficiently handling waste that would have otherwise filled landfills. They employ mulching and biomass composting to care for the trees.

Today, Turning Tide is promoting rooftop gardens in the city, guiding people in cultivating lemons, fig trees, lime, kale, basil, peppers, beetroots, etc. “It would be helpful if we could produce a small fraction of the food we consume,” he suggests.

The Turning Tide has a WhatsApp group to alert volunteers of the plantation drives. If you would like to join, please contact George on 9820431690.