Food For The Extinction

The 6th mass extinction is here. Climate collapse is unstoppable. Civilization can no longer sustain us. Research into resilient crops and natural cultivation methods for food security in temperate climates. This page is a work in progress and all information may not be accurate.




A Path Forward

Everyday I ask myself, what should I do? As our planet barrels towards an uninhabitable future, our governments become more repressive and everyday life becomes more dystopian, what can I do to stop all this? The most important realization is that none of us are going to change the world. We are not going to save the planet from another extinction (it's already happening). We are not going to save the billions of human and non-human lives that will perish. Already over 80 billion land animals are killed each year for consumption, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Words cannot do justice to the absolutely immense horrors we are responsible for. Clinging to some vision of a better future is tempting, but the evidence against this couldn't be more obvious. The destructive power of civilization has been growing for thousands of years now. Behind all the lies about progress is the simple truth: our planet is dying and there is nothing we, as individuals, can do about it. And so we are perhaps one of the few generations of humans to live through the momentous shift climate collapse is causing. Nothing like this has ever happened in the entire history of humanity. Mankind is entering a new era.

In the face of all this, how can I be of any meaningful service? Why spend my time researching and growing food? I believe having an interactive relationship with nature is one of the most direct ways to feel satisfied and empowered. And only individuals engaged with nature are capable of forming communities that truly provide for our physical, social and spiritual needs. When our empire inevitably collapses, these communities have the potential to be the building blocks of a new society, to form a federation of self-sufficient tribes. Keeping land at the forefront of both individual and societal success is an effective path forward because it is meaningful at every level - whether you just want to not hate the world, or you want to improve the living conditions of your community, or you want to build a new society. Even disregarding the bigger picture, this perspective is nothing but practical. How will you feed your family when industrial agriculture fails or groceries become too expensive to afford? Growing food is a concrete way of solving a very real and imminent problem without depending on people who don't care about us or our planet. There's nothing glamorous about this, it's hands in the dirt kind of change, but it's real and it happens right before your eyes.

Growing food doesn't have to be hard, lots of vegetables even grow like weeds! Grass lawns were once a symbol of wealth, yet now they sit in front of even the most impoverished homes. This paradox was intentionally designed through generations of propaganda. For years I was utterly confused, why are some vegetables considered to grow too well and eradicated while right next door people go hungry? Is there an abundance of food or isn't there!? I will leave you to answer this yourself, but either way it certainly doesn't have to be this way. Only within the last few decades did we gain access to thousands of seeds from every corner of the earth. Consider how many generations of work went into finding, domesticating and improving these crops throughout human history! This is a privilege few could even dream of until now. As the world transforms into something entirely new, it has in the very same moment bestowed upon us the plants of salvation. And with them comes the power to create a landscape unlike any before in history. I have a vision for a garden that is a meadow, orchard, and forest all in one. Food is everywhere, underneath your feet, brushing past your knees, blossoming towards the sky and hanging from the trees. A garden that draws all creatures towards it, a garden that fills them up and envelopes them. A garden that provides for everyone within it while magically regenerating, becoming stronger and more complex every year.

On a more practical note, this research is an attempt to prepare for the extinction and help communities build resilient food systems. Most people have land with poor soil and very little knowledge about growing food. Finding crops that can grow in this environment and provide real sustenance is therefore of the utmost importance. Ultimately all this may accomplish very little, but every day that a garden lives it serves the creatures within.




Nevertheless, a new breed of explorers has arisen, those who are disenchanted with the bland products of the supermarkets, those who still feel the primordial urge to plant, those whose tastes are adventurous. There are those whose pocketbooks are thin who can benefit from green leaves easily grown at home. Finally, there are the few who recognize that the vegetables we emphasize now are but a part of a larger, and mostly still available heritage, a heritage whose potentials have still not been fully realized.

- Edible Leaves Of The Tropics




The Plants We Eat

How do we even begin to feed ourselves? What are we growing and eating? I personally do not grow nearly enough food to feed myself. It is a difficult task that most people throughout most of history have not attempted. Even after the advent of agriculture, a significant portion of food was often foraged from the local environment. But the natural abundance that once covered the earth has been almost completely destroyed. As agriculture evolved to power an ever-expanding civilization, forests were felled and landscapes were permanently disfigured. We burned down ecosystems masterfully designed over millennia, teeming with life and full of nutritious food, in an attempt to grow something a fraction as productive in their place, all with big clumsy hands and little human brains. The plants that sprouted in these graveyards were not grown for people, but markets and masters; they could not nourish us in the same way. All this is only to say that growing all of our own food in a truly compassionate and sustainable way requires a monumental, persistent effort and has not been the norm for any period of human history. But the old world is gone and it is never coming back, so we must do what we can given our circumstances. Growing only a portion of our food still has enormous benefits and can certainly create some sense of food security, even if it is not complete. So returning to our original question, what should we grow? What plants do people eat to survive?

The broadest pattern that emerges for practically any species on earth is the foods that provide the highest net energy and nutrition (and are digestible by the specific anatomy of the creature) in any given landscape become primary sources of sustenance. That means a guerilla that has access to fruits will generally prioritize those over leaves. Eating 20 pounds of fruit is much easier than eating 20 pounds of leaves. And like many other mammals, humans gravitate towards high-density sources of energy like nuts, fruits, roots and seeds to sustain themselves. Leafy vegetables, while an essential addition to our diet, require a much larger quantity to provide the same amount of energy.

This happens to work out quite well for us because nuts and fruits are some of the easiest, most productive perennial crops. Even with a limited amount of space we have many options, including hazelnut, plum and mulberry. Once planted, they can often continue producing for decades - talk about a return on investment! Tree crops also require significantly less resources to produce, meaning they will often tolerate poorer soil and less frequent watering than many herbaceous crops. In this way they are extremely efficient at producing food. The benefits of trees are truly endless and there is no easier way to improve the health of a landscape. Fruit and nut trees are therefore the first priority for us and can make up a significant portion of our diet.

Root crops are also a very dense source of energy, often more so than fruit. They usually require more work, however, as soil may need to be built up and the crops must be regularly propagated, either by seed or division. Cold-hardy, perennial root crops usually need at least 2 years of growth before harvest. This includes plants like groundnut and doraji. However, given the right growing conditions some can be harvested every year like the sunchoke. While perennial roots are more work than simply picking fruit off a tree, they usually require little maintenance once planted. Annual roots may require more work to grow, but can significantly expand our options with some heavy hitters like achira, taro or potato. Alongside nuts and fruits, roots are another significant addition to our diet.

Our next consideration is the smallest of the bunch: seeds. When people grow all their own food, seeds are usually how they do it. Seeds, including grains and pulses, are very calorically dense, can be eaten in quantity, and are easily stored or transported. This is why almost every civilization on earth has been built on them. But growing grains sustainably can be difficult - most often it results in a monoculture that degrades the soil while providing very little ecological value. And to top it all off, grains require the most labor of any food mentioned here to grow, harvest and process. This is not to say they should be avoided, only that how they are grown and incorporated into our diet needs to be reconsidered. Pulses can also be a valuable addition for their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and help other crops grow. But even so, this category of foods is generally comprised of labor-intensive annuals that are difficult to incorporate into more permanent food systems. Ultimately it may be useful to think of seeds, grains, and pulses as another addition to a varied diet, and not necessarily the staple of every meal.

Finally, we arrive at leafy vegetables and the like. While they don't provide the bulk of our sustenance, they are necessary for vitamins and minerals (and flavor!). They also bring diversity and excitement to the garden. Here too we can focus on perennials that provide a crop every year with almost no effort after the initial planting. Plants like good king henry, turkish rocket and seombadi provide excellent perennial alternatives to some of the more common vegetables you may be used to eating. Succulents like prickly pear or dolnamul can turn barren land with very little fertility into an oasis of fresh food. Plants that generate a lot of biomass like udo can offer us regular harvests while producing organic matter for mulching. Weedy annuals like perilla can compete with other vegetation and turn unproductive land into a thicket of food in a single season. The options are truly limitless, and every plant has its own unique traits that can be utilized to our advantage.

The food we choose to grow is also fundamentally related to how we eat. If we only eat a few times per day, each meal needs to be extremely calorically dense, further deepening our reliance on grains. But what if we ate more like the guerilla? It's a lot easier to eat five pounds of fruits and nuts over the course of an entire day than it is to eat it at only three meals. Maybe changing what we eat also means changing how we eat.




Working With Nature

The methods I use all fit into a singular holistic approach - working with natural systems to incorporate food crops into the landscape. The plants are our teachers. This mean learning from them without any preconceived notions about how they should grow or what they should be doing. We are watching and listening, not expecting. It is absolutely essential that we approach this with a sense of humility, respect, and the recognition that plants are complex and intelligent living beings. We will never understand the endless layers of nuance that guide their growth, but lucky for us we don't need to. All we need to do is listen closely and offer our service.

Healthy soil is the backbone of temperate food forests, and plants are natural soil builders. Plants build soil using a few primary methods. Sending roots into the soil adds organic matter, cycles nutrients, aerates the soil and gives it structure. This builds soil from within. After the plants die, their stems and leaves fall over and act as mulch until they fully decompose. Dead plants keep the soil from drying out, return nutrients to the topsoil and offer a sheltered microclimate for everything happening at ground level. This builds soil from above. And the way plants naturally die and return to the ground creates a thick but not overly dense layer of mulch. Most importantly, it has structure. It allows space for other seeds to germinate and grow while still offering shelter from the elements. When one plant dies it creates the right environment for the next plant to take its spot, to work the soil with its roots, and then to become mulch for the next plant. This is the genius of nature.

So our two most important methods of building soil are using the power of roots to work the soil, and returning organic matter back to the topsoil as mulch. In the garden we can imitate these patterns by letting plants cover as much ground as possible. The more roots we have working the soil for us, the better. Of course, we can't let every single plant grow to maturity or else there would be no room for our food crops. This is where we come in. We can curate which plants to let grow and which to cut down. Instead of ripping everything up and dumping an even mat of mulch on our beds, we can build the soil more naturally. By cutting down plants in the garden and using them as mulch, we are imitating a natural soil-building pattern.

Encouraging plants to cover the soil and continuously decompose has added benefits as well. First, it creates the right environment for insects. Bugs need a diverse landscape with a variety of physical niches to take advantage of. They don't like flat sheets of mulch. If we didn't have the right balance of insects, we would constantly be fighting against them. This method of management invites them all in to sort it out amongst themselves. The insects can then become our partners as primary decomposers of dead plants, continuously adding fertility to the soil. Second, it creates the right environment for beneficial fungal networks. Plants depend on fungi to survive and thrive. The more roots they can partner with and the more organic matter we can feed them, the better.

Practically, implementing this system is fairly straightforward because we are letting nature do most of the work for us. There will be a host of plants growing in our garden beds whether we like or not. If any plants are competing too much with our food crops, we just cut them down and let them fall where they are. The more aggressive the species is the more often those plants will need to be removed. If we let them grow they may create too much shade or spread too aggressively. But the species that present little competition to our food crops need less management. Some of them may be edible themselves, some may attract beneficial insects, some may fix nitrogen, some may protect the soil. We are looking at the ground and seeing which plants are working for us and which ones aren't. Those that aren't get ripped up and now they are working for us as mulch!

As an example, in my garden beds I allow many plants to grow, some of which are: Duchesnea indica [mock strawberry] acts as a non-invasive groundcover; Trifolium repens [white clover] and any other leguminous plants fix nitrogen; Lobelia inflata [Indian tobacco] is a native medicinal; Stellaria media [chickweed] is a delicous edible; Zinnia peruviana [Peruvian zinnia] is a beautiful flower appreciated by local pollinators. There are also many that I rip up and mulch in place with as often as possible: Muhlenbergia schreberi [nimblewill] or any other weedy grasses spread quickly by rhizome and discourage vegetable seed germination; Erechtites hieraciifolius [American burnweed], Acalypha rhomboidea [copperleaf], and Persicaria maculosa [lady's thumb] all multiply rapidly by seed and can easily take over garden beds. It is always helpful to watch how a plant interacts with the its environment before running to rip it up. Natural processes are constantly working towards a healthier ecosystem and are ultimately doing the vast majority of work for us. Our role is not to redefine these processes, but use them to guide the environment towards productivity and diversity.

This system works particularly well for beds with annuals and biennials that rely on seed dispersal for their continued survival. A thick layer of mulch would lock in moisture but prevent the dispersed seeds from germinating. A thin layer of mulch would allow the seeds to germinate but dry the soil out. But mulching in place with local plants creates a structured mulch that is thick enough to lock in moisture but open and aerated enough for germinating seeds to grow. This system also allows us to work within a sustainable, closed loop. We are not depending on mulch or soil delivered from somewhere else, everything we need is being grown right on our own land. We are not importing fertility, we are building it.

In addition to building soil naturally, we can also imitate how plants naturally disperse seed. Direct seeding right into the ground is effective and produces high germination rates, but there are drawbacks. If all the seedlings germinate at roughly the same time, they are all subject to identical conditions during identical phases of growth. If a dry spell occurs right after germination and the seedlings are not drought tolerant enough, they will all die unless they are watered. Or slugs may come through and eat them. Or a heavy downpour may damage them. Or it may be too sunny and they'll get scorched. Any number of things could happen to affect them. Essentially, by forcing them to grow in a certain place at a certain time, the whole population is now entirely dependent on you. But when seeds are naturally dispersed through whatever mechanism the plant uses, they tend to grow in slightly different circumstances. Many will not germinate at all, some will sit on a leaf until being knocked over a few months later, some will get moved around by the birds. Some will germinate and die because of the weather or because they landed in the wrong niche. Only a small percentage of them will grow to maturity - this is natural, and this is why plants produce so many seeds (hundreds or thousands). But even though the rate of germination is much lower, the resiliency of that population is much higher. So whenever possible we are imitating the natural dispersal of seeds and encouraging them to germinate intermittently in different conditions. For most annuals or biennials, the pattern is fairly similar: help the plant propagate itself without getting in the way. We are giving power back to the seeds by letting them decide when to germinate and how to grow - our job is only to create the right environment for them to do it.

For annuals or biennials this method requires a lot of seed. A single plant can produce thousands of seeds, but in any given season less than a dozen may grow to maturity (this will vary based on the plant and how favorable the local environment is). Unfortunately, most seed packets come with comparatively few seeds. So our first generation should be grown in more carefully managed conditions and cared for until they go to seed. This will get the plant acquainted with our local conditions while increasing our seed count to something more realistic. Once we have have hundreds or thousands of fresh seeds, these can then be dispersed more naturally into the garden beds and allowed to grow on their own. The soil is now functioning as our seed bank - every year we are depositing more and more seeds into it that will then wait for the right opportunity to germinate and grow. With every successive generation, the plants will be better acclimated to this specific method and will grow more easily. And as the amount of seeds in the soil increases, we can spend less time weeding because our food crops will be able to compete better and cover more ground.

We must remember that seeds and plants are intelligent, responsive living beings. They understand the particulars of every patch of soil. They understand the nuances of weather. In many ways they are much smarter than us. With my human eyes and hands I can only know so much about the soil. If one of us has to decide where and when to grow, it should be them. As a human I do, of course, have certain strengths: weeding, mulching, loosening and building soil, dispersing seed, landscaping. My arms help create a favorable environment for the crops, and my legs help disperse their seed in the right spot. But I don't bother trying to control their growth because this is what they are good at and I would only be getting in their way! It is a beautiful thing to partner with a plant. Honor that relationship and only good things can come.

Even with all the help we provide, some plants will simply not be suited for our soil or climate without a lot of work. So it's just as important to find the right species for our specific conditions. We can't expect to drop any old plant in and have it grow! This is why our plant selection prioritizes resiliency, and those that do survive become become stronger with every generation. Before long the food will be growing itself. Of course, regular maintenance is unavoidable. In order to grow certain plants we must halt the process of succession - otherwise our garden would quickly become a deciduous forest (at least where I live). Incorporating tree crops helps us work with succession to a certain degree, but ultimately there is no way to avoid the basic work of weeding, transplanting and dispersing seeds. Every garden requires maintenance, but this method aligns our efforts with natural processes and allows us to intervene only when it is meaningful. This is not a step by step plan with a full proof outcome. This is a dance.




Rewilding Vegetables

All of the vegetables we grow in the garden were once plants growing the wild, surviving on their own without any help from humans. They drank only rain water and took what nutrients they needed from the soil. They produced seed which then went on to germinate and grow of its own accord, again without any help from humans. So why must gardening be so complicated? Why do we struggle to grow plants that often grow prolifically and behave as weeds when left alone in their natural habitat? Here are three perspectives to approach this from:


Breeding: Most annuals and biennials have been bred for hundreds or thousands of years, and they are no longer adapted to thrive in the face of intense competition and scarce natural resources. Generations of selection have weakened many of their natural responses to competition, disease and browsing.

Approach: Select for specimens that can thrive with little care and let go of those that cannot. This will lead to a resilient population capable of propagating itself.


Environment: Plants evolve alongside their environment, carving out unique niches in which they can successfully grow and propagate themselves. We can move a plant from the wilderness to our gardens, but we cannot move the landscape, climate, wildlife and the endless number of other, unknown variables.

Approach: Acclimate crops to a new environment by creating favorable growing conditions and weeding selectively. As the plants evolve, so should your management practices.


Density: Even when a crop has been bred for resiliency and is well-adapted to our local environment, we are usually still attempting to grow it at a much higher density than would naturally be the case. Healthy soil that can support our crops depends on a diversity of plants in constant evolution with one another.

Approach: Grow a diverse variety of crops alongside each other to lower the density of any given species, keep soil healthy, and encourage a balanced insect population.


This three-pronged approach helps me understand the vegetables I grow in a broader context and offers a simple framework for growing crops in a way that becomes both easier and more sustainable over time. Keep in mind that naturalizing vegetables in the garden can be a long process and may take many years. Many vegetables will simply not be suited to grow naturally in your specific climate and soil. The weeds that grow naturally in your area can provide some insight as to what families of plants will grow easily, but if often comes down to lots of trial and error.

I find many online references about certain vegetables self-sowing to be completely inaccurate in my garden. I think they are often referring to beds that are kept clean, regularly cleared back to bare soil and irrigated. In these conditions pretty much anything will self-sow if you let it go to seed. Living ground covers, mulching in place, weed competition and reliance on rainwater leads to different results in my experience. Wild vegetables or those that have had minimal breeding work will often do better in these conditions. Some plants are marked as self-sowing - these are the ones I have found are able to naturalize in my garden.



Plant Management

I am always trying to get as close to natural patterns as I can - the less I have to intervene, the better. Of course, the ideal form of natural farming may not always be the most practical. Below I have laid out some of the defining characteristics of two different management patterns. Both would be considered natural farming but they differ in many important ways.


Fluid Rigid
Human management integrating with natural patterns.Human management interfering with natural patterns.
Crop growth and soil regeneration occur simultaneously.Crop growth and soil regeneration occur separately.
Crops selected based on local conditions.Crops selected based on human preference.
Weeds grow alongside vegetables.Weeds mainly grow during fallow periods.
Competitive weeds are mulched in place.All weeds are mulched in place or composted.
Beds are never cleared or reset.Beds are cleared and reset before every planting.
Fluid and natural crop rotation.Rigid and scheduled crop rotation.
Seeds are stored alongside each other in the soil.Seeds are collected, cleaned, and stored separately.
Seeds are dispersed naturally as they appear.Seeds are sown before expected germination.
No control over when crops germinate and grow.Control over when crops germinate and grow.
Polycultures are formed spontaneously.Polycultures are intentionally organized.
Vegetables are harvested as needed.Vegetables are harvested all at once.
Perennials grow alongside annuals.Perennials mainly grow separate from annuals.




Water Management

Plants need water to grow and there are a variety of simple modifications we can make to our land in order to help slow rainwater down and sink it into the soil. This is usually accomplished by either removing soil to create a depression, adding soil to create a mound, or most often a combination of the two. In some cases this may remove or drastically reduce the need for irrigation. Many methods can be found at Greener Land and most can be done on a small scale with nothing but a shovel, so don't be intimidated! For an in-depth and technical discussion of many of these methods, see the standard reference Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond. Below I have summarized some of the most relevant methods.


Terrace | Steep Slope

One of the most labor intensive methods but effective for leveling land with steep slopes. I think it usually makes more sense to adjust your plant selection so they can be planted on contour right into the slope and then use other landscaping methods or plants where the land levels out. There are very casual ways of making small terraces (as seen in the first link) and more effective, long term solutions involving laying down stone in particular patterns. The Incas are believed to have tailored their tuber cultivation to different microclimates within sunken, circular terraces. Talk about advanced agriculture! [Link]


Net & Pan | Steep to Moderate Slope

This system is surprisingly rare given how useful it can be in the right situation. It consists of digging shallow trenches around trees and connecting them with narrow pathways to guide water. This solution is helpful in two scenarios. The first being when trees are already established and any significant digging or soil movement has the potential to damage tree roots close to the surface. The second being when the slope of the land is too steep for swales or other interventions. The term 'net and pan' has also been used to describe negarim and boomerang basins. The key concept shared by these patterns is that water is collected within a single module and any overflow is passed along to another module within the network. However I have described those two methods separately below. [Link]


Contour Swale | Moderate to Low Slope

The most famous water management solution and effective on both very large and very small scales. It consists of digging trenches along the contour of a slope (so that the trench is level as it curves around the landscape) and piling the dug up soil into a mound in front of the trench. This helps catch, sink and redirect rainwater along with any sediment or soil it is carrying. Logs (or even stones) can be buried within the mounds Hügelkultur style to lift them higher and improve the soil. Even if the slope is too steep for a swale, perennials can still be planted on contour to help slow down water and reduce erosion. [Link]


Pond | Moderate to Low Slope

Ponds are often the foundation of water management systems, allowing long-term water storage and distribution. Higher elevation siting is typically preferred to make use of gravity for irrigation further downslope. Ponds are often used in conjunction with other methods like contour swales and terraces. And as with contour swales or any other interventions that concentrate large amounts of water, thoughtfully designed spillways are essential for long term sustainability and safety. Ponds can be very similar to infiltration or percolation basins. Whereas ponds attempt to hold water in place, percolation basins attempt to sink it into the ground. The soil underneath the water plays a key role in this - heavy rock or clay will often prevent infiltration, whereas looser or sandier soil will aid infiltration and raise the surrounding water table.


Basin | Moderate to Low Slope

Basins are simply large depressions dug out of the soil to capture and infiltrate water into the soil. They are often relatively shallow, especially compared to ponds, and this makes the sloped edges easier to stabilize with stones and/or vegetation. Plants not tolerant of wet feet may be mounded within the basin. Spillways are often connected to other basins. One of the most fundamental and effective patterns of water harvesting.


Boomerang Berm | Moderate to Low Slope

This method consists of creating a semi-circular depression surrounded by a mound. The opening faces uphill, the direction water will enter from, and the berm catches and concentrates water for the plants within. This method is a bit more modular and can be done one at a time, making it both versatile and approachable. The opening of the semi-circle should be roughly on contour. There is considerable variability regarding the size of this pattern based on what is being planted but it can be done even on a very small scale.


One Rock Dam | Moderate to Low Slope

Heavy stones are placed in a line on contour or in the path of flowing water. A simple and effective way of slowing down water and catching sediment or debris. The name of this method indicates that the 'dam' is only one rock high, however if enough sediment builds up another layer of stones can be placed on top. A fundamental and effective water management strategy. If stones are not available in the landscape consider using logs in a similar fashion.


Negarim | Low Slope

Berms shaped into adjacent diamonds, more appropriate for flatter land. The goal here is to catch all the rain that falls within each rectangle and contain it within the mounds along the perimeter. It is then further concentrated towards a particular corner using one of two methods. The land may be sloped towards this corner directly where perennials are planted, or the land may be flat and a deep hole is dug in the corner (to infiltrate water), next to which perennials are planted. [Link]


Zai Pit | Low Slope

It doesn't get much simpler than digging a small hole and sticking a plant in it! But don't be fooled by the simplicity as this method can be extremely effective at concentrating rainwater. The holes can also be mulched with compost or organic matter to further aid growth. Typically organized into grids but a biointensive planting pattern may be more effective. Waffle gardens with square depressions are applications of the same concept. [Link] [Link]


Buried Ceramic | Low Slope

This method involves burying porous, ceramic containers or pipes in the ground and filling them with water that will slowly be released into the surrounding soil. Plants should be concentrated in the area surrounding the ceramic. The ceramic must be unglazed and porous so water can seep out. It is easiest to use deep ceramic planters, buried just until their tops are level with the soil. The dishes normally placed underneath the pot can instead be placed on top to prevent evaporation. This is an excellent way to stretch water collected from ponds or rain barrels.


As you can see many of these methods are very similar - what's important is to understand the basic principles of slowing down or concentrating water so that it can better penetrate the soil. Even something as simple as organizing stones into a line can be an extremely effective water management method! The simplicity and elegance of primitive methods like this really display how brilliant our species can be at enriching landscapes. And of course these methods should be used in conjunction with dense planting, mulching and other patterns from our toolkit.

These landscaping methods are usually followed by planting trees, bushes or other perennials in the depressions, mounds or surrounding area depending on the context. And many can just as easily be used for planting vegetables! The depression of a swale could be planted with water-loving plants like taro or achira, and the mound may be better suited for plants that appreciate well-draining soil like good king henry or turkish rocket. A field of amaranth could be planted in zai pits with the surrounding mounds blanketed in an edible sedum like dolnamul. This is the beauty of it all - these methods create a higher density of biological niches that allow greater plant diversity and more creative polycultures, all while capturing water, improving soil and integrating our crops into the landscape.




Grass → Garden

This is a rough and generalized process for converting areas overtaken by grasses and other vegetation into usable garden beds. This is not meant to be used for larger areas or fields - these usually need to be cleared and reseeded with the right equipment, or slowly transformed over a much longer period of time.



Even if working in larger areas, this method can be used to create small 'islands' within the existing vegetation that are regularly maintained and expanded. But if grasses or other native plants are not removed in any way, different methods are needed. Slowly transforming the space by transplanting larger perennials, especially trees and shrubs, is your best bet. I am also experimenting with crops like buckwheat and barley that can be direct seeded into compacted soil and succeed even with competition from grasses.




Methods

The methods we use to grow, maintain, harvest and propagate crops can make all the difference in both the health of the ecosystem and how much work it requires to maintain. These are the basic principles I use in my garden.


Feed the soil. Focus on crops that feed the soil. Plants like Aralia cordata [udo] and Canna edulis [achira] generate large amounts of top growth for mulching. Plants like Raphanus sativus [radish] and Brassica rapa [turnip] have fat roots that aerate the soil and feed beneficial bacteria when they decompose. Plants like Elaeagnus multiflora [goumi] and Phaseolus coccineus [runner bean] fix nitrogen in the soil and keep it productive.

Build structure. Loose soil gets compacted and washed away with heavy rains. Healthy soil has structure that improves drainage, aeration and water retention, all while holding it together and preventing erosion. Roots build structure within the soil, while mulching in place builds structure above the soil. Tilling is avoided because it destroys soil structure and the fungal networks that depend on it.

Weed selectively. Plants growing naturally in our beds can serve important functions. Many are edible themselves, help protect the soil, fix nitrogen or attract beneficial insects. Any plants that offer little function or excessively compete with our food crops are ripped up and mulched in place.

Disperse seeds naturally. Naturally dispersed seeds land in slightly different niches and germinate intermittently. This improves the resiliency of the population in the face of unpredictable weather patterns and pressure from disease or insects. This also allows the soil to function as our seed bank, holding large quantities of seed until they are ready to grow.

Annuals alongside perennials. Perennials offer stability and reliable production. These can be transplanted, a small amount of work for many years of food. Annuals have a different niche altogether and should be treated as such. They love taking advantage of disturbed soil and quickly filling in empty spaces between our perennials. Their seeds should be dispersed across the garden beds so they can spring into action when an opportunity presents itself.

Roots alongside roots. Roots are an important source of energy, but many require deep soil disturbance to harvest. These should be primarily grown alongside other complementary root crops. This makes harvesting easier, ensures we don't damage nearby perennials, and limits the impact on soil structure.

Harvesting is selecting. Harvesting the weakest plants allows the population to become stronger and better adapted to local conditions with every generation. Our first priority is not a big harvest, but plants with resilient and productive genetics.

Use local materials. Most gardeners have access to natural materials like branches, leaves or grass clippings from adjacent land or the local community. A thick layer of leaves can be great for beds with primarily root crops or perennials. In beds where seed germination is a priority, I prefer grass clippings and small branches.

Collect rain water. Harvest as much rainwater as possible to reduce reliance on unsustainable sources of water. If plants can't be grown with locally available water, you might want to think twice about growing them at all.

Plant in islands. Instead of clearing large areas all at once, create small 'islands' that can be planted densely and managed thoughtfully. Let native plants and weeds regenerate soil everywhere else until you are ready to expand.


The methods I use won't give you beds full of vegetables right away, and at first it may feel like nothing is working. This is totally normal! No amount of upfront work will change the fact that it takes time and persistence to learn how to care for plants. The first few years are always the hardest, but as time goes on it will get so much easier and so much more productive. If you trust the soil-building techniques and continue offering your service to the multitude of creatures that reside in your garden, then it is inevitable you will see improvements. I spend a lot of time on this stuff and still kill so many plants. Things are going wrong more often than not! Haha. Be patient.




Animal Interactions

The right plant design will serve not only us humans but all of the creatures that live with us. Animals have different dietary requirements than we do and the way they interact with many plants also poses unique challenges. Taking these considerations into account is essential for creating a space we can comfortably share with our non-human brothers and sisters. In the plant list further down I do my best to indicate crops commonly fed to animals, although the information available for many plants is very limited.


Sensitive Plants

Half the battle of growing and designing for animals is that they will often eat anything you plant before it's had time to reach maturity! Protecting our plants from grazing or uprooting is the first priority, and there are a few different ways to approach this. Knowing what animals you are protecting against will make life much easier, but in reality it often takes many failed attempts to figure this out.

Fencing: The easiest way to prevent sensitive plants from being eaten, dug up or damaged is to enclose them behind a fence. If the enclosed area is large enough for a deer to jump into, the fence should be roughly 7 feet high. When designing our garden, it can be helpful to keep in mind that deer don't like narrow, enclosed spaces. Even when fencing is not used, this principle can still help discourage deer from browsing in certain areas. If the enclosed area is narrow enough that deer can't or won't jump inside, the fence only need to be high enough to prevent any animals from reaching their head over the fence and eating the plants within. Exactly how high this is depends on how tall the the plants within the fence are. If animals or rodents digging underneath the fence is a concern, use a fence with a finer mesh and bury the bottom of it a few inches in the soil. See the equipment section at the bottom of the page for a simple tree fencing setup.

Height: Plants that are high in the air can't get eaten! This mainly applies to trees and vines, both of which can also provide shelter or shade for animals underneath. Both still need to be protected when young, but once tall enough they will be safe from browsing. Keep in mind that even if a tree is tall enough to avoid or tolerate most browsing, it may still benefit from a fence to deter buck rubbing. This is when male deer rub their bucks against young trees to help speed up the velvet shedding process. Some form of protection may also still be required around the lower trunk of the tree to prevent rodents from chewing off the bark. This can be accomplished by loosely wrapping plastic or metal fencing around the trunk. Ideally the fencing will extend a few inches into the soil and still allow the bark to to receive both sunlight and airflow.

Cover: Covering the soil with logs or stones can help prevent pigs, chickens or rodents from digging up plant roots. This is especially useful for tubers or root crops, but may also be useful for any trees, shrubs or plants with shallow root systems. It's as easy as covering the soil surrounding the plants with natural, heavy materials that won't get moved around easily. If you'd like to give the animals access to the plants once they've started producing, just remove some of the cover and let the animals find their way over.

Diversity: A clean layer of mulch and easy-to-spot vegetables are practically an invitation for deer, rabbits or any other animals. Common wisdom dictates that planting herbs with pungent odors alongside your vegetables will help deter browsing. From personal experience I can tell you this doesn't really work in a microcosm. But having a densely planted bed with a variety of herbs, vegetables and weeds all growing on top of one another may help deter browsing.


Resistant Plants

Plants that are appetizing to wildlife can be protected using the methods above, but what about all the plants they aren't interested in eating? I can say with certainty it is possible to grow a garden filled with a diverse array of wildlife-resistant food plants, we just have to think outside the box. Having deer in the neighborhood is no longer an excuse!

Timing. Some plants may only be eaten by wildlife during specific phases of growth or specific times of the year. Hosta spp. [hosta] plants are generally only eaten once they begin to leaf out. Because of this the shoots can still be harvested without any problems. Hemerocallis spp. [daylily] plants produce new flowers every day during certain portions of the year. With some prudence I can often harvest the flowers before the deer get them. Some other plants are not preferred browse during the growing season but will often get eaten in times of scarcity (typically during the winter). In my garden this includes some varieties of Brassica oleracea [kale] and Allium cepa [onion]. In these cases I often don't mind sharing as I can still harvest the plants for most of the year.

Taste. Plants with pungent aromas or flavors are often left alone by wildlife. This includes some of my favorite herbs like Agastache rugosa [Korean mint], Pycnanthemum incanum [mountain mint] and many others. It also includes many beloved vegetables! Brassica rapa [turnip] and other mustards are often resistant to browsing due to their off-putting flavor. Perilla frutescens [perilla] is also left alone by deer for this reason (but grow it with care as the plant is toxic to cows, goats and some other animals). Deer often eat potato leaves but Tropaeolum tuberosum [mashua] is avoided due to the hotness of the leaves.

Danger. Many plants contain natural defenses to being eaten. The most obvious examples include those with spines, like some forms of Opuntia humifusa [prickly pear], or those with stinging hairs, like Urtica dioica [stinging nettle]. It also includes plants which contain high levels of irritating calcium oxalate like Colocasia esculenta [taro]. We can prepare these plants to make them safe to eat but animals typically avoid them. And don't forget the many woody, thorny plants like Aralia elata [angelica tree] and Rubus idaeus [raspberry].


These considerations may help prevent some animals or wildlife from eating your crops, but at the end of the day we can only do so much. Deer will often eat plants you would never expect them to. Squirrels can climb your trees and birds can fly just about anywhere, so without covering your entire garden in a net there is no way to protect everything. Designing an ecosystem where animal life is balanced with plant life is the ideal, but that is the work of many lifetimes. So I just try to be grateful that those who visit my garden are able to appreciate it. We have taken so much from them already, it is the least I can do.

There are also many cases where animals interacting with your plants or landscape is ultimately beneficial. Bunnies may eat the food in my garden, but they also usually leave behind fresh fertilizer that improves the soil. A local chipmunk digs holes in my beds, but these can just be thought of as small water-infiltration basins!




What would it mean for us to come to terms with the knowledge that civilization, our whole mode of development and culture, has been premised and built upon extermination—on a history experienced as "terror without end" (to borrow a phrase from Adorno)? To dwell on such a thought would be to throw into almost unbearable relief the distance between our narratives of inherent human dignity and grace and moral superiority, on the one hand, and the most elemental facts of our actual social existence, on the other.

We congratulate ourselves for our social progress—for democratic governance and state-protected civil and human rights (however notional or incompletely defended)—yet continue to enslave and kill millions of sensitive creatures who in many biological, hence emotional and cognitive particulars resemble us. To truly meditate on such a contradiction is to comprehend our self-understanding to be not merely flawed, but comically delusional.

In the nineteenth century, the animal welfare advocate Edward Maitland warned that our destruction of other animals lead only to our own "debasement and degradation of character" as a species. "For the principles of Humanity cannot be renounced with impunity; but their renunciation, if persisted in, involves inevitably the forfeiture of humanity itself. And to cease through such forfeiture man is to become demon." What else indeed can we call a being but demon who routinely enslaves and kills thousands of millions of other gentle beings, imprisons them in laboratories, electrocutes or poisons or radiates or drowns them?

-John Sanbonmatsu




Favorite Crops 🖤

These are the crops I believe can form the foundation of a resilient and productive garden. This is based on a few different criteria: how easy they are to grow and use, their nutritional and medicinal qualities, their ability to regenerate soil or contribute to the local ecosystem, and how productive they are.


VegetablesOnionRootsSeedsWoody
Aralia Cordata 'Udo' (Perennial)Allium Hookeri 'Hooker's Onion' (Perennial)Helianthus Tuberosus 'Sunchoke' (Perennial)Amaranthus Caudatus 'Amaranth' (Annual)Corylus Americana 'American Hazelnut' (Perennial)
Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus 'Good King Henry' (Perennial)Allium Ampeloprasum 'Leek' (Perennial)Canna Edulis 'Achira' (Annual)Phaseolus Coccineus 'Runner Bean' (Annual)Prunus Americana 'Plum' (Perennial)
Dystaenia Takesimana 'Seombadi' (Perennial)Allium Fistulosum 'Bunching Onion' (Perennial)Colocasia Esculenta 'Taro' (Annual)
Elaeagnus Multiflora 'Goumi' (Perennial)
Bunias Orientalis 'Turkish Rocket' (Perennial)
Tropaeolum Tuberosum 'Mashua' (Annual)
Actinidia Arguta 'Hardy Kiwi' (Perennial)
Opuntia Humifosa 'Prickly Pear' (Perennial)
Platycodon Grandiflorus 'Doraji' (Perennial)
Ficus Carica 'Fig' (Perennial)
Cucurbita Maxima 'Squash' (Annual)
Solanum Tuberosum 'Potato' (Perennial)
Morus Nigra 'Mulberry' (Perennial)




Polycultures

The following are experimental group plantings I am testing. I find polycultures most useful for root crops as they often require regular or deep soil disturbance and replanting, whereas many other vegetables and herbs can often grow alongside each other without much trouble.


Large Seeds: Amaranth + Bean + Gomchi + Hosta [+ Sunflower + Mitsuba]

Moderate Soil / Part Shade To Sun / Photos

A classic formula with some new faces. The three sisters uses squash as a ground cover and favors cleared soil. I would rather grow the squash elsewhere and instead hold fertility in the soil with perennial ground covers. Both gomchi and hosta are low-growing, high-quality vegetables that can grow in sun or shade. They don't mind sun when the amaranth is small or shade once it matures. Transplant the amaranth into gaps between the groundcovers and direct seed the beans right next to it. Sunflowers can be transplanted just like the amaranth, and mitsuba can be used as an additional shade-tolerant groundcover if desired. Harvest gomchi, hosta, mitsuba and beans as needed. Harvest amaranth and sunflower at the end of the growing season.


Large Roots: Achira + Taro + Mashua + Water Celery [+ Wapato]

Moist & Rich Soil / Part Shade To Sun / Photos

This is a prime time polyculture with three productive root crops. I use it in the best spot in the garden that stays moist year round and gets lots of sun. The achira gets tall enough to provide some shade and shelter for the taro, while the mashua is allowed to sprawl on the ground and climb around. Water celery acts as a dense groundcover that can be regularly cut back if it gets in the way. If the soil is wet enough wapatao can be incorporated as well. Produces a lot of mulch that can be applied back to the same spot once harvested. Harvest the achira and water celery as needed during the growing season. Harvest taro, mashua, and wapato when they've died back.


Small Roots: Potato + Oca + Leek

Moderate & Loose Soil / Part Shade To Sun / Photos

Designed for low-till cultivation in which the potatoes wait in the ground until the oca has died back at the end of the growing season. Then the entire bed is harvested and reset for the following year. Save a seed potato/oca from each plant and replant immediately after harvesting to remain dormant in the soil until spring. Harvest leeks as needed.


Competitive Roots: Sunchoke + Chinese Yam

Moderate & Loose Soil / Sun / Photos

I like growing these together because they are both very competitive and can be difficult to remove once established. I plant them in a spot that is easy to manage where neither can escape. Sunchoke is the heavy-yielding star of the show and the trellis for the chinese yam. The yam should be planted in buried and perforated drainage pipes or grow bags in front of the sunchoke (so it doesn't get shaded out). This allows us to harvest the sunchoke without disturbing the yam, and makes harvesting the yam every 2nd or 3rd year much easier. Harvest yam leaves as needed. Harvest roots of both at the end of the growing season.


Competetive Fruit: Elderberry + Gua Lou + Raspberry + Wild Strawberry

Moderate Soil / Shade To Sun / Photos

Coming Soon.


Annual Regeneratives: Buckwheat + Borage + Barley + Clover [+ Pea]

Poor Or Compacted Soil / Part Shade To Sun / Photos

Coming Soon.


Perennial Regeneratives: Empress Tree + Alpine Dock + Comfrey [+ Japanese Mugwort]

Poor Or Compacted Soil / Shade To Sun / Photos

Coming Soon.


Succulents: Prickly Pear + Dolnamul

Poor Or Well-Draining Soil / Sun / Photos

A basic pairing, both vegetables thriving in similar conditions, dolanmul acting as a groundcover for prickly pear. The only issue is that prickly pear has glochids, so I would avoid harvesting the dolnamul directly next to the cactus pads just in case they got knocked off. You do not want to eat a glochid! Harvest both as needed.


Crops propagated by their root like achira, taro, mashua, potato and sunchoke should ideally have multiple varieties. If a polyculture is growing in the same bed from year to year, it is often best to rotate the plants around so they are not growing in exactly the same spot.

These polycultures are not self-sustaining and should be regularly fed/mulched. Beans, peas or clover can be incorporated for nitrogen. Plants that draw pollinators may also be helpful to control pests. Think of these polycultures as building blocks that interact with and depend on the diversity of the rest of the garden.




Man, do not pride yourself on your superiority to the animals, for they are without sin, while you, with all your greatness, you defile the earth wherever you appear and leave an ignoble trail behind you -- and that is true, alas, for almost every one of us!

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky




Guide

Annual/Perennial: Designations for Z7a, may differ in other climates. Since I only grow plants in one location I usually cannot indicate how hardy they are, only if they survive winters where I am. Hardiness zones also do not take into account many important factors, notably how wet the soil is over winter. West coast Z7 and east coast Z7 are two very different climates. For this reason many plants that are supposedly hardy to Z7 or even Z6 may not survive the wet and cold winters of Maryland (not to mention the erratic early spring weather which often swings from very hot to very cold practically overnight). Along with soil, microclimates can also be the reason one plant survives winter while another in the same neighborhood does not.

I typically try to use the most common English name for the plant, although the Latin name is always the most accurate. I also sometimes include the name of the plant in the most relevant language to help with personal research.

Edible: Useful edible parts. Not comprehensive, not a reference, only a starting point. Often there will be more edible portions than indicated, but I may not mention them for any number of reasons. Do not eat anything you are not 100% familiar with. Always be certain of your identification and the parts edible. Consult multiple sources, see resources at the end of page.

I do not always indicate whether a plant can be eaten raw or must be cooked. Some plants cannot be eaten raw but can be cooked or prepared in some other way, such as drying or fermenting. Processes like fermenting will sometimes render a food safe to eat in the same way that cooking would. But it is not always this simple. Many plants must be prepared in a specific way in order to make them safe to eat. Petasites Japonicus, for example, should always be both blanched and peeled prior to eating. Or consider Rheum Acuminatum, a little-known species of rhubarb. It is usually dried and pickled before being eaten. Does this mean it cannot just be cooked like other species of rhubarb? It may be totally harmless, or maybe the fermenting accomplishes something that cooking does not, something we are not aware of. Tradition is wise, but it rarely explains itself. And even if it was harmful, the effects are unlikely to be obvious. Some plants can quietly build up toxins in your body for decades before manifesting themselves as symptoms of an illness. So just because a plant can be eaten without any noticeable adverse effects does not mean that it is safe to eat regularly over a longer period of time. This is why it is important to understand the history of how foods are prepared and eaten. After that, if you want to experiment then the risk is yours to take. But as far as this reference goes, I try to stay conservative.

Root: Plants that store energy in roots or tubers usually draw on this energy to produce flowering shoots. Perennial roots are therefore usually harvested after the plant has flowered and been given ample time to store more energy in the roots. This is often at the end of the growing season. Annual or biennial roots are harvested before flowering as in this case it signifies the end of the plant's life. To maximize harvests we can dig up the root after it's done most of its growing but before it has a chance to start producing a flowering shoot. After flowering occurs the root will be tough and inedible. However, whether annual or perennial the best practices for harvesting will depend on the specific plant and growing conditions.

Shoot: Shoot refers only to the young growth of the plant when it first emerges from the ground; in other words, the entire aerial portion of the young plant, often in spring. This is not the same as terminal or tender new growth (see below). How large the young plant is when harvested depends on the specific plant. Just because a shoot is edible does not mean that any part of the mature plants is edible. If a plant contains harmful or toxic substances, these may be in low enough quantities when the plant is young but not when it matures. If the mature leaves of a plant are edible then usually so is the shoot, but depending on the plant I may not write this if it is not normally eaten that way (as in the case with many herbs). Shoots are valued for their sweet flavor and tender texture, especially when the mature plant may be bitter or tough. They are therefore often the preferred harvest of a plant.

Stem & Leaf: If the leaf is edible then usually so is the terminal or tender new growth, harvested with some of the new stem. In fact, when the leaves are small, young or tightly bunched this can often be the best time to harvest. I only indicate separately that the stem is edible when it constitutes a meaningful portion of the edible harvest or when it can be eaten even when relatively mature. For example, amaranth or nettle are often eaten with some of the tender stem, but I only write the leaf is edible because the stem is relatively insignificant to the harvest. However, when water spinach, angelica, udo and many others are harvested, the stem is cut further down and constitutes a significant part of the vegetable, therefore it is included in the edible portions. Of course this is not always a clear line as it varies between plants and how you choose to harvest or prepare them.

Inflorescence + Flower: Flowering shoots are a separate identification and are indicated as inflorescence. These are eaten when still young, clustered, and tender. If the inflorescence is edible then often so are the flower buds and flowers, although this may not always be practical or palatable. There are roughly three stages for harvest: entire young inflorescence while still tender, sometimes with some of the tender stem attached; the individual, unopened flower buds picked off once the flowering stem becomes tougher; the blooming flowers when fully or partially open. Some plants are only eaten during one stage, while some can be eaten during all three. Once a plant begins to form a flowering shoot, the leaves usually become more bitter and tough as energy is being drawn away to support the flowers. Plants with leaves that do not become bitter during flowering are often valued for this trait.

Seed: I will occasionally indicate the seed is edible if it is useful in some way. Just because a flower is edible does not mean the seed is, and vice versa.

Some of the plants are marked as calorie crops. This is to indicate they are efficient producers of calories given one growing season and a limited amount of space. This is almost entirely root and seed crops. It does not include many other useful and potential staple crops that take longer to grow or are not as efficient.

The best way to know how to eat a plant is to do research, grow it and become familiar with it. Even with references, the actual details of how it's harvested and eaten can vary between plants. And keep in mind that many online references are just summarizing (often poorly or incorrectly) physical reference books that provide more detail. If a plant is uncommon, then especially thorough research is required. Typically we are looking to answer a few basic questions. Is there an extensive history of humans eating this part of the plant? If so, how is it prepared and in what quantity is it eaten? Are there any indications that this plant may contain harmful or toxic substances? The more information you have, the better.

Always remember the golden rule: if it's not regularly eaten, don't eat it regularly.

Just because one species in a genus is edible does not mean that other species are. And just because one part of the plant is edible does not mean that others parts are. These kinds of assumptions will put you in the hospital or in the ground. There are even cases (as with some members of the Calystegia genus) where one variety of a species is edible but another variety within the very same species is not. Therefore we must be thoughtful about what exactly we are eating and recognize that academic taxonomy has its limits. Even if an online resource says something is edible (including this one), you must do your own research!

Propagation: Useful methods of propagation. Usually seed, stem cutting, or rhizome/tuber/root division. Seeds that prefer cold stratification or sunlight to germinate are often noted as such. I sometimes try to get bare roots or potted plants if a seed is difficult to germinate.

Conditions: Rough guidelines for minimum sun requirements: Sun (≈90-100%) → Part Shade (≈60-90%) → Shade (≈30-60%) → Deep shade (≈0-30%). Estimating sun is difficult, but I do my best to give rough guidelines. Most of the time, if a plant prefers shade, it will also prefer rich and moist soil. And keep in mind that just because a plants prefers sun doesn't mean it can handle the heat summer usually brings. This is often true for plants that grow naturally in cooler climates, such as in high altitudes or in coastal areas. Some plants have markers that indicate they grow easily or self-sow, these are great plants to start with.

Wildlife: Impact of wildlife and insects on plant. We have lots of deer as well as chipmunks, rabbits and birds that live nearby. I try to grow enough food for everyone, but I can't let them eat everything! I have some fenced areas for sensitive plants I don't want being bothered. I try to be as hands-off as possible and rarely remove insects from plants or interfere with their growth.

Notes: Everything else. Observations about growth habits, useful varieties, hardiness, harvesting, interactions with other plants and more. Plants with photos were grown in Maryland, roughly zone 7a. You may notice some of the plants in my photos don't look perfectly healthy - this is okay. If it is a perennial, as long as it has a healthy root system it will grow just fine after being planted and given a few seasons to adjust.

Soil & Climate: The conditions are fairly wet year round, although in the summer there are stretches where the soil dries out. Soil is good overall, some spots with heavy clay and some very sandy. Normally the only time I water plants is while they are getting established. Most non-perennial plants survive (or die) exclusively on rain water, unless they are lucky enough to be near a perennial I'm watering.




Herbs


Agastache Rugosa 'Korean Mint' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Many edible and medicinal species within this genus, generally known as hyssops. Beautiful flowers appreciated by pollinators, especially some form of moth in my garden. Easily grown and not picky about soil or sun. I like this particular species for its wonderful aroma, it makes a delicious tea and garnish alike. Unfortunately this species, along with some others in the genus, does not overwinter well and instead often grows more like an annual in my climate. I am looking into species or varieties that will be true perennials in this climate. A. foeniculum is common as well.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: A. rugosa.


Anethum Graveolens 'Dill' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Fragrant herb famous for pickling but with a variety of other uses. Often considered self-seeding but in my experience it only does this to a limited extent. I wish it would become weedy but it never does. Bolts easily, especially in my beds with no irrigation. Despite all this it does have some wonderful qualities in the garden, aside from the amazing flavor. It has such a slim profile that it can grow in between other plants without creating any shade. This makes it an excellent choice for easily increasing diversity in a garden bed. For a perennial alternative, see fennel.

Photos: A. graveolens.


Asarum Canadense 'Wild Ginger' | Perennial

Edible: Rhizome.

Propagation: Division, seed. Cold stratify. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Deep shade to shade. Woodland. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A beautiful woodland herb used by native Americans. Rhizomes are used as a garnish in limited quantities. There are reports of toxicity, so never eat the leaves and always eat in moderation. Despite the limited use it makes a gorgeous ground cover for shade. Requires shelter from direct sun and heat, especially while getting established the first year. After this it is considerably more tolerant. An understory plant that can grow alongside ramps. A. europaeum is also used the same way.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: A. canadense.


Chenopodium Ambrosioides 'Epazote' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Diplotaxis Tenuifolia 'Wild Rocket' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Many edible plants in different genera are referred to as a kind of rocket or cress. Most are weedy and eaten as a garnish in limited quantity due to the hotness of the leaves. Will do fine in shade. It grew alright the first year but seems to have disappeared since then. A perennial alternative to arugula.

Photos: Coming soon.


Eruca Vesicaria 'Arugula' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: I have limited experience with this plant but it has never impressed me. Leaves have limited use due to their hotness and bolts very easily. Seed production was also lacking for the variety I grew.

Photos: E. vesicaria.


Foeniculum Vulgare 'Fennel' | Perennial

Edible: Stem, leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A resilient herb that is well-suited for hot and dry climates but grows just fine in wetter soil and cooler weather. The standard variety is used primarily as an herb, but there are bulbing varieties used as a vegetables. These will likely need more water to properly develop. I have a bronze variety which is often described as an ornamental but tastes wonderful as well. Becomes quite big and bushy when mature. Very ornamental.

Photos: F. vulgare.


Lavandula Angustifolia 'Lavender' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I tend to think of this herb as similar to rosemary - both have compact growth habit, both prefer sun and well-draining soil, both have similar leaves. But lavender is much easier to grow in my experience. It doesn't need as much sun, will tolerate wetter soils and is hardier. Plus is it just an absolutely gorgeous plant with an amazing aroma. Limited culinary use but can also be infused into soaps or perfumes. L. latifolia is used in the same way.

Photos: Lavandula spp.


Melissa Officinalis 'Lemon Balm' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Once known as a medicinal panacea, now often relegated to weed status. Very easily grown and forms large clumps quickly. Fantastic aroma and wonderful as a tea.

Photos: M. officinalis.


Mentha Spicata 'Spearmint' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Division, stem, seed. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Most herbs in the mint family get a bad reputation because of this plant. But in my experience only those in this genus pose any concern, just because of how quickly they spread by rhizome and how hard they can be to get rid of. For species that do not play well with others, I prefer planting them in shade or in spots with tough soil (even compacted lawn). This way they don't get in the way and their growth is slowed down a bit. Plus they are not taking space away from plants that need better conditions. M. requienii, corsican mint, is a notable species within this genus as well. Not only edible but forms a beautiful, diminutive groundcover. Grows slowly at first and is very small so it needs to be managed while getting established. Has been difficult to cultivate.

Photos: M. spicata.


Monarda Fisulosa 'Bee Balm' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed, stem.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Very easily grown like others in the mint family, but species in this genus have very little culinary appeal. This species is more pungent and certainly not palatable but others like M. citriodora should have a more pleasant flavor. They all seem to be used medicinally far more often. Beautiful flowers that pollinators enjoy.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: M. fisulosa.


Ocimum Basilicum 'Basil' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Prefers warm soil to germinate.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: This species is the standard and quite sweet. I personally prefer O. tenuiflorum, sacred basil. One whiff of this plant and you are transported to another dimension, no wonder it is sacred! Some others. All prefer heat and sun, only thriving once the weather starts to warm up in the summer.

Photos: Ocimum spp.


Origanum Vulgare 'Oregano' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem. GROUNDCOVER

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of my favorite herbs to have in the garden. Versatile in the kitchen and easily grown. Grows quickly but is easily managed, and doesn't mind some shade from tall companion plants. Great for filling in space between bigger perennials. The Greek variety is much better for culinary use and is the one to get if you want the classic flavor.

Photos: O. vulgare.


Petroselinum Crispum 'Parsley' | Biennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I absolutely love having parsley in the garden. It is one of the easiest non-perennial herbs I grow. Tastes wonderful and can be eaten in quantity like a vegetable. Tolerant of dry soil and cold hardy. Grows in between and around other crops well because it has such long stems. Germination is good and it will reseed itself easily. No problems with insects or wildlife. The curled varieties taste much better in my experience.

Suggested Varieties: 'Hungarian Landrace' from Wild Garden Seed.

Photos: P. crispum.


Porophyllum Ruderale 'Quillquiña' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Pycnanthemum Incanum 'Mountain Mint' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Division, seed, stem.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: One of my favorite herbs although rarely gets the attention it deserves! Think of this genus as the mintiest form of mint there is. Super refreshing and a wonderful breath freshener. After tasting this any other mint will just taste mild in comparison. Because of its potency it makes a great tea fresh off the plant. Other mints are better dried in order to concentrate the flavor, but this does not need that at all. The flowers can also be used fresh for a beautiful and strong tea. It's also easy to control and not at all aggressive. P virginianum is frequent as well.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: P. incanum.


Salvia Rosmarinus 'Rosemary' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Stem, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Except for clary sage.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I love rosemary both for its taste and compact growth habit. I find it quite picky however, needing full sun and well-draining soil. When grown in even partial shade they tend not to do well. In my climate rosemary seems to be just barely hardy enough - unsheltered plants may lose all their leaves over winter and possibly be severely damaged from the cold. They can still come back to life come spring but you'll have better luck with the plant if it is in a sheltered spot that still gets plenty of sun. There is also a creeping variety. Now in the same genus as all the sages but definitely an outlier from them.

Common garden sage, S. officinalis, is a standard and suitably cold hardy in my region. I've tried a few other sages but none have that classic sage taste. Like rosemary it needs full sun and dry or well-draining soil. Clary sage, S. sclarea, is a biennial with big leaves and a big, beautiful inflorescence. The flowers are divine. Wild sage, S. verbanica, forms a small rosette and is one of the least palatable species. It is a nice groundcover with beautiful flowers though.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: S. officinalis. S. sclarea. S. rosmarinus. S. verbanica.


Sison Amomum 'Stone Parsley' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed. SELF-SOWS

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: An uncommon herb seldom found in cultivation. Germination is so good that this plant can easily become weedy. Plants will overwinter easily, usually with all their leaves still green, and go on to produce dense mounds of foliage. They are vigorous growers that cover the surrounding soil well and suppress germinating seeds or weeds. These qualities may be useful in some areas but an annoyance in others. The dense top growth and biomass generation is a special quality for a biennial that grows so low. Could be very useful as self-sowing, regenerative edible. And it does make an attractive ground cover. The root can also be cooked as a vegetable.

Photos: S. amomum.


Tagetes Minuta 'Huacatay' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Thymus Serpyllum 'Wild Thyme' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem. GROUNDCOVER

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Thyme is another wonderful and versatile herb, this species forms a matting groundcover but many others have a growth habit similar to oregano. I find the groundcover species like this one a bit harder to incorporate into the garden as they are small and easily overtaken. So it's important to find the right spot for them where competition will be lowered or easily managed. Edges or nooks in between rocks work well to utilize their creeping characteristic. Or perhaps next to a wall it can hang off of. Full sun and well-draining soil. Many references indicate the creeping varieties are not eaten, but this is absolutely false. They taste amazing! T. vulgaris is the standard for culinary use. Many others.

Photos: T. serpyllum.




Vegetables


Angelica Sylvestris 'Wild Angelica' | Biennial

Edible: Shoot, stem, leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed. Cold stratify. Prefers sunlight to germinate. May grow well in meadows.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Sometimes considered a biennial but can be a short lived perennial, although I imagine this varies based on the species. Many species like this one have edible stems and leaves that can be cooked as a vegetable. Prefers well drained soil as consistently wet soil seems to make it rot. A. atropurpurea and A. lucida also have edible stems and leaves. A. keiskei or ashitaba is perhaps the most prized species in the genus, it can be eaten the same way but exudes a yellow sap from the stems and is a longevity medicinal. There is supposedly a variety 'Mikura' that is more palatable. An important wild food from Japan. Possibly hardy in my area but a small one I had growing died over winter. Will hopefully continue experimenting with it if I can get these darn seeds to germinate! A. gigas and A. acutiloba are only eaten for their leaves, the latter being used for its medicinal root as well.

A. japonica/kiusiana is a lesser known species, Plants For Human Consumption and this paper only mention the seeds as being eaten. I have seen some casual references to it being foraged and eaten, and Chinese Materia Medica indicates a part of it is eaten as a vegetable. Here is the full entry:

This is given in the Pentsao under the article on Rhus semialata and is said to come from a women's kingdom located to the east of the country of Fulin, is fragrant, saline, and is eaten as a vegetable. Its leaves are said to resemble those of Seseli libanotis.

It is sometimes eaten by locals, both the cooked root and leaves, but to what extent is unclear. Useful Plants Of Japan, Described And Illustrated writes that this species is actually "very poisonous". This is mentioned under the entry for ashitaba, warning foragers not to mistake the two. This seems to be a reputable source and is quite clear on the matter. Eating Wild Japan writes that it is not poisonous but not typically eaten. A Japanese reference book I have also says it is not eaten. Another says only the roots are of any value.

Of course, there is no obvious resolution. All or some of the plant may have a compound that makes it unsafe for regular consumption. Certain methods of preparation may make it safer for eating (like fuki or ferns). It is also possible that some forms are safer than others, as there are at least a few different varieties. Ultimately, I would avoid it unless you are already very familiar with it. And I certainly would not make it a regular part of my diet.

Many others in this genus with different edible or medicinal properties.

Photos: Angelica spp.


Aralia Cordata 'Udo' 'ウド' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Shoot, stem, leaf.

Propagation: Division, seed. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Shade to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of the famous mountain vegetables of Japan! An excellent perennial vegetable for its productivity and biomass generation. Most English references indicate the shoot is eaten, preferably blanched/covered. This is the most highly valued harvest, but a small one for a plant so big. In fact, the largest crop from this plant is the tender new growth, the young stems and leaves. These are available for a much longer portion of the year and can be produced in quantity on older specimens. Will tolerate shade but seems to prefer full sun. Dies back every winter, leaving behind dead stems wonderful for mulch.

For some reason the only variety available from most nurseries here in the west is 'Sun King', which has a yellower tint to it but can be eaten the same way. If you are looking for a variety closer to the wild form, you may have to grow it from seed. Left outside in a pot with soil over winter, seeds of this species germinate well. A. racemosa has different edible properties and is rarely cultivated for this purpose.

Photos: A. cordata.


Armoracia Rusticana 'Horseradish' | Perennial

Edible: Root, shoot.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Sun to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Artemisia Princeps 'Japanese Mugwort' '쑥' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I have become quite infatuated with this plant. Although likely to be considered a weed in most gardens, this particular species is a traditional Korean vegetable. The shoots can be eaten like any other vegetable, but it is most famous as a flavoring ingredient in rice cakes and occasionally in soup.

The plant grows very easily in most conditions and forms clump about 5 feet high. And what I really love about this plant is that the thick stems make for a wonderful mulch. In my mind this is the perfect chop and drop plant considering how quickly it grows. I have a few around the garden and use them this way regularly. This plant spreads very quickly once established (species in this genus are often considered invasive) so cut it back often and consider keeping it in a seperate space where it can be easily managed.

Some plants in this genus are allelopathic and are said to inhibit the growth of nearby plants. I have not personally observed this with any of the species I grow but it may still be useful to keep in mind. A. vulgaris, common mugwort, is edible in the same way along with some others. Said to be a lucid dreaming aid as well.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Artemisia spp.


Asparagus Officinalis 'Asparagus' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A classic perennial vegetable of home gardens. I have not found them to be too picky about soil but they do seem to need mostly sun. Grown from seed they will take a few years before the shoots are big enough to harvest. Young plants are easily overtaken when surrounded by competition. A. schoberioides is edible in the same way, but with smaller shoots.

Photos: A. officinalis.


Asphodeline Lutea 'King's Spear' | Perennial

Edible: Root, shoot, flower.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: A historic Roman vegetable, grown primarily for its roots and shoots but may be valued for the flowers as well. Needs dry soil and full sun in my experience, they don't survive very long in my garden. Leaves stay up over winter. Seed may prefer cold stratification but some will germinate without this. Excellent potential as a perennial root crop.

Photos: A. lutea.


Aster Scaber 'Chamchwi' '참취' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of many edible asters and a traditional Korean vegetable. Prefers full sun but will do fine in part shade. Young leaves or tender new growth is eaten. A good choice for a wild leafy green to incorporate into the food forest. A. tataricus has a medicinal root and is very occasionally eaten for its shoot in spring, although the plant quickly becomes very tough. Pollinators love it though.

Photos: A. scaber. A. tataricus.


Beta Vulgaris Maritima 'Sea Beet' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A perennial beet relative grown for its edible leaves. The inflorescence is also edible when young and tender. Root is said to be edible but not normally eaten. A resilient plant but does not do well in shade. When in sun the plant does very well with a deep taproot after just a few months. Low growing so ensure it is not being shaded out by other plants. The seeds I grew out had noticeable differences, mostly in leaf shape and size, so this vegetable should offer a good opportunity for selection and breeding.

Photos: B. vulgaris maritama.


Brassica Oleracea Ramosa 'Perpetual Kale' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Stem, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Eaten in winter. Bunny sensitive. Leaves fed to many animals, may be mildly toxic.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: B. oleracea consists of many different plants including broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower - almost all of which are annuals and biennials. Of these I tend to focus on kale because this particular variety of kale is known to have some perennial forms. Most kale will set seed after their first winter, but some forms will either set seed after 2-3 years of growth or never/rarely set seed at all. Those that don't set seed are usually propagated by stem cutting. Stem cuttings can be placed in moist soil to root and clone the original plant. Out of many plants grown only one has proven to be hardy enough and lived more than 2 years. But the wonderful thing about this plant is that once you find a good form like this, it's only a matter of taking some cuttings and planting it all around the garden.

I am particularly interested in the forms that can live for a few years before setting seed. This not only ensures genetic diversity but also opens up the possibility of harvesting the inflorescence and perhaps breeding some form of a short-lived perennial kale/broccoli vegetable. I also wonder about the potential for a polycarpic perennial kale (flowering more than once). To the best of my knowledge this does not yet exist and those that will live longer when the flowerheads are cut off do not count. So I do see a lot of potential.

Some plants are cold hardy but many are not. Like others in this genus it is very susceptible to insects. I also have trouble with mildew when it grows in shadier or wetter spots.

Suggested Varieties: 'Homesteader's Kaleidoscopic Perennial Kale Grex' from Experimental Farm Network.

Photos: B. oleracea.


Brassica Rapa Purpurea 'Hon Tsai Tai' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: B. rapa consists of many different plants including turnips, rapini and bok choy. Within this species I tend to focus on turnips (see that listing in the roots section), but I do grow some other varieties just for the leaves.

Photos: Coming soon.


Brassica Juncea 'Mustard' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: B. juncea consists of many different plants including mizuna and brown mustard, but the varieties aren't as distinct as some other Brassica species. I particularly like curled-leaf mustard as it is incredibly cold hardy and grows through snow just fine. The only drawback is how pungent this variety is, so it is probably better cooked if eating in any quantity.

Photos: B. Juncea


Bunias Orientalis 'Turkish Rocket' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Stem, leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: An up and coming perennial vegetable that grows like a weed! I like to think of this plant as the closest you'll get to a perennial mustard (maybe aside from sea kale). The inflorescence can be eaten alone or harvested with some of the new stem and leaves like rapini. Will tolerate practically any soil and a fair amount of shade. Beautiful yellow flowers that some insects enjoy. Very resilient.

I was suprised to see the deer eating this but it is unfortunately not deer resistant (it's not a favorite but does get eaten in my garden after all the good stuff is gone).

Photos: B. orientalis.


Capsella Bursa Pastoris 'Shepherd's Purse' '냉이' | Annual

Edible: Root, shoot.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: C. pastoris.


Capsicum Pubescen 'Rocoto Pepper' | Annual

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: I appreciate this plant not only for the unique hot peppers it creates (they are extremely hot), but also because it is one of the hardier, true perennial species. There are a few different varieties available, mostly differentiated by color (usually red or orange) and origin (usually Peru or Ecuador).

If grown in a warmer climate it will become like a small pepper tree. The main stem even gets woody after just one growing season. Unfortunately it will not survive outdoors in my climate, but there is potential to grow it in a greenhouse or to bring it indoors over winter. If growing as a perennial the yields are better as the plant gets older. If growing as an annual, start it indoors as early as possible so the fruits have enough time to ripen before frost. They take their time with this so you have to be prepared. The fruits are relatively large and the seeds are black, unlike other peppers.

C. flexuosum is another species that fascinates me, mostly because it is the hardiest species within the genus. The fruits are tiny. Supposedly it will survive outdoors in my climate but the seeds are difficult to germinate and I haven't had much luck. I have read they do better with some special treatment before germination.

Photos: C. pubescen. C. annum.


Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus 'Good King Henry' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Shoot, leaf, inflorescence, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Once a common vegetable but now fallen out of favor, and for no good reason! It's hard to imagine a better vegetable. Leaves that make the perfect perennial spinach substitute. Inflorescence that make the perfect perennial broccoli substitute (although many references ignore this). Even the young, unfurled shoots can be peeled and eaten like asparagus! The seeds can be eaten too - this could be an interesting experiment in perennial seed cultivation given enough plants. Many ways to prepare this vegetable, and very easy to care for as long as it gets enough sun. Also edible is its weedy brother, C. album.

Photos: C. bonus-henricus. C. album.


Claytonia Perfoliata 'Miner's Lettuce' | Annual

Edible: Bulb, stem, leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Hands down one of the best salad crop out there. Juicy succulent leaves that taste just as good even after flowering. The flowers can be eaten as well and this is my preferred way of serving as they are beautiful in flower. A small plant that prefers a moist and sunny spot. C. sibirica is a perennial and can also be eaten the same way, although this species prefers more shade.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Crambe Maritima 'Sea Kale' | Perennial

Edible: Root, shoot, leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Division, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Sun to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The famous perennial kale that grows along the ocean in sandy and saline conditions. Very resilient and easy in sun. Best harvest is young shoots as leaves can get quite tough once larger, it is sometimes blanched for this reason. Seeds have a cork-like shell around them that should be removed before planting, and even then they do not germinate or grow very easily. Purchasing a live plant/root may be helpful for this reason.

Photos: Coming soon.


Cryptotaenia Japonica 'Mitsuba' 'ミツバ' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A carefree perennial from Japan, sometimes called Japanese parsley for its likeness to the plant. However if you're expecting it to taste like parsley you'll be disappointed. It's definitely tougher and mustier. Still, I imagine it has a lot of potential in the kitchen. What I love about this plant is how easy it is to grow, pretty much any conditions are fine and since it will tolerate a good amount of shade this is where I like to plant it. One of the plants even flowered the same year it was transplanted. C. canadensis is the American species.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: C. japonica.


Cucurbita Maxima 'Squash' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Leaf, flower, fruit, seed.

Propagation: Seed. CLIMBING

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Fruit fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Cynara Cardunculus 'Cardoon' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flower bud.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. May grow well in meadows.

Wildlife: Deer resistant? POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Cardoon is exactly the same species as artichoke, only it has been bred for the leaves as opposed to the flower head. But cardoon is hardier and therefore the only potentially perennial option in colder climates. The flower head and bracts of cardoon can still be eaten but they are not as fleshy and so offer a less worthwhile harvest. The main harvest from cardoon is the thick leaf stalks.

Theoretically, cardoon should be an obvious selection for any garden where it will grow. The plant does not need great soil and can grow in sun or part shade. It effectively blocks out nearby competition with its large leaves and creates a significant amount of biomass for mulching. Mature plants produce a sizeable harvest as well. The only catch is that the leaf stalks can be quite unpalatable straight off the plant. This is why they are usually blanched by wrapping some sort of paper or cloth around the leaves. And even then they should be peeled, chopped and thoroughly boiled. So a wonderful vegetable to grow but may be a hassle to prepare.

Some varieties of cardoon have spines, but I would avoid these and instead opt for those without. The flowers are stunning and appreciated by pollinators. I grew out a few plants of the Gobbo di Nizza variety but none survived winter. I will continue trialing other varieties.

Photos: C. cardunculus.


Dystaenia Takesimana 'Seombadi' '섬바디' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Shoot, stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed. Germination may be poor.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Shoots fed to pigs.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: If you like angelica or alexanders then this plant will be right up your alley. It is in the same subfamily and has a similar growth habit, but unlike the other two it is a true perennial that will flower and continue growing. And unlike angelica the seed does not need cold stratification. So much more straightforward. Older specimens produce a good volume of shoots which make for a high quality vegetable.

Prefers sun but will do fine in part shade. Easy to grow. Comes up well before the last frost and starts growing very early in the season. Sometimes referred to as Korean celery, and may be a good perennial substitute for celery. Not only does it have all these wonderful qualities, but it is completely deer resistant as well!

Photos: D. takesimana.


Galinsoga Parviflora 'Gallant Soldier' | Annual

Edible: Shoot, stem, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Shoots or young stems and leaves are eaten. The flower is edible but typically not eaten. This plant is often avoided or cultivated with care as it can spread by seed rapidly in certain conditions. Flowers start to form very early, and these flowers quickly turn to seed, so within a matter a weeks you may have thousands of new seeds sitting in your soil! I would avoid planting it in the garden beds and instead put it somewhere out of the way.

Photos: G. parviflora.


Chrysanthemum Coronaria 'Shungiku' 'シュンギク' | Annual

Edible: Shoot, stem, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Common in Japan but rarely cultivated here in the west. And for shame! A unique vegetable, great taste and beautiful flowers. It is sometimes grown as a fall crop. Useful Plants Of Japan, Described And Illustrated indicates this plant was sown in the fall and overwintered. In my climate it does not overwinter. Seed germination is good when tossed over disturbed soil.

There are two main types available - one with smaller, serrated leaves and another with larger, more tender leaves. When eaten as a vegetable it is cooked. A Dictionary Of Japanese Food writes that the raw leaves and small flowers are used as a garnish. C. nankingense is cultivated in China and eaten the same way.

C. morifolium is a perennial alternative, most varieties are cultivated for ornamental purposed but some are edible. I would recommend against eating random varieties - stick to those cultivated for food or medicine. Strictly Medicinal has standard varieties. There is a variety 'Abokyu' cultivated in Japan for its larger flowers. I believe this species is worth more research and cultivation here in the west.

C. parthenium is feverfew, a medicinal herb renowned for its ability to treat migraines. Once established it will pop up everywhere. Very fragrant. Many others, although the few that can be eaten as vegetables as opposed to just garnishes/teas stand out as excellent crops because of how easily this genus grows.

Photos: C. coronaria. C. parthenium.


Gynostemma Pentaphyllum 'Jiaogulan' '绞股蓝' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed. CLIMBING

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This plant has such an incredible potential to be incorporated into forest gardens as one of the best perennial, cold hardy, vining plants with edible leaves. On top of that it is also a renowned medicinal and adaptogen! Most references actually only mention the medicinal qualities and skip over the fact that the leaves can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable as well. Leaves taste very sweet. The plant prefers shade and dies back to its roots every year, making it easy to incorporate into the understory and easy to manage once established.

Older specimens still have the potential to smother shrubs so this should be taken into account. I have one planted right below an old ornamental bush I don't care about and it seems very happy. Vines can be a difficult element to incorporate into food forests but this one is fairly straightforward. Viable seed is only produced when a male and female plant are present. The appearance is somewhat similar to Virginia creeper but jiaogulan has visible leaf petioles and leaf hears, as well as a different leaflet arrangement.

Photos: G. pentaphyllum.


Hemerocallis Middendorffii 'Daylily' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, flower.

Propagation: Division

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Mostly eat flowers.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This plant is sort of like the poster child for permaculture as it's a tasty perennial vegetable, incredibly easy to grow, and you may already have it in your backyard. Cultivated as a vegetable in China. The flowers are some of the best out there being sweet and delicious, even when raw.

The flowers can be eaten as buds or fully opened. They are cooked, dried, pickled or sometimes eaten raw. The shoots are also eaten as a vegetable, but the leaves quickly get tough if left to grow. The roots are less commonly eaten. Most online resources indicate any species is fine to eat, whether its the flowers, shoots or roots. But not every species has a recorded history of being eaten, and those that do often do not include all three parts of the plant.

It seems the roots in particular are seldom or never eaten depending on the species. Edible Wild Plants Of Vietnam indicates at least one species used for edible flowers has mildly toxic roots. Granted this book isn't the most reliable but it's worth noting. The Encyclopedia Of Edible Plants Of North America mentions the roots of some species are eaten but Food Plants Of China makes no mention of it for any of the species it lists. Both Plants For Human Consumption and Cornucopia only list some of the species as having an edible root. Many are listed as being eaten only for the shoots and flowers. Let us remember one of our basic principles - just because one species in a genus is edible in a certain way does not mean others are!

My recommendation is to stick to the species with a history of being eaten and not to bother with the roots. Along with this yellow flowering species eaten in Japan, this includes H. fulva (common orange ditch lily) and H. lilioasphodelus/H. flava (shorter plant with sweet-scented, yellow flowers). There are many others.

Daylilies will grow in most soils and do fine in fairly deep shade. The common orange ditch lily is an aggressive spreader so put it in a spot that's easy to manage. Other species grow slower and are easily managed. Overall, they are an excellent perennial vegetable very well suited for food forest projects.

Photos: Hemerocallis spp.


Hosta Montana 'Hosta' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf, petiole.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The situation for hostas is similar to that of daylilies - there is an extensive history of some species being eaten, and the rest are often assumed to be just as safe. I would suggest sticking with the well-documented species or doing your own research for the specific species you are interested in. This species is a standard in Japan and the normal recommendation.

It is primarily the shoots, young leaves and petioles that are eaten. Most English sources do not mention the petioles but they appear in Japanese reference books more frequently. They are a good way to extend the harvest of the plant once the leaves become too big and tough. The flowers are sometimes a very minor crop as well, however Food Plants Of China indicates the flowers of H. plantaginea require cooking to detoxify them. Therefore do not assume they are safe raw for any species without evidence to the contrary. I have seen an absurd amount of online sources claiming the flowers of all species are edible raw but I have never seen any valid reference that corroborates this.

The fact that hostas can tolerate full sun or deep shade makes them very fun to have in the garden. I can have other plants growing right next to them and they don't mind the shade it creates at all. They can act as a sort of groundcover in that way and still provide a high quality vegetable.

Will tolerate most conditions as long as the soil is not overly dry. Useful for deep shade where edible options are limited. Although the deer love it, there shouldn't be a problem harvesting the shoots as they typically only eat it later on in the growth cycle. That being said, if a small plant is continually eaten to the ground then it may simply die. Another excellent perennial vegetable for food forests.

Photos: Hosta spp.


Houttuynia Cordata 'Fish Mint' | Perennial

Edible: Rhizome, shoot, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Division. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Deep shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: First, a word of warning: do not plant this in the ground. This plant spreads so aggressively and is so impossible to remove that it's almost always better to keep it contained in a pot where it has no chance of escaping. It thrives in wet and shady locations but will grow anywhere, even in sun and average soil. Try to pull it up and the petioles are so fragile that they break first, leaving the rhizome in the ground. I've been pulling these up for years! In one location I've planted Japanese butterbur, an equally aggressive plant, to hopefully out compete/shade it out.

In my experience this plant is not going to be a regular part of your diet. I only have the variegated version but the taste is fairly off-putting. To the best of my knowledge the variegated variety is edible in the same way although I can't be certain. I cannot imagine anyone eating this as a vegetable in any meaningful quantity. There is also a chance I am mildly allergic to it. Your best best would be to use the rhizomes or spring shoots as a garnish. Personally I wouldn't bother with it given the choice.

Photos: Coming soon.


Ipomoea Aquatica 'Water Spinach' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Wet soil.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: This fast-growing leafy vegetable spreads by rhizome and loves growing in water or wet soil. No doubt an amazing option in tropical climates where it is perennial (if prevented from being invasive), but in annual climates it is more of a hassle. Not only does it need wet soil, it also only really gets going in warm weather. The seed pods barely had enough time to ripen in my climate, so the prospect of it self seeding seems unlikely. If harvesting seed pods let them dry before cracking them open carefully to reveal 2-4 large seeds. The plant spreads horizontally on the ground, making it potentially very useful in polycultures.

It is still a unique vegetable with interesting potential but not my favorite. There are narrow-leaf and broad-leaf forms, but I am unsure of how they are different beyond leaf appearance. I have grown the broad-leaf form only.

Photos: I. aquatica.


Levisticum Officinale 'Lovage' | Perennial

Edible: Root, shoot, stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Ligularia Fischeri 'Gomchi' '곰취' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed. Germination may be poor.

Conditions: Shade to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: An exciting vegetable from Korea but rarely grown here in the states. Forms a slowly expanding mound of large, kidney bean shaped leaves. The low profile and shade tolerance gives it an interesting niche and excellent potential for the food forest. I appreciate that it doesn't take up a lot of space but covers the soil well, may work as an understory ground cover. Leaves are usually harvested in early spring when still tender, and at this point they can be eaten raw. Older leaves or those harvested later in the season should be cooked. One of my favorite plants as it is not picky and is a stunning specimen when mature. I like to have these all around the garden and plant as many as I can.

Seed grown plants seem to display a good range of characteristics, so this vegetable offers a good opportunity for further selection and breeding. There is a cultivated variety 'Spiciformis' that has slightly different characteristics and is a useful source of genetic diversity. See here. Some other species of Ligularia also have edible leaves, but none others are cultivated for this purpose.

Photos: L. fischeri.


Malva Verticillata 'Chinese Mallow' | Biennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: M. verticillata.


Oenanthe Javanica 'Water Celery' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, rarely damaged?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Like wapato, before planting this I was unsure if it would be alright outside of standing or flowing water. But it does just fine in regular garden conditions and the soil doesn't even need to be consistently moist. This is a tough plant. In the right conditions it may be considered invasive. May be a useful groundcover. Some species in this genus are poisonous.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Peperomia Pellucida 'Pepper Elder' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed. Prefers warm soil to germinate.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: An adorable, beautiful, delicious and medicinal groundcover. It grows as an annual in my climate but generates tons of seeds well in advance of first frost. Often added to soups but would be a fun addition to salads, the taste is reminiscent of other peperomia species - surprisingly fruity with a citrus, peppery zing. I am unsure if the inflorescence are technically edible but they are difficult to avoid so I do eat the immature ones with the tender new growth. Wonderful potential as a groundcover for annual beds.

Photos: P. pellucida.


Perilla Frutescens 'Perilla' '들깻잎' 'シソ' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, inflorescence, seed.

Propagation: Seed, stem. Prefers sunlight to germinate. SELF-SOWS

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Entire plant toxic to many animals.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: One of the most beloved vegetables in my garden, and certainly one of the most opportunistic. Considered an escaped weed in many areas but a very old Korean vegetable that has been relied on for centuries. This plant is also the perfect example of one of the paradoxes most gardeners confront - vegetables that are too easy to grow are seen as weeds, and vegetables that are more difficult to grow just make life harder for us! Why not embrace the weedy vegetables? Why make life harder than it is? If you plant these out of the way and make sure their seeds don't get spread around it's no problem at all. ]=

It grows enthusiastically and can tolerate shade and dry soil fairly well (it does need water but don't believe online sources that say it needs consistently moist soil). Many forms are quite bushy and can get over 5 feet high with tons of fragrant leaves! Red varieties are used mare as a garnish while green varieties are used more as a vegetable or for kimchi. Young and tender flowering shoots are edible whole, while flowers/buds can be picked off older shoots. P. frutescens var. crispa is the Japanese variety often called shiso, and P. frutescens var. frutescens is the korean variety often called perilla, although the names are sometimes used interchangeably.

The 38N Kkaennip variety has done exceptionally well for me after just tossing the seeds around the beds. This variety is wonderful and a standard. A bit tougher than other varieties but it makes up for that in how well it grows. This variety also sometimes 'catches' the flowers that fall off on the leaves below - these can be collected and used as a garnish. Green Ao is a nice Japanese variety, a bit softer and better for eating raw, but not nearly as vigorous. This one flowers and dies earlier too.

Many varieties can get quite big (even to 5 feet tall) and shade out nearby plants, so this is another reason to keep it out of the way. It is easy to imagine filling large areas with this plant in just a season or two. Big specimens will also produce a surprisingly thick and woody stem. This sort of carbon generation combined with its vigorous growth and ability to shade out weeds makes me think it could have a place in soil regeneration. As long as it can be controlled and easily removed for succession. Overall an extremely valuable plant.

Suggested Varieties: '38N Kkaennip' from Kitazawa Seed.

Photos: P. frutescens.


Petasites Japonicus 'Japanese Butterbur' 'フキ' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf petiole, leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Division, seed. May be difficult from seed. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Shade to part shade. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This plant is real statement piece and adds a very architectural/immersive/tropical element to the garden. Once established it spread quickly by rhizome, sending up giant leaves on tall stalks that will quickly overtake any shady and wet area. Because of that it is very useful for shady areas where few other edible plants will grow. Will tolerate some heat but prefers it cool. Plant it in a spot where it can be easily managed and will not escape.

The entire plant has toxic alkaloids and should be eaten in moderation after preparing according to traditional methods. The stems are the most common harvest, and should always be peeled after cooking. A Dictionary Of Japanese Food seems to indicate even the mature stems can be eaten, but the younger ones are tastier and probably safer. Young leaves (roughly hand sized or smaller) are also eaten after cooking. The unopened flower head is a prefered traditional vegetable, although few English references mention this. These are called fukinoto.

P. japonicus var. giganteus is a larger variety edible in the same way, growing taller with larger leaves. Useful Plants Of Japan, Described And Illustrated writes that this larger variety is inferior in taste. There is also a purple-tinted variety. Related to the native P. frigidus, arctic butterbur, which is used for the young flowering shoots.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: P. japonicus.


Peucedanum Japonicum 'Coastal Hog Fennel' 'ボタンボウフウ' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: An undiscovered vegetable in the west and rarely eaten even in Japan. But it is absolutely wonderful! Renowned as a longevity medicinal and extremely nutritious. The taste right out of the garden is surprisingly palatable with crisp and succulent leaves (although it should be cooked before eating). The plant naturally grows on coasts with sandy or rocky soil, being regularly exposed to saline water and air. The fat root helps anchor it to cliffs with eroding soil. All this adds up to make it very resilient, exactly what we're looking for. In standard garden conditions it grows without any problems and seems to do fine even in moderate shade. Comes up very early in spring too. This along with gomchi are reliable, deer-resistant plants I like to have all around the garden.

Photos: P. japonicum


Phaseolus Coccineus 'Runner Bean' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Pod, seed.

Propagation: Seed. CLIMBING

Conditions: Part shade to sun. NITROGEN FIXER SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This species is naturally a perennial in warmer climates and there may be potential to breed a cold-hardy perennial population. Most varieties would not survive here in Z7 as far as I know, but there is a Japanese variety 'Shinshu Runner' which may be suitably cold hardy. This seems to be the hardiest variety and so it will be my starting point for this project. A cold-hardy perennial runner bean would be an incredible addition to the garden. Not only would it fix nitrogen like other beans but it could also serve as a staple perennial vegetable or protein.

P. vulgaris is the more common species and grows as an annual. Unlike the runner bean which always climbs, there are both bushy varieties and climbing varieties. If eating the raw pods of any species in this genus be sure to pick them when quite young. Older pods, even if the beans are still green and tender, are mildly toxic and should not be eaten raw in quantity. Instead they should be cooked.

P. polystachios is the perennial wild bean native to much of North America. The cooked beans are edible although they are very small and not particularly practical. It may still be useful as a native nitrogen fixer.

Suggested Varieties: 'Shinshu Runner' from Peace Seedlings.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: P. Coccineus.


Pisum Sativum 'Pea' | Annual

Edible: Pod, seed.

Propagation: Seed. CLIMBING

Conditions: Part shade to sun. NITROGEN FIXER SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: P. sativum.


Polygonatum Commutatum 'Solomon's Seal' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A woodland vegetable perfect for a shady understory. The shoots are a high-quality vegetable rivaling even asparagus. Will form patches but expands fairly slowly. I buried some roots in the garden sometime around late spring or early summer and they waited until the following spring to come up. P. multiflorum and P. biflorum can also be used. Many others.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Polygonatum spp.


Rheum Rhabarbarum 'Rhubarb' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf petiole.

Propagation: Division., seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of the more common perennial vegetables yet why that is I could not say. I mean how many people actually eat it? That being said it is a fun plant and quite beautiful. This species is the standard and has edible leaf petioles (often confusingly referred to as stalks). R. australe is edible in the same way. R. nobile is a gorgeous species with transparent leaves that create a greenhouse effect for the flowers underneath. Cultivation is difficult though and all my seedlings have died. R. acuminatum is a small Nepalese species that is hardy in my area (one of two plants survived winter). Traditionally dried and pickled. I would recommend following traditional preparation and always pickling it before eating (the drying seems optional).

Photos: R. acuminatum.


Rumex Alpinus 'Alpine Dock' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, petiole.

Propagation: Division., seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. EASY & VIGOROUS SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Sorrel is so easy to grow it makes for an excellent introduction to perennial vegetables. It does contain oxalic acid like many other vegetables and so should be cooked if eating in large quantities. It is yet another great example of plants that are at once considered a weed when in the garden but a delicious vegetable when served at a fancy restaurant.

This particular species is absolutely stunning and the largest within the genus that I know of. Tall stalks, very large leaves and just as easy to grow as the rest. Edible in exactly the same way as well, but with a stronger taste.

Some, if not all, of the species in this genus grow quickly in poor soil and have deep, extensive root systems. Combine that with the fact that this particular species generates the most biomass and we have an excellent candidate for soil regeneration. The large leaves also make perfect mulch so I have many of these all around the garden for this purpose. I think this plant is worthy of being incorporated into regenerative food systems.

Common sorrel, R. acetosa, is the standard. Many others. Alpine dock seems to be appreciated by the deer after all the good stuff has been eaten, but I don't notice the other sorrel species getting eaten. Maybe because they flower much sooner and so are more bitter.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Rumex spp.


Sanguisorba Minor 'Burnet' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A strange little vegetable that functions more as a garnish with a refreshing and crisp flavor. It forms small mounds and grows very easily. Just tossing seeds around the beds was enough to get many plants established. Not particularly useful in my opinion but an interesting option nonetheless. Listed in the Chiu Huang Pen Ts'ao, a book on famine foods from ancient China. The flowers are small but beautiful and fascinating. Little globes of pink give way to a delicate yellow. See the photos, it really is a wonderful flower.

Photos: S. minor.


Silene Vulgaris 'Bladder Campion' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Smilacina Racemosa 'False Spikenard' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, fruit.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Woodland

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A vegetable very similar to solomon's seal. Grows in the same conditions, looks similar and is eaten the same way. Except this one also has edible berries which are apparently a laxative if eaten in large quantities or if the body is not accustomed to them. S. japonica has edible shoots.

Photos: Smilacina spp.


Smyrnium Olusatrum 'Alexanders' | Biennial

Edible: Root, shoot, stem, leaf, inflorescence, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. May grow well in meadows.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: An important vegetable from ancient Rome and sometimes thought of as a resilient alternative to celery. Often classified as a short lived perennial since it may live a few years but dies after going to flower. Every single part of this plant is edible! Amazing potential. The seed is even used as an alternative to black pepper. Some sources indicate that the seed needs cold stratification but it seems some will germinate without this. The seedlings are nice and big so they are easy to identify and transplant.

S. perfoliatum and S. rotundifolium (the prettiest of the bunch) are fairly similar and can be eaten the same way. There are other species within this genus that may also be of use but I haven't found any information on them.

Photos: S. olusatrum.


Stellaria Media 'Chickweed' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed. GROUNDCOVER SELF-SOWS

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This small weed is one of the best salad crops, and it grows everywhere! Tender, juicy, mild and refreshing. The only catch is harvesting a lot of it can be difficult unless you have a dense patch of it. Cornucopia writes that the flowers are edible as well, so pick all the tender new growth. Identifiable by the vertical line of hair running along the stem, alternating sides after every joint. I also love having this plant in the garden beds because it doesn't compete too much with other crops and stays low to the ground. It sprawls and functions as a non-competitive groundcover in that way.

Leaves of S. neglecta can also be eaten. S. pubera is a native perennial, growing into small mounds. Spring shoots are an excellent salad green like the annual species (perhaps even more succulent), although once the plant becomes larger they are tough and useless. Some species in this genus looks similar to species in Cerastium genus, those are usually much fuzzier but also edible in the same way.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: S. pubera. S. media. Cerastium spp.


Talinum Triangulare 'Waterleaf' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Taraxacum Officinale 'Dandelion' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed. SELF-SOWS

Conditions: Shade to sun. DROUGHT TOLERANT SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant? Leaves fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: If you think you can't grow vegetables, think again! You probably already are growing this amazing vegetable. It has been used as a food by many cultures throughout history. Tolerates almost any soil.

Leaves are calorie and nutrient dense as far as leafy vegetables go. The crowns can also be prepared as a unique vegetable after thorough cleaning. The root is sometimes eaten or used as a coffee substitute. I always blow their seeds all around the garden as they are beautiful plants that help improve compacted soil with their taproots. And when grown in garden beds they become very nice and large. T. albidum is the Japanese white dandelion, eaten the same way.

Photos: T. officinale.


Tropaeolum Majus 'Nasturtium' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed. CLIMBING SELF-SOWS

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I thought this plant would be another annoying annual to deal with but they have quickly become one of my favorites. The flowers are gorgeous and taste delicious! I prefer eating these over the leaves which are a bit hotter. The plant does well with heat and dry soil and is essentially care free after planting the seed. It also handles competition well as it can sprawl and clamber over other plants. If left alone they will usually reseed themselves and grow without any help.

The seeds can be planted a few inches deep, much deeper than most, and I suspect this helps with drought tolerance. They don't pick up speed until summer but once they do they are so much fun to watch. I have been enjoying the 'Jewels' heirloom vairety. T. nanum is very similar, some others.

Photos: T. majus.


Urtica Dioica 'Stinging Nettle' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Division., stem, seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: An extremely nutritious and tasty vegetable that would likely be much more popular if not for the stinging hairs that are painful to the touch. Shoots are the most prized harvest, or the tender new growth after they get bigger.

There supposedly exists a subspecies 'Galeopsifolia' that has significantly more mild stings, if any at all. I beleive this is the form I have in my garden. I can almost always touch it with no problem although I did get a very mild sting once. I am not sure of the exact identification but these non-stinging varieties seem very promising. It also makes me wonder if they could be bred to sting less. This variety also clumps and does not spread rapidly like some other varieties.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: U. dioica.


Zingiber Mioga 'Myoga Ginger' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, flower.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: In the very same genus as common ginger but this species is much hardier and can survive down to Z6. It is also not the rhizomes that are eaten, but the shoots and flower buds. An excellent perennial vegetable that can grow in sun or shade and takes off quickly. Overall very tolerant of a variety of conditions. Quickly forms tall clumps with a very tropical appearance. Stalks and leaves make for excellent mulch like other gingers. Comes up in late May for me.

Z. kawagoii did not survive winter for me. None of it is edible but I have seen reports that the root is used medicinally. Z. officinale, common ginger, can grow as an annual. It also has edible shoots.

Photos: Z. mioga. Z. kawagoii.




Onions


Allium Ampeloprasum 'Leek' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Bulb, leaf. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Bulb, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Usually grown as an annual but there are perennial forms.

Photos: Coming soon.


Allium Cepa Aggregatum 'Potato Onion' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb, seed. Slow from seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant, except in times of scarcity.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: I have not had much success with these and they don't seem to do very well in my beds. Like other onions they seem picky about soil conditions and competition from nearby plants (of which there is a lot of in my beds). They never develop proper bulbs in my garden. This species has potential to perennialize in the right conditions but is often grown as an annual.

Photos: A. cepa aggregatum.


Allium Cepa Proliferum 'Walking Onion' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf, bulbet.

Propagation: Bulb, bulbet.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant, except in times of scarcity.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Walking onions are another form of clumping green onions, but unlike bunching onions they form little bulbets instead of seeds after flowering. Despite everything I have read online about how easy and reliable this species is, they never seem to last long in my garden. My suspicion is that the soil is too wet. I've grown them in raised beds with great results but since removing those beds they've never succeeded.

Photos: A. cepa proliferum.


Allium Fistulosum 'Bunching Onion' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant, except in times of scarcity.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Similar to walking onions, although I don't think every variety is cold hardy enough for my climate. Will multiply and can be divided for propagation. Forms seeds after flowering.

Photos: Coming soon.


Allium Hookeri 'Hooker's Onion' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Root, bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Uncommon here in the west but a standard in some other countries and one of my favorites. Flat leaves grow in clumps, a bit similar to chives. But these have a great taste and are eaten as a vegetable. The roots (the actual roots, not the bulb or rhizome) are also eaten once they become big enough on older plants. I personally wouldn't bother with that because the leaves are already so great. The last onion to come up in spring but very reliable growers for me. Probably appreciates the heat and humidity we share with southeast Asia, where it is more commonly grown.

Photos: A. hookeri.


Allium Oschaninii 'Grey Shallot' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: The only true shallot, originally found growing wild in China. Not the same species as common shallots. Like some other onions listed here, the conditions just don't seem right for them to grow properly.

Photos: Coming soon.


Allium Sativum 'Garlic' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf, scape. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Bulb, bulbet. Slow from bulbet.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Some pests.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Garlic only grows well and forms good bulbs in cooler weather - this is why it is planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. Once the temperatures warm up the plant will stop growing and start to dry out. If the conditions are right this will lead to a regular head of garlic that has excellent storage properties. I am experimenting with growing garlic as a perennial but so far the results have been poor. The recent extreme weather fluctuations in spring also seem to be making life harder for them.

Photos: A. sativum.


Allium Tricoccum 'Ramp' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb, seed. Slow from seed. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Deep shade to shade.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The most prized onion and threatened in the wild by foraging. Grows in forest understory, getting all its light in early spring before the trees leaf out. But it can grow in the garden just as well, any shady spot with rich soil should work. Here it comes up around early April. Takes years to reach maturity from seed. Bulbs can be purchased for a much quicker start, but be sure they are not being harvested from the wild. I believe A. victorialis would be a similar alternative, although much rarer in cultivation here.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Allium Tuberosum 'Garlic Chives' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf, scape, flower.

Propagation: Bulb, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.




Roots + Tubers


Adenophora Triphylla 'Ladybell' 'ツリガネニンジン' | Perennial

Edible: Root, shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant? Chipmunk?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of many genera in the bellflower family with species that grow edible roots. This species is the standard for edible roots within this genus, eaten as a vegetable. Shoots and leaves can also be eaten, although this is less common. From seed it seems to be slow and a bit picky about growing conditions, I haven't quite figured out exactly what it needs yet. Harvest after 2-3 years like other perennial roots.

A. latifolia and A. communis are also used for the root. A. liliifolia is the most common here in America, often grown as an ornamental but also with an edible root. I purchased some roots of this plant and they have taken off without any care, producing beautiful flowers in the summer. This one doesn't seem to mind moderate shade.

Photos: A. triphylla. A. lilifolia.


Alpinia Galanga 'Galangal' | Annual

Edible: Rhizome, shoot, flower.

Propagation: Division. Prefers warm soil to sprout.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: In the ginger family (along with common ginger and turmeric), this one more common in southeast Asia. Of all the gingers I have grown, this seems to be the easiest and the most heat tolerant. It is also the most beautiful in my personal opinion. On the flipside it is not very cold hardy and the rhizome expands slowly. I need to experiment with it more but it doesn't seem super practical for cultivation in my climate. Use the rhizome like you would any other ginger. A. officinarum is grown and used the same way.

Photos: A. galanga.


Althaea Officinalis 'Marshmallow' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred. Bunny sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I love how straightforward this plant is. It grows well in most conditions with a moderate amount of sun, and grows tall enough to easily handle any competition from nearby weeds. Definitely one of the more vigorous perennial roots. The biomass it generates is also nothing to sneeze at. This along with the deep and fat root makes it a decent choice for soil regeneration. Easily divided once multiple shoots start coming up.

The roots and leaves can be eaten as vegetables, although the leaves can be a bit too hairy for that. Excellent potential as a root crop given how quickly and easily it grows. Medicinal for soar throat or coughs.

Photos: A. officinalis.


Apios Americana 'Groundnut' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber, seedpod.

Propagation: Division, seed. CLIMBING

Conditions: Shade to sun. Woodland. NITROGEN FIXER

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A native and protien-rich perennial root gaining more widespread cultivation here in the states. Naturally more of a woodland plant so it is adapted to some shade, but they already grow slowly enough as it is so the more sun they can get the better. The tubers form along long rhizomes, and the plant does best with something to climb on, although it can be allowed to sprawl. Take care when weeding so as not to yank any plants that the vine has attached itself to.

Perennial, vining, cold hardy root crops are rare so this serves an interesting niche in that regard. It also fixes nitrogen but since the root is the part harvested I am unsure if it would benefit the soil as much as other nitrogen fixers.

Wild varieties can be very small compared to improved varieties coming out of some breeding programs, so make sure to order an improved variety. Best on a 2-3 year rotation like other perennial roots.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: A. americana.


Arctium Lappa 'Burdock' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Deep shade to part shade. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: A high quality root that actually prefers shade. Relatively calorically dense but the length of the root makes harvesting difficult. Take this into account when planting - you will need some space to dig it up without breaking it in half. Deep containers may also work. The seeds are contained in small spiny capsules that are the famous inspiration for velcro. A. minus is a smaller species, eaten and used the same way. Tossing the capsules around successfully started many new plants, although it prefers bare soil to germinate.

Photos: A. minus.


Beta Vulgaris 'Beet' | Perennial

Edible: Root.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive? POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: B. vulgaris.


Brassica Rapa Rapa 'Turnip' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Root and leaves fed to many animals, may be mildly toxic.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Turnips are light feeders, so they don't need great soil to flourish. I like to think of them as being more efficient producers of food because of this - many more popular vegetables need lots of nutrients, but turnips can create the same amount of food with a lot less. So you get more mileage from your soil with them, at least that's my thought process. This is probably one of the reasons they used to be a lot more common, before fertilizer was so readily available.

Of all the species in the Brassica genus, I think turnips show the most potential. They can be eaten for their leaves or flowering shoots, just like the others. In fact, they are often just as good as the others in this regard. But they also have a root! So not only do they do what the others do, they also provide a great source of energy in the form of a taproot on top of that. This is great for two reasons. One, it is an additional, calorie-dense harvest. Two, it is a wonderful way to feed the soil. So even if you don't care about the root, you can harvest the leaves and let the root die, aerating and feeding the soil!

I think there is potential to use turnips as the foundation for breeding a super-mustard. In my imagination this is a mustard that makes a fat taproot, produces an abundance of mild leaves and tender flowering shoots, and only sets seed after overwintering. Now that would be nice, right? Unfortunately they don't seem to overwinter reliably in my climate. I will continue my search for the right hardy and productive variety.

Used to pelt ancient roman governors, not just a nutritious food but also a revolutionary weapon! Let best plants go to seed, harvest others before flowering.

Suggested Varieties: 'Scarlet Ohno Revival' from Wild Garden Seed.

Photos: B. rapa.


Campanula Rapunculus 'Rampion' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Not to be confused with C rapunculoides, a perennial eaten in the same way but considered an aggressive weed and probably best left out of the garden. C. latifolia should be a better perennial alternative.

Photos: C. rapunculus.


Canna Edulis 'Achira' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Rhizome, shoot. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, rarely damaged? Entire plant fed to cows and pigs.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Once a staple crop but even in its native region I do not believe it is very common anymore. Beautiful colorful rhizomes grow close to the ground, expand quickly and send up magnificent tropical leaves with stalks that grow over 5 feet high. Below are the clones I am experimenting with.

This is one of my favorite plants and the single-most underutilized crop I have yet to come across. First off, this plant is very easy to grow. Despite the tropical appearance it will produce even in temperate climates with relatively short growing seasons. It needs mostly sun but is not picky about soil and does just fine surviving off rainwater in my garden, with periods where the soil dries out. Many references indicate it needs consistently moist soil - this will improve yields but it is absolutely not essential. These plants are resilient.

Second, not only is it gorgeous but it makes an incredible amount of high quality biomass. The leaves are thick and the stalks are chunky. This is an amazing mulch plant and I would grow it just for this purpose even if it also did not produce an edible root! Excellent for soil regeneration.

Finally, this plant is productive. It requires the entire growing season, but expect yields of at least 5 or 6 pounds per plant in non-optimal conditions. With the right soil, water and sun you will get even more out of it. That is insanely productive and this is one of the highest calorie-producing roots for temperate climates. This plant may be a perennial in Z8 and above but does not survive winters here. Young root can be harvested mid-season by slicing it with a shovel and leaving the rest in the ground. Heavy winds may bend or rip some leaves but this is never much of a problem.

One of the main drawbacks of this plant is that flowers rarely form, and even then they rarely produce seed. There are also very few clones available. And on top of that there are multiple viruses that are extremely common, so much so that nurseries often ship infected plants. These then easily spread the virus to other nearby plants. The only way to get around this would be to start a new plant from seed, but these rarely produce any. This is, in my eyes, the main issue with this plant. But viruses don't stop people from growing potatoes!

Can be eaten raw but usually cooked. The easiest way to prepare the roots is to bake with the skin attached. Bake thoroughly until the the inside is completely soft. Then peal off the skin before eating. It is somewhat neutral in flavor but slightly sweet. I have no doubt it could be made into a perfectly appetizing dish.

C. indica can be grown and used the same way but there is no reason to do this because the yields are much lower.

Photos: C. edulis.


Chaerophyllum Bulbosum 'Root Chervil' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Codonopsis Lanceolata 'Deodeok' '더덕' | Perennial

Edible: Root.

Propagation: Division, seed. CLIMBING

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: One of the few perennial, vining/sprawling root crops. I am fascinated by the species in this genus and their potential incorporation into food forests but I've had a difficult time cultivating them.

Most species in this genus have edible roots it seems. This species is the standard in Korea. Plants For Human Consumption writes that the shoots of this species can also be eaten. C. pilosula is the chinese medicinal, known as dang shen (党参), although the root can be eaten like a vegetable as well. These two species are supposedly hardy to about Z7, but there are hardier species that also have edible roots. Roots are harvested at around 3 years.

Photos: Codonopsis spp.


Colocasia Esculenta 'Taro' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Corm, petiole, leaf. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Corm.

Conditions: Shade to sun. Wet soil.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of the oldest and most important food plants with hundreds of different varieties, cultivated for almost as long as humans have been farming. Once could spend an entire lifetime learning how to grow this sacred plant, and many still do. Unfortunately here in the states most varieties are purely ornamental and it's difficult to find anything besides the most common edible varieties. And these edible varieties are often eaten in different ways, so it's important to understand how each specific variety is prepared. Some are grown for the main corm, some for the dormant cormells, some for the stems or young leaves. Every part of the plant requires thorough cooking due to the presence of calcium oxalate, an irritating substance broken down by heat.

I am trialing a few different varieties. These are anything I can get my hands on.

For an index of most varieties, see the classic source Taro Varieties Of Hawaii, or University Of Hawaii and Kupuna Kalo. Most do not reliably overwinter below Z8. The more water they have the better, but they are fine with normal garden conditions as well. Many are under the impression taro can only be grown in tropical climates, but this isn't true. It will still produce in temperate climates if you have the right variety!

Corms are formed continuously as the plants grows, so even if it doesn't grow very long you will still get something out of it. If not for eating at least to replant next season.

C. gigantea is a little-known relative of taro called Bac Ha. It grows much larger than taro, older specimens growing over 6 feet high! The leaves are also huge and magnificent, hence the common name giant taro.

After considerable trial and error I'm beginning to understand how this plant grows in my climate. Some references claim this species does not form corms. However when I received this plant from a gardener in a nearby neighborhood, at least one of them had developed a tough (non-edible) corm from which shoots were sprouting from. I believe in mild climates this is normal. However, in my own backyard (which must be a colder/wetter microclimate than the gardener I received it from) the corms never survive winter. Instead it is the slender white rhizomes/stolons which survive. Given these have much smaller stores of energy than a baseball sized corm, the plants that come up in June are very small. They do seem to reliably overwinter, they just need to be free of competition when they sprout.

Unfortunately only the leaf stems are eaten, so it provides far less food than taro does. Still, the leaf stems are a unique and delicious vegetable, something like spongy celery, often used in soups. Many references indicate they need to be peeled, but I personally do not peel the young and tender stems. Older stems should certainly be peeled though. They should also be cooked as far as I'm aware, although it may be possible they can be eaten raw. I am unsure of how much calcium oxalate this species has.

There are also ornamental clones of this species such as 'Thailand Giant' or similar ones sold in many nurseries. Do not eat any part of these. They are not the same. The common variety used for food can be found on ebay or etsy.

Plants in this genus are very closely related to those in the Alocasia genus, some of which are used as food as well. Bac Ha is often incorrectly identified as coming from this genus. I don't think any Alocasia species are cultivated for food in temperate climates.

Photos: C. esculenta. C. gigantea.


Crepidiastrum Sonchifolium 'Goddeulbbaegi' '고들빼기' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Curcuma Longa 'Turmeric' | Annual

Edible: Rhizome, shoot.

Propagation: Division. Prefers warm soil to sprout.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Probably the highest yielding ginger in my garden. Another plant that people associate with tropical climates yet are sufficiently productive when grown as annuals in temperate climates. This species only get a few feet tall and just by the looks of it, you wouldn't expect to get much out of it. But I was surprised by how quickly the rhizome grew, even when the plants were getting sunburnt from the summer heat. Rich soil with shelter from heat is best, especially when growing as a perennial. But letting it get a bit burnt can be worth the higher yield resulting from full sun.

C. amada, mango ginger, grows much taller and has a sweeter mango flavor. Just as productive but not as hardy. Leaves of both species make excellent mulch.

Photos: C. longa.


Daucus Carota Sativa 'Carrot' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Root and leaves fed to many animals. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I didn't realize how much I enjoyed carrots until I tried one that wasn't the crap sold in grocery stores. I mean wow, like a totally different vegetable! I try to incorporate as many taprooted plants in my garden as I can because they help improve the soil when allowed to go to seed. Just like radishes and turnips, carrots offer the same benefits.

The carrot family is full of poisonous lookalikes, so always be sure of your identification. Let best plants go to seed, harvest others before flowering.

Suggested Varieties: 'Over The Rainbow Carrot Mix' from Experimental Farm Network.

Photos: D. carota sativa.


Dioscorea Batatas 'Chinese Yam' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber, leaf, aerial tuber.

Propagation: Aerial tuber. CLIMBING SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Most yams are only grown in tropical climates and would be annuals in temperate climates, but this species is particularly cold hardy. The tuber extends very deep into the earth, often over a foot long, and sends up a climbing vine with beautiful, heart-shapes leaves. When the plant is old enough, small aerial tubers form at the leaf nodes. These fall to the ground after the leaves die back, and sprout to become new plants. So the aerial tubers are edible in exactly the same way as the main tuber. They do spread very easily and can become invasive, so be sure to contain them.

The root is usually harvested after 2-3 years. It is very fragile and cannot be pulled out of the ground, so without any soil preparation beforehand it would have to be excavated. Because of this, you may need to plant them in some form of perforated bag or container, or even in plastic drainage pipes buried in the ground. A trellis is also necessary to provide something for the vine to climb on. Aerial tubers sometimes take a few weeks (or longer) to sprout roots, so get them ready early.

The naming of this species is something of a mess. It is sometimes referred to as D. polystachya, although whether they are truly the same species or not is unclear. The older name is D. opposita.

The book Ethnobotany and Useful Resource Plants of Dokdo and Ulleung Island in Korea indicates that the young leaves and tender new growth of this particular species can be eaten after being cooked. I was a bit skeptical having never seen this references anywhere else, but the creator of Sesame Sprinkles confirmed that korean recipes that make use of the leaves do in fact exist. She informed me they are usually pickled in soy sauce (마잎장아찌). I later learned that Korean reference books almost always mention the young leaves as being edible too. So definitely give them a try after cooking or pickling! D. japonica, the Japanese species, is very similar and Cornucopia indicates it can be eaten the same way.

Photos: D. batatas.


Eutrema Japonicum 'Wasabi' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Potted. ✅

Notes: This plant produces the famous and expensive wasabi root rarely found outside of Japan. Normally cultivated in clean, flowing water but it will do just fine with moist soil and protection from heat/intense sunlight. The leaves are edible, somewhat hot but nothing particularly special. Normally propagated by separating offshoots from the mother root.

Photos: E. japonicum.


Hedychium Coronarium 'White Ginger' | Annual

Edible: Rhizome, flower.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: A beautiful and semi-hardy alternative to common ginger with tall tropical stalks and flowers that smell absolutely divine. I don't believe this species or others in this genus are truly hardy in my climate without some form of protection. Fresh rhizomes are pale with brilliant shades of purple. It will not tolerate heat so I have grown it in a sheltered and partially shady area.

Plants For Human Consumption writes that the rhizome is edible and Richo at Strictly Medicinal writes it can be used the same way as common ginger! Flower buds are eaten as a vegetable. The Wild Edible Plants Of Honghe table in the resource section indicates the shoot is edible as well.

Photos: H. coronarium.


Helianthus Tuberosus 'Sunchoke' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Tuber. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Tuber, seed. May be difficult from seed. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Part shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. EASY & VIGOROUS SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred. Entire plant fed to many animals. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of the most important crops native to America. This plant grows vigorously and produces a heavy yield of inulin-rich tubers given the right conditions. Once the tops die back, harvest the tubers as needed. Leaving them in the ground over winter will help reduce the levels of inulin, making the tubers sweeter and easier to digest. Boiling them with lemon juice will also help. As with other perennial tuber forming plants, the first year growing them may be unproductive and offer a poor harvest. But once they are established they will spread like crazy and offer much more.

Some varieties are shorter but many grow over 10 feet high and can sometimes flop over without support. Varieties can differ significantly in size and shape of tubers as well. Produces an amazing amount of biomass which make for great mulch. An excellent famine crop.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: H. tuberosus.


Inula Helenium 'Elecampane' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This should probably go in the medicinal section since that is how it is commonly used nowadays, but it has been eaten in the past. Beautiful, large, fuzzy leaves are a statement piece and immediately draw the eye. When young they can be eaten although don't seem very palatable. The root grows quickly and is the main medicinal component, but it can be used as a garnish or flavoring as well.

The leaves are large enough to effectively block out most surrounding competition and make great mulch as well. Grows quickly and a fun plant to have in the garden. I. racemosa is also used medicinally.

Photos: I. helenium. I. racemosa.


Lepidium Meyenii 'Maca' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Lycopus Lucidus 'Chinese Bugleweed' '地笋' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber, shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Division, seed. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of many species in the mint family that produce edible tubers, this being one of the largest. It has been eaten in Japan in the past but even there it is uncommon. As the name suggests it grows like a weed, strong and tall, easily competing with other plants due to its fast growth and height. Tiny flowers form at the leaf nodes and are popular with some insects. This plant also makes an excellent trellis for planting something like beans right next to wherever the shoots appear.

Tubers may not form well the first year growing this, but once established it will spread fairly aggressively and become more productive. This is definitely one to plant in an easily controlled location as the rhizomes can travel underground to pop up somewhere nearby. Shoots or tender new growth are also eaten cooked, as indicated by multiple sources including a korean reference book I use. Some other species within this genus have edible roots as well, like natives L. asper and L. americanus.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: L. lucidus.


Mirabilis Expansa 'Mauka' | Annual

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Division, stem, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Another Andean root crop that was once a staple in its native region but is now rarely grown. My understanding is that this plant was a real godsend as after a few years in the ground the roots would get absolutely huge and offer a reliable source of food.

Roots and leaves both contain calcium oxalate which can cause irritation when eating. Eating raw leaves is unpleasant for me because of this. The root must be cooked anyway but if it's still a problem change out the water and cook it longer. Some varieties may have less calcium oxalate than others. The root also has a woody core that must be removed before eating.

This would be an ideal crop for a low-maintenance, perennial food system. Exactly how well it can be grown in climates like my own and how cold hardy it is remains to be seen. There may be potential to grow it under some form of protection or even as an annual. The only nursery I know of that sells this is Sacred Succulents.

Photos: M. expansa.


Oxalis Tuberosa 'Oca' | Annual

Edible: Tuber, stem, leaf. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Tuber, stem, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A fun little tuber in an array of cool colors. The tubers form in the short days of fall, so the yields are almost always lower than that of the average potato. But unlike the potato it is not susceptible to many diseases or pests. Tubers are harvested after tops die back and generally left out in the sun for a few days to sweeten them. Flavors can be sweet or sour or similar to potato depending on the variety. The leaves and stems are edible as well but very sour. O. stricta is a common garden weed, all above ground parts edible.

Photos: O. tuberosa.


Petroselinum Crispum Tuberosum 'Parsley Root' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Platycodon Grandiflorus 'Doraji' '도라지' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Root, shoot, flower.

Propagation: Division, seed. Prefers sunlight to germinate.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. May grow well in meadows.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of many root crops in the bellflower family, but this is my favorite because it so much more reliable and easier to grow than all the others. I think this has the potential to be a staple crop in temperate climates. Very cold hardy as well. It seems there are a few cultivars used for the edible root - the standard blue flowered variety, one with white flowers, and one that produces an especially large root. This is just based on what I see in catalogs so I don't know much beyond that. Harvest at 2-3 years old, roots older than this are used medicinally. Shoots are also eaten as a vegetable. As the root gets older it will form larger clumps of shoots and more flowers.

Photos: Coming soon.


Psoralea Esculenta 'Breadroot' | Perennial

Edible: Root.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. NITROGEN FIXER

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Raphanus Sativus 'Radish' | Annual

Edible: Root, leaf, inflorescence, seedpod.

Propagation: Seed. Prefers sunlight to germinate.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant? Root and leaves fed to many animals.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Radishes get a lot of attention both for being a reliable vegetable and because when left to flower their taproots help aerate and concentrate sugars in the soil. They are an excellent way to improve soil.

Older and larger roots have a stronger flavor, while young roots can be picked for a milder flavor. The leaves are edible but not very tasty. The seedpods are an excellent vegetable and produced in quantity. Some varieties of radishes have even been bred just for their pods. In my experience the pods tends to flop over and take a long time to dry, making them a bit awkward in the garden. Let best plants go to seed, harvest others before flowering. R. raphanistrum is the wild radish which can be eaten the same way except it is far less palletable.

Photos: R. sativus.


Sagittaria Latifolia 'Wapato' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber.

Propagation: Tuber.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Wetland.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, rarely damaged?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A productive crop when grown in water and its small tubers were relied upon by native Americans. Most of us don't have ponds though. Well guess what? It can still grow in moist soil! Mulching heavily makes this easier, as will planting them in a depression to concentrate rainwater (see water management section at the top). S. trifolia is the chinese species and grows very similarly.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: S. latifolia.


Scorzonera Hispanica 'Black Salsify' | Perennial

Edible: Root, shoot, flower. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Solanum Tuberosum 'Potato' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Tuber. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Tuber, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred. Many pests.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The potato is well-known as a miracle crop for its ability to keep people alive. They are produtive, calorie-dense, eaten in quantity, and easy to digest. They have moderate soil and water needs. They also store well. If only they didn't have so many diseases and pests!

Soil should be loosened before planting as compacted soil will severely diminish yields. I am currently experimenting with a planting pattern that allows the potatoes to stay in the ground to be harvested as needed. When harvesting, one potato from each plant should be replanted to wait in the ground over winter until the following spring. This pattern allows me to grow other crops that need the entire growing season alongside the potatoes. It also limits the soil disturbance. However the longer potatoes are kept in the ground, the greater the chance they will succumb to disease, insects/rodents or rot. So finding the right variety for this method will be essential. Well-draining soil will help prevent rot, while a diverse planting will help prevent disease and insects. Perennial potato cultivation has been done succesfully so this is the direction I'd like to work towards. This along with finding the right companion crops.

Photos: Solanum spp.


Stachys Affinis 'Crosne' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The first season growing these I didn't find any tubers but the plant returned the following spring in good shape. It seems to have excellent potential as a spreading ground cover. The insects seem to enjoy its leaves.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: S. affinis.


Tropaeolum Tuberosum 'Mashua' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Tuber, leaf, flower. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Tuber. CLIMBING

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Another Andean root crop that forms tubers in the short days of fall, but in the right conditions this is one of the heaviest yielding. Normally trellised to maximize yields but Lost Crops Of The Incas writes that in their native region they are usually allowed to sprawl. Since the plant dislikes heat, allowing the leaves to remain close to the ground may actually prove beneficial. The leaves are edible but very peppery.

Photos: T. tuberosum.


Ullucus Tuberosus 'Ulloco' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber, leaf.

Propagation: Tuber.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: U. tuberosus.




Field + Grain


Amaranthus Caudatus 'Amaranth' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Leaf, seed. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. Prefers warm soil to germinate. SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred. Stems and leaves fed to cows and pigs.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: My favorite grain to grow because it is straightforward and generates a lot of biomass for mulching. The seedlings start out very small but once they get going they don't stop! These plants produce tons of edible leaves and a giant inflorescence packed with dense, shiny seeds. I prefer this plant over other seed options for a few reasons. First, it's very easy to harvest. The plants are big and each contains a huge amount of seeds, so you get way more of a harvest per plant compared to many other grains. Second, the seeds don't need any husking or processing aside from separating the chaff out. They are pretty much good to go right off the plant. And finally, along with a generous amount of seed, the plant produces huge stalks that make top notch mulch. We are feeding ourselves and the soil at the same time.

Best transplanted or direct seeded in soil that has been cleared and prepared. When harvesting amaranth I like to leave a little bit of stalk standing up in the ground, still attached to its roots. This will of course die over winter, but leaving the roots in the ground helps build structure within the soil while the stalk provides some topographical diversity and insect habitat.

There are varieties grown for seed and those grown for leaves. Varieties grown for their seed have edible leaves too. Varieties grown for their leaves do not make good seed for eating but the leaves are much more tender and palatable.

This species is a standard for seed production. A. tricolor is another species I grow for leaf production. It branches out nicely and has beautiful multi-colored leaves. The stem is lighter and of lower mulch quality than the seed producing varieties, however.

Photos: Amaranthus spp.


Atriplex Hortensis 'Orach' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Celosia Argentea 'Plumed Cockscomb' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: All reports indicate the leaves must be cooked. Gorgeous flowers, some reports of young inflorescence being used as a garnish but the specifics of that may depend on the variety.

Photos: Coming soon.


Chenopodium Nuttalliae 'Huauzontle' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Helianthus Annuus 'Sunflower' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, flower bud, seed. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Entire plant fed to many animals. POLLINATOR FRIENDLY

Status: Established.

Notes: Coming soon.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Hibiscus Cannabinum 'Kenaf' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. SOIL REGENERATION EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Magnificent towering plants over 8 feet tall with edible leaves but the focus is usually on the stalks which are used for fiber production or firewood. Putting aside the minor use as a vegetable (with protein rich leaves to boot), this plant has incredible potential for soil regeneration. These can be planted directly into compacted soil and still grow beautifully without irrigation in my climate. The stems can grow to be as thick as amaranth stems and make absolutely perfect mulch. All this makes it an excellent choice for quickly regenerating poor soil.

The plants are quite tall and therefore make a natural companion for vining edibles. If they are not planted densely they are more likely to bend over from the wind, but few of them seem to break. And because the leaves are relatively small and stay close to the stalk, this plant creates very little shade.

Kenaf varieties are generally categorized by how quickly they flower, although I do not pretend to understand the nuances of that scheme. But the general tradeoff is that earlier flowering types are less productive and grow to be shorter plants. When direct seeded in the conditions I described above, only one of the plants flowered early enough to produce viable seed before frost. I will continue selecting for this with the hopes that one day it might be able to reseed itself. If collecting seed be cautious with the dried pods as they can be prickly and painful.

I am excited to continue researching how they can be incorporated into regenerative food systems. The leaves of this plant can be eaten but H. sabdariffa is the standard for using as a vegetable and grows much smaller.

Photos: H. cannabinum.


Hordeum Vulgare 'Barley' | Annual

Edible: Seed. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Seeds fed to turkeys and chickens.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The food of ancient Roman gladiators! Barley is one of the oldest and most important cultivated crops. It is renowned for tolerating very harsh conditions where other grains simply won't grow. Now it has fallen out of favor because wheat and rice are generally preferred, but that doesn't mean it should be left out of the garden!

As a grass itself it tolerates competition from other grasses and is generally very flexible regarding soil conditions. Full sun is important for good yields though. I am still experimenting with methods for incorporating barley into a broader planting scheme.

There are many hulless varieties that are easy to process at home. Great Lake Staple Seeds has a good selection.

Photos: H. vulgare.


Sorghum Bicolor 'Sorghum' | Annual

Edible: Seed. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. Prefers warm soil to germinate.

Wildlife: Deer resistant? Birds enjoy seeds?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.




Woody + Fruit


Actinidia Arguta 'Hardy Kiwi' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Shoot, fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. CLIMBING

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Fruits fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A relative of the common kiwi but much hardier and produces smaller fruits with smooth skin. Most varieties need both a male and female to fruit (and not all males work with all females), but the Issai variety is self fertile. Self fertile varieties won't fruit as much but they are often easier to get started with. A vigorous climbing vine for sun. The shoots can also be eaten as a vegetable. I have noticed that the leaves often get sunburnt, so it may be beneficial to plant in a partially shaded location. Either way it should do fine as these plants are tough. A. deliciosa is the common kiwi with fuzzy skin.

Photos: A. arguta.


Amelanchier Alnifolia 'Juneberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A large shrub, some can even be under 6 feet tall. Excellent fruiting native for the backyard with limited space. A. obovalis and A. grandifolia are also grown for edible fruit, although they are small trees.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Aralia Elata 'Angelica Tree' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The king of wild vegetables in Korea! The young shoots from this incredibly thorny tree are an esteemed vegetable in spring (called dureup in Korea). Not only is it incredibly thorny but it also suckers vigorously so without active management it may quickly become a problem. That being said, it is valuable as a high quality, long-lived vegetable that will tolerate most soils and fairly deep shade. Topping (cutting back the central branch) may make it easier to manage and encourage branching for larger harvests. A. nudicaulis, wild sarsaparilla, is a small understory perennial with edible roots, shoots and berries.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: A. elata. A. nudicaulis.


Aronia Melanocarpa 'Chokeberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This species bears black fruit, A. arbutifolia bears red.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Berberis spp. 'Barberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Coming soon.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Corylus Americana 'American Hazelnut' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Nut. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Nuts fed to pigs.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A small tree and one of the best perennial sources of calories for the backyard garden. The 'Winkler' variety is self-fertile and supposedly improved over the species type. Easily grown.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Elaeagnus Multiflora 'Goumi' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Shade to sun. NITROGEN FIXER SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Often considered to be a prime permaculture plant for it's easy growth even in partial shade, nitrogen fixation, and fruit production. And totally deer resistant even when young! What more could you ask for? I have a few of these planted around the garden both for fruit and to help keep the soil productive. Pruning will help release some of the nitrogen back into the soil but this is not necessary as they will improve the soil either way. E. umbellata is the autumn olive which has the same nitrogen fixing and edible properties. Both are self fertile so they couldn't be any simpler!

Photos: E. multiflora.


Ephedra Sinica 'Ephedra' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Sun. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: The plant famously used as a medicinal tea by mormon pioneers. Thin stems form bushy mounds well adapted to dry and sunny conditions. Produces small edible berries that are medicinally active as well. To make tea just throw some stems into a cup and cover with hot water. Many other species in this genus with edible and medicinal value.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Ephedra spp.


Ficus Carica 'Fig' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: I love how easy figs are to grow and propagate. Plant them right into your lawn on a sunny spot and they will do just fine. And propagation is as easy as placing a cutting into some moist soil and waiting for roots to grow. Fig trees are easy to prune and keep small so they make great backyard options. They also produce calorie-dense fruits relative to other temperate options. It is often cited that figs trees are more productive when their roots are restricted but for most people that is probably irrelevant. Some varieties can function as die back perennials in Z6 and still produce fruit. Here in Z7 it seems the hardy varieties survive winter just fine (although may sprout late). F. palmata is the wild fig which won't produce fruit here and did not survive winter.

Photos: F. carica.


Fragaria Virginiana 'Wild Strawberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Division., seed. Cold stratify. GROUNDCOVER

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred. Fruits fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Say goodbye to the fat hybrid strawberries you're used to and say hello to our native species! Wild strawberries produces small, tasty fruits and are much more suited for our climate. A few different species of wild strawberry in this genus. This is the standard native species and spreads quickly once established. F. vesca, the woodland strawberry, is another wild species and has both native and non-native forms. There may or may not be a distinction with the F. alpina species as they are grouped together nowadays and both are refered to as alpine strawberries. Generally these are considered not to spread by stolon as much. The truth is it really just depends on the form. I have one that spreads by stolon almost as much as the virginiana species (although the growth is not as vigorous), whereas some never produce any runners at all and just form clumps. I suspect there is more genetic diversity among these woodland or alpine strawberries than meets the eye. They all do fine in shade but fruit better when getting enough sun. An excellent groundcover.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: F. virginiana.


Fuchsia spp. 'Fuchsia' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Mainly grown as an ornamental for the absolutely stunning flowers. However the fruits of some species are in fact edible. Whether they taste good or not is another matter - some varieties are reported to be more palatable than others. Prefers cool, moist, shady understory conditions although some varieties are being bred for heat tolerance. May only be marginally hardy here, at least one died over winter.

Photos: Fuchsia spp.


Gaultheria spp. 'Wintergreen' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Shade to sun. Rich soil.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Many exciting species in this genus that are unfortunately rarely included in the edible garden. They range from small shrubs to small trees, all preferring rich and acidic soil like the blueberry.

G. procumbens is the classic American native. G. miqueliana is Japanese wintergreen. G. yunnanensis and G. wardii may be interesting cold hardy additions as well.

The genus Pernettya is used by some nurseries for designating plants but I believe it has been recently merged with this one. Still, it is useful as plants in the Pernettya genus with edible berries must be eaten with care. This is because some species are said to cause inebriation, delirium, or even insanity when eaten in quantity. P. prostrata and P. furens may be semi hardy options although I have not had any survive winters here. I will keep looking.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Pernettya spp.


Leycesteria Formosa 'Himalayan Honeysuckle' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

Photos: Coming soon.


Lonicera Caerulea 'Honeyberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: In the honeysuckle genus and this is where the common name comes from. Needs two compatible plants to fruit. Very easily grown in sun or part shade and doesn't seem to need much water either. One of the few deer resistant fruiting shrubs. Native to North America and other locations, but as far as I know none of the cultivated varieties originated here.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: L. caerulea.


Lycium Barbarum 'Goji' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit, leaf.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Goji berries are a nutritional powerhouse and one of the easier fruits to grow from seed. The seeds are simple because they don't require any form of treatment or cold stratification and have fairly good germination rates. Green cuttings also root easily in water.

The plant will take the form of a small tree or sprawling bush depending on the variety and how it is pruned. Older branches can have thorns. The leaves can be eaten as well, giving it another wonderful use as a vegetable crop. There are many forms but few available here in the states. Some have larger and more tender leaves making them better for eating. And some of the improved forms have sweeter berries. It seems to be the case that with goji berries, finding an improved variety makes all the difference.

Photos: L. barbarum.


Maclura Tricuspidata 'Che' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Rarely cultivated but increasing in popularity due to the development of self-fertile forms. Produces small red fruits that look absolutely insane and supposedly taste like mulberries and figs. I have heard these trees are very slow to bear fruit. When mature they should grow to about 15 feet tall.

They are often grafted onto osange orange rootstock to prevent them from suckering and becoming too bushy. I imagine the graft also improves cold hardiness. My tree is grafted - the second year in the ground I noticed it was growing two thorny branches. After a moment of confusion I realized these must have been the osange orange coming up from the rootstock. Not sure if this is common or due to poor grafting, but they can easily be pruned off.

M. pomifera is the native, inedible and very thorny osange orange often used as a hedge.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: M. tricuspidata.


Mahonia Gracilipes 'Chinese Mahonia' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, division.

Conditions: Shade to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Coming soon.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: M. gracilipes.


Morus Nigra 'Black Mulberry' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Fruit, leaf.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred. Fruits fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Huge trees that can grow over 50 feet tall with incredible production of sweet berries. When ripe they fall from the tree after shaking the branches. I am always finding mulberry seedlings in my garden and they can get very weedy. I rip them up when I can but older ones can be cut down repeatedly for mulch.. One of the wonderful qualities of this species is how fast it grows practically anywhere and how quickly it bears fruit.

I do not have the ability to grow such a huge tree in my backyard so I have instead opted for a dwarf variety, of which there are plenty to choose from. They still grow quickly and easily, they still bear heavily, but many grow less than 10 feet tall making them easy to manage. Edible Landscaping has the best selection. I am growing the Japanese variety 'Issai' and a weeping dwarf variety. In my experience these respond well to pruning.

There is a common black-fruiting tree called 'Dwarf Everbearing' that is not actually a dwarf tree, do not believe what you read online. The amount of websites and nurseries that claim this plant is a dwarf tree is just astounding. I believe what you are actually buying is a repackaged 'Illinois Everbearing' tree that grows to 30+ feet. It can be kept short and still produce fruit but that means you will have to heavily prune it (read: massacre it) every year.

M. alba is the white mulberry and M. rubra is the red mulberry. Young leaves of the white mulberry have a long history of being cooked and eaten. The Encyclopedia Of Edible Plants Of North America writes that most species have edible leaves, but to me that is not very convincing. Native American Ethnobotany doesn't mention native american tribes eating the leaves of any species.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Morus spp.


Passiflora Incarnata 'Maypop' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. CLIMBING

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: Coming soon.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Poncirus Trifoliata 'Bitter Orange' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, rarely damaged.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The hardiest citrus tree and practically the only one that can be grown naturally in my climate. It is not very popular because, as the name implies, the fruit is bitter and not as palatable as those grown in more tropical climates. But it can still be used as an alternative to lemon juice, and it's the best you're going to get in this climate. Grows into a small, compact tree with large thorns.

I have looked into other hardy citrus trees, mainly from Japan, but they are a bit harder to find and I don't think any are as cold hardy. The Yuzu citrus tree, C. ichangensis x C. reticulata var. austera, is cold hardy and readily available but I doubt it would survive here in Z7 without protection.

Photos: P. trifoliata.


Prunus Americana 'Plum' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive, preferred.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A reliable fruit tree native to America and a genus with many other species to choose from depending on what you are looking for. Most are also small so they are perfect for the backyard garden. This species is the classic wild American plum and can form dense patches over time.

P. maritama, the beach plum, is also a short tree good for limited space. P. tomentosa is the nanking cherry, a beautiful shrub great for small spaces with tart fruit. P. japonica is the Korean bush cherry, similar to the nanking cherry but less productive. These bush cherries strike me as valuable for tight spaces, especially if pruned. P. mume is the famous ume apricot used in Japan for traditional ume-infused liquor umeshu and pickled ume umeboshi. It should not be eaten raw, both for health and flavor reasons. Also included is the apricot, P. armeniaca, and the peach, P. persica. Overall this genus is a goldmine with tons of different options! The flowers are edible in small quantities.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: P. americana. P. tomentosa.


Rubus Idaeus 'Raspberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Fruits fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of my favorite berries and very easy to grow in this climate. This species is the classic red raspberry. It has a perennial root system that send up new canes every year, which fruit their second year before dying. There are also everbearing varieties with canes that fruit twice before dying. Many are thornless and I prefer those just because they are easier to manage, but the thorned varieties tend to be more vigorous and more deer-resistant. Deer will eat the tops of non-thorny varieties and even thorny varieties will have their leaves stripped off. A thicket of thorny raspberries/blackberries would keep the inside safe from deer but I don't have space for that.

The thimbleberry, R. parviflorus, barely fruits at all but doesn't have any thorns, grows taller and the canes don't die back. The Japanese wineberry, R. phoenicolasius, is an extremely thorny scrambling bush although it can be trellised. This one is invasive. R. fruticosus is the blackberry, another vigorous choice.

There are also groundcovers with modest fruiting like R. calycinoides, the Taiwanese creeping raspberry. It is small and not the most productive crop but covers ground well. R. nepalensis, the Nepalese raspberry, is also a ground cover but with larger fruits. This one is less common but worth more testing. Many others.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: R. idaeus. R. calycinoides. R. parviflorus.


Ribes Nigrum 'Currant' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This species is black currant, R. rubrum is red currant. Shade tolerant.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Ribes spp.


Sambucus Canadensis 'Elderberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: This is probably the easiest and fastest growing fruit tree I have trialed. It suckers abundantly as well so patches are quickly formed. Grows even in relatively deep shade and doesn't mind being cut back often. For this reason it may even be useful as a source of mulch or potentially as a way of sheltering plants growing underneath it. And because it has such tenacious qualities, I am exploring the possibility of planting fruit or vegetable vines nearby which can then use the tree as a trellis. I think this may work well.

This particular species grows wild in my area but there are many others. Unfortunately it is not generally regarded as safe to eat the raw berries more than a few at a time. However they are perfectly safe when made into jams or wines and so this is an excellent way to use them. If you are hesitant about growing a fruit tree, start with this one! It will boost your confidence!

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: S. canadensis.


Schisandra Chinensis 'Magnolia Vine' '五味子' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. CLIMBING

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A fast growing-vine that produces edible, medicinal berries now regarded as an important adaptogen as well. A good candidate for climbing on an old bush you don't need as it can grow quite large.

Photos: S. chinensis.


Trichosanthes Kirilowii 'Gua Lou' '栝楼' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. Scarify and soak seed before planting. CLIMBING

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: As far as I am aware, this is the only gourd that can grow as a perennial in my climate. A perennial, cold hardy gourd! That's pretty amazing. The palm-sized fruit can be eaten when young and green as a vegetable or allowed to ripen for the sweet pulp. Young leaves can also be eaten as a vegetable. Grows as a die-back vine, likes to clamber or climb, and tips can root when touching the soil. Will produce more shoots every year it is in the ground.

I think this plant has amazing potential for the forest garden because in temperate climates there is absolutely nothing else like it. It also tolerates fairly deep shade and is low maintenance. There are, however, a few difficulties. First, the seeds do not germinate easily. They should be scarified and soaked but even then it's not a sure bet. In the ground they may take months or over a year to germinate. You will also need both a male and female plant to produce fruit. So that means you'll have to grow out at least 3 seedlings to have a good chance. But once these hurdles are overcome the possibilities are very exciting. T. dioica may be hardy as well but there is little information available. Related to the annual snake gourd, T. cucumerina.

Photos: T. kirilowii.


Vaccinium Corymbosum 'Blueberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun. Rich soil.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Fruits fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The common blueberry has two general forms - lowbush and highbush. Lowbush are the wild, cold hardy forms that are shorter and produce smaller berries. Highbush are the cultivated, heat-tolerant forms that are taller and produce larger berries. This species is the standard but there are other, less cultivated species also with edible berries. All prefer rich, acidic soil but I think making sure they are planted in good soil and feeding them plenty of garden debris or compost is often enough to keep them happy. V. gaultheriifolium is the chinese blueberry. I planted this but it didn't survive winter here. V. vitus-idaea is the lingonberry. V. caespitosum is the dwarf bilberry. These and more are somehwat cold hardy and have edible fruit.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: V. corymbosum. V. gaultheriifolium.


Ziziphus Jujuba 'Jujube' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: A medium-sized thorny tree that is very tolerant of poor soils. Fruits are often dried or processed and may serve as an important source of calories.

Photos: Coming soon.




Xerophytes


Agave Spp. 'Agave' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flowering stem, flower

Propagation: Division, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Sun. Well-draining soil. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Potted. ✅

Notes: Not all species are edible.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Agave spp.


Maihuenia Poeppigii 'Maihuén' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Division, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Sun. Well-draining soil. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Potted. ✅

Notes: Low growing cactus with yellow edible fruits, forms dense mats when mature. Can tolerate being covered in snow. Easily propogated from cuttings or division.

Photos: M. poeppigi.


Neowerdermannia Vorwerkii 'Achacana' | Perennial

Edible: Stem.

Propagation: Division, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Sun. Well-draining soil. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Potted. ✅

Notes: A small, slow-growing cactus that can be peeled and cooked. Should be hardy in my climate but right now it is growing indoors. Not practical as a source of food for home-scale cultivation.

Photos: Coming soon.


Opuntia Humifusa 'Prickly Pear' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Pad, fruit.

Propagation: Pad, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Well-draining soil. DROUGHT TOLERANT SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: The most well-known edible cactus still cultivated for its pads and fruit. The fruits can be eaten fresh while the pads must be cooked. Incredibly resilient, carefree and an underutilized vegetable here in the sates.

When considering this plant, it is important to understand the difference between spines and glochids. Most forms have spines, these are the large and sharp needles that stab you. Some forms are spineless, and these are what I prefer to cultivate as it makes my life easier and they are less dangerous in the garden. However, I am not aware of any forms for any species that do not have any glochids. Glochids are invisible barbed hairs that are found all over the pads and fruit. Touching them can be mildly painful although they are usually easy to pull out if it's only a few. Because of this, even if the form is spineless it is still not safe to touch the cactus. Use gloves or preferably tongs when handling cacti in this genus. After harvesting, thoroughly wash and scrub every inch of the cactus or fruit to remove the glochids. They are also removed through cooking but I would still be sure to do it beforehand as well.

This species is a standard in cultivation. It survives the cold by releasing some of the water stored in its pads before freezing weather arrives. The pads become shriveled, preventing them from freezing. This is healthy and they will perk back up come spring time. O. cacanapa has larger pads, doesn't shrivel and is less cold hardy. It died over winter in a pot, I doubt it would survive even in the ground. It is also a lighter blue color which is pretty. O. stricta may also be suitable for cold winters but I haven't tested it. Many other cold hardy species used for food. Pads can be rooted easily, best to get these or live plants for a quick start.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: O. humifosa. O. cacanapa.


Portulaca Oleracea 'Purslane' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: A weedy groundcover that should self-sow prolifically in the right conditions. Extremely resilient, they can be found growing out of cracks in concrete. Good groundcover for sun and dry soil. The taste is nice but the texture is a bit too mucilaginous for me, at least when raw. My garden seems too wet for them to get established.

Photos: P. oleracea.


Sedum Sarmentosum 'Dolnamul' '돌나물' | Perennial

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Division, stem. SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY GROUNDCOVER

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Many resources claim that all sedums are edible. This may in some sense be technically true but it is not at all useful. Do not regularly eat a plant that has no history of being eaten! However there are a good number of species that have a documented history of being used as food. This species is one of the more common ones and a popular vegetable in Korea. Best in spring when it is less bitter and at this point it is often eaten raw. In early spring it has a superb, fresh taste and makes for a high quality vegetable. Can be added to salads. In the summer it gets more bitter and may be better cooked.

Very easy to grow in sun or partial shade. It is fine with dry soil but appreciates some regular water. Spreads rapidly and if left unchecked it can blanket large areas. Well-suited for growing in pots or hanging over edges. One of my favorite groundcovers but spreads aggressively in the right conditions so plant with care.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: S. sarmentosum.




Bamboo


Chusquea Culeou 'Bamboo' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to sun. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: The canes of this species reach a diameter of 1.25" which is about as large as it gets for cold-hardy, edible clumping bamboo species. There are not many references to this species being edible and it's not as commonly used for food as other bamboos. Bamboos: A Gardener's Guide To Their Cultivation In Temperate Climates does indicate it is edible though. C. gigantea is also noteworthy as it produces one of the densest and thickest (1.75") canes of all cold hardy clumping bamboos. However it does spread more than other clumping bamboos and does not seem to be edible.

Photos: Coming soon.


Fargesia Robusta 'Bamboo' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: This clumping species should be one of the easier bamboos to cultivate in temperate climates. The canes reach a respectable diameter of 1". No clumping bamboo is going to provide as good of a harvest as a running bamboo in temperate climates, but it's better than nothing! And of course all bamboo species are great for using around the garden or generating mulch.

Photos: Coming soon.




Ferns


Dryopteris Pseudofilix-Mas 'Mexican Male Fern' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Division, spore.

Conditions: Deep shade to part shade. Wet soil. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Consume in moderation and always prepare according to traditional methods, may be harmful in large quantities. Unfurled shoots (known as fiddleheads) only. All the ferns listed here prefer at least moderate shade, shelter from heat, and rich/moist soil. This one should be one of the easiest to grow.

Photos: D. pseudofilix-max.


Matteuccia Struthiopteris 'Ostrich Fern' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Division, spore.

Conditions: Deep shade to part shade. Wet soil. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Consume in moderation and always prepare according to traditional methods, may be harmful in large quantities. Unfurled shoots only. This is the standard edible fern in America and the easiest to source. M. orientalis can also be eaten the same way.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Osmunda Japonica 'Japanese Royal Fern' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Division, spore.

Conditions: Deep shade to part shade. Wet soil. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Consume in moderation and always prepare according to traditional methods, may be harmful in large quantities. Unfurled shoots only. Another beautiful fern. O. cinnamomea is eaten the same way.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: O. cinnamomea




Medicinal


Aloe Aristata 'Lace Aloe' | Perennial

Medicinal: None.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Potted. ✅

Notes: This plant has been moved to its own genus, Aristaloe, but it is often still refered to as a kind of aloe. Unlike aloe this should be hardy to my area! This species is said to be used on the skin and I believe the original source for this is The Aloes Of South Africa:

Mr. Frank Brownlee, Magistrate at Mount Ayliff, East Griqualand, in March 1925, records (in litt.): "It is an interesting fact that the juice of this plant mixed with water is sometimes used by the natives for washing their bodies. The washing is said to have a tonic and refreshing effect on the system."

It is diluted in water before application but in what ratio I do not know. Unfortunately I have not found any other sources that discuss the medicinal application of this species outside of research papers that are only analyzing certain compounds within the plant. These, of course, cannot be used to deduce the safeness of the plant as a whole.

But given that this species is potentially very cold hardy and may have similar effects to common aloe (although applied differently), I believe it is worth more research. It could be a local, sustainable source of natural skin moisturizer. When my plants are big enough I will try using it and report back.

A. vera is the standard and is easily grown indoors. The leaf gel of this more common species can be eaten (although bitter when raw) or used on skin for wounds, burns or simply as a moisturizer.

Photos: Coming soon.


Panax Quinquefolius 'American Ginseng' | Perennial

Medicinal: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Division, seed. May be difficult from seed.

Conditions: Deep shade to shade. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: One of the most sought after and expensive native American medicinals. Roots take years to form into a good size for harvesting. Good plant for shady understory, can be interplanted with ramps and wild ginger.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: Coming soon.


Peperomia Congona 'Congona' | Indoor Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Stem, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Potted. ✅

Notes: A houseplant for me but I love it so much that I wanted to include it. And it is certainly worthy of more cultivation not only for its medicinal properties but also for the wonderful flavor! The leaves of this Peruvian plant can be used as a spice or garnish and taste like licorice-citrus-mint-pepper-refreshing-zesty. Hard to describe but wonderful. Chewing the leaves is also said to be good for oral hygiene. Cut stems root easily in water.

P. peruviana is also chewed for oral hygene but is slow growing. I also grow P. inaequalifolia, a much smaller plant than congona but with an excellent sweet citrus taste as well. This one prefers well-draining succulent culture. All are grown indoors. Many others in this genus are important medicinals as well.

Photos: P. congona. P. inaequalifolia.


Prunella Vulgaris 'Self Heal' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Division, seed. GROUNDCOVER

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Something of a medicinal pancea and and one of my favorite groundcovers for shade. The leaves can be eaten (probably best in small quantities) which makes it easier to use. They aren't particularly tasty but I can imagine throwing a few into soup just as an easy way to get your medicine. Surprisingly tolerant of dry soil. Gorgeous flowers.

🌿 Native species are present in this genus.

Photos: P. vulgaris.




Support


Trifolium Pratense 'Red Clover' | Perennial

Support: Nitrogen, groundcover.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun. May grow well in meadows. NITROGEN FIXER SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Attracts bunnies.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: An easy way to plant a living mulch and fix nitrogen. T. repens is more common, a slightly smaller perennial with white flowers. T. incarnatum is the crimson species, a tall and showy annual with red flowers. They all work well as nitrogen-fixing groundcovers. Which one to grow depends on whether you want an annual or perennial. The perennial species are great for meadows or fields. A patch of clover will attract bunnies, they often leave droppings so I consider it a very worthwhile trade!

Photos: Coming soon.


Musa Basjoo 'Japanese Banana' | Perennial

Support: Mulch, shade.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None. ⚠️

Notes: This is the hardiest species of banana, mature plants should be hardy in Z7. It doesn't produce edible fruit but I think it has excellent potential for generating mulch. The leaves are huge and the plant can grow 15 feet tall when fully mature. Forms clumps which can be divided. Banana leaves and stems will also break down slower than those of other herbacious plants.

Best in a spot sheltered from wind as heavy gusts can tear the leaves and bend the top down. There are some growing in an open spot in my neighborhood and every year they look absolutely terrible after the first heavy winds. Seems to appreciate shelter from heat and will do fine in moderate shade.

Photos: M. basjoo.


Paulownia Tomentosa 'Empress Tree' | Perennial

Support: Mulch, shade.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: One of the fastest growing trees in temperate climates. It can grow over 10 feet in a single season, providing large leaves and wood for mulching. When fully mature the tree gets very tall so it may be easiest to manage when cut back to the ground every fall. There are a few different varieties to choose from if you're looking to grow it from seed.

Photos: P. tomentosa.


Symphytum Uplandicum 'Comfrey' | Perennial

Support: Mulch, shade.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Leaves fed to many animals.

Status: Established. ✅

Notes: Comfrey is a low-growing plant that forms mounds of big fuzzy leaves. The real wonder of this plant is its deep roots which help cycle nutrients from lower down in the ground back to the topsoil when the leaves are mulched. Many varieties produce fertile seed and are known to spread aggressively. However 'Bocking 14' is a sterile variety and for that reason is quite common. I grow this one right by my compost pile, the idea being that its roots will catch some of the nutrients draining off into the soil. Because this variety is sterile is must be transplanted, by root fragment or preferably crown.

Photos: S. uplandicum.




If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils. -Aristippus

If you would learn to live on lentils you would not have to be subservient to the king. -Diogenes




Energy

If our goal is to grow enough food to make a dent in our diet, it can be helpful to consider where our energy is coming from. Calories may not be the best symbol of how our food sustains us, but it's an easy way to compare crops. These tables are a work in progress and I am still discovering what the expected yields should be.

The tables below include selected crops with available nutritional information, a rough estimate of their caloric value, and possible yields per plants based on decent growing conditions in my climate. I like to think about energy per plant because that is how I tend to break things down in my head, but this does not take into account time or space. Some of these plants require the full growing season to maximize yields (like achira and sunchoke) and some only need a few months (like radishes and turnips). Many other useful crops that take longer than one growing season to harvest are ommited.


RootsCalories/PoundPounds/PlantCalories/Plant
Achira37062220
Sunchoke3305 [?]1650 [?]
Mashua3104 [?]1240 [?]
Taro5002 [?]1000 [?]
Sweet Potato3802760
Potato3502700
Oca3301330
Leek2701 [?]270 [?]
Burdock4000.5 [?]200 [?]
Parsnip3400.5 [?]170 [?]
Garlic6700.2 [?]130 [?]
Salsify3700.2 [?]70 [?]
Radish701 [?]70 [?]
Carrot1900.3 [?]60 [?]
Turnip1200.5 [?]60 [?]
Crosne3300.2 [?]60 [?]
Bunching Onion1500.3 [?]40 [?]


SeedsCalories/PoundPounds/PlantCalories/Plant
Amaranth15000.5 [?]750 [?]
Sorghum15000.5 [?]750 [?]
Maize15000.5 [?]750 [?]
Quinoa15000.5 [?]750 [?]
Sunflower26000.2 [?]520 [?]
Runner Bean15000.2 [?]300 [?]
Barley15000.01 [?]15 [?]




Storage

My ideal form of storage for root crops is none at all - allowing plants to remain in the ground until they are ready to be eaten. I also actively select for plants that can stay alive as long as possible so I don't need to worry about storing them and can instead harvest them as needed. But storing is often necessary to keep the pantry stocked or simply to prevent non-hardy plants from dying over winter. There are generally two primary methods:


  1. Roots that keep well. Brush off most dirt but do not scrub with water. Cure and allow skin to dry out a bit in a dark place. Store in breathable bag or box in a cool and humid environment. A cellar is best and that is typically the environment we are trying to imitate. I use this method for most annuals/biennials (like turnips and carrots) and many perennials that are grown as annuals (like potato, taro and mashua).
  2. Roots that keep poorly. Brush off most dirt but do not scrub with water. Do not allow roots to dry out. Store in slightly damp medium (like moss, wood shavings, sand or coco fiber) inside a breathable bag or box. Ensure medium remains moist enough that roots do not dry out but aerated enough that mold does not grow. Check on roots regularly. I use this method mainly for perennials that are grown as annuals (like achira and some gingers).


When storing marginally-hardy roots in the ground over winter it can be helpful to leave them in the same location they've been growing the entire season, with their root system attached. They are often more likely to survive this way than if you had dug them up, divided and replanted them. With tubers (like potato or sunchoke) this is irrelevant, but for all other types of roots it may prove useful. Warmer micro-climates, mulch and well-draining soil also helps.

Aside from roots the rest is fairly simple. Seeds or grains are easy to store and should be kept in a dark and dry environment after being cleaned. Leafy vegetables can be wrapped in a slightly moist cloth and refrigerated or blanched and frozen. Other methods of storage like drying or fermenting can signficantly expand the lifespan of many vegetables.




Equipment

These are some of the self-assembled equipment I use in the garden. I typically look for simple solutions that are relatively cheap and can be replicated easily.


Seeding Shovel | Photos

Shovel, plastic tubing, funnels, zip ties.

I thought up this design because I was frustrated at the lack of seeding tools for compacted soil. They are all designed for soil that is already very loose and usually tilled in advance. But what if I want to seed right into existing vegetation, or don't want to clear away any mulch? In the past I've just bent down and used a hori hori, placing each seed by hand, but this is tedious and physically demanding. This design allows me to stay standing up and plant multiple seeds at a time, making everything much quicker. Small plastic tubing (big enough for seeds of your choice to fit through) is zip tied to the back of the shovel, from about halfway down the metal end to the bottom of the handle. If your tubing is small it will be necessary to attach funnels to drop the seeds into. With larger tubing this isn't necessary and this way it will also work with large seeds like barley or buckwheat. When using this it is important to plant the shovel in the ground and then push it away from you before dropping the seeds down. This creates a narrow gap in the soil that the seeds can then fall into.


Deer Fencing | Photos

Metal fencing, tent stakes, caribeeners.

This is the setup I use for most of my trees to protect them from deer. Steel welded-wire fencing that is 5-6 feet tall is wrapped in a circle around the tree. Cheap carabiners keep the fencing clasped shut (I use 3 per fence). Tent stakes hold the fencing down - place them right next to where the fence closes and directly opposite this point on the other side of the fence. You may need 2 or 3 in each spot depending on the soil. This keeps the fence in place but also allows us to undo the clasps and open it up for maintenance. Posts can be placed around the interior and attached to the fence for extra stability. This is a good idea if the fencing is being used to section off an area of the garden but not always neccessary when wrapped around trees. I like this fencing system because it is very straightforward and can be assembled or taken apart quickly. This system is not designed for animals that will push up against the fence or otherwise mess with it (whereas deer are typically very gentle).


Germination Tray | Photos

Shallow tub, metal caging, fabric, clips.

I like using large, shallow containers for germinating seeds as I find them easier to work with than individual pots (although I use those too). I drill some holes in the bottom so water can drain out and then fill them with soil. If I need to keep track of different seeds, I can sow them in lines and use handwritten labels. Then I will place a metal cage over it to prevent rodents or birds from digging around in the soil. I use the kind that attaches to guinea pig or hamster enclosures but anything similar will work. These can often be found used on craigslist and are a good investment (if they come with a tray that can hold a few inches of soil all the better). I then secure a thin sheet of fabric to the top of the cage with a few binder clips to prevent heavy rains from damaging the seedlings - the water will still drip through but much more softly. The right fabric will allow light to penetrate through to the seeds while protecting them from excessive heat.




They insist upon no government higher than that of the individual, while they leave in existence those causes which imperatively demand, and will always demand so long as they exist, the intervention of just such restrictive governments as we now have.

-Stephen Pearl Andrews




The farmer who works the earth merely loves the thought of himself laboring in the fields... if your love for nature is superficial and what you do amounts simply to making use of farming for your own purposes, the road will be closed off to you....

-Masanobu Fukuoka




Notable Reference Books

My favorite English reference books that are only available in print (although some can only be purchased used). More books are in the resource section below. Photos of covers and sample pages.





Resources

Here I have compiled some of my favorite resources including databases for edible plants, blogs, books, nurseries, recipes and everything else that has been useful to my research.


Databases/Tables

Plants For A Future

Useful Tropical Plants

Useful Temperate Plants

Edible Plants Of The World

eFlora Botanical Reference

Biodiversity Heritage Library

Okayama University Plant Ecology

Atomi University Index

Korean Native Wildflower Research Institute

Japan Flower Database

A Modern Herbal

Inventory Of Perennial Vegetables

Cover Crop Comparison

List Of Vegetables In Korea

Leafy Vegetables Of Japan

Wild Edible Plants Of Shangri-la

Wild Edible Plants Of Honghe

Wild Edible Plants Of Inner Mongolia

Wild Edible Plants Of Sichuan

Soil Temperature Seed Germination

Wunderground Historical Weather

80 Permaculture Plants


Websites/Blogs

Grow Biointensive

Greener Land

Eat The Weeds

Edimentals

Of Plums and Pignuts

Backyard Larder

Midwest Permaculture

Human Habitat Project

Himalayan Wild Food Plants

Hiroyuki's Blog on Japanese Cooking

Korean Bapsang

Bburi Kitchen

Naturalist Newsletter Archive

Edible Leeds

Native Memory Project

Common Herbs


Online Reference Books

Sturtevant's Edible Plants Of The World

Useful Plants Of Japan

Flora Of Japan

Chinese Materia Medica

Plants Of The Four Winds

Edible Leaves Of The Tropics

Lost Crops Of The Incas

Edible Wild Plants

Food Plants Of North American Indians

Dictionary Of Popular Names Of Economic Plants

Dictionary Of Economic Products Of India

Permaculture: A Designer's Manual


Long-Form Books

Natural Way of Farming

Will Bonsall's Essential Guide

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands

Soil Science for Gardeners

Ancestral Appetites

Against the Grain

Empires Of Food


Videos

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Jerry Konanui on Kalo

Gardening Philosophy: Thinning a Bed


Nurseries

Sacred Succulents

Experimental Farm Network

Strictly Medicinal Seeds

Wild Garden Seed

Edible Landscaping

Burnt Ridge Nursery

Cultivariable

Garlicana

Kykeon Plants

Kitazawa Seed

Peace Seedlings

Mountain Gardens

Grand Prismatic Seed

True Love Seeds

Interwoven Nursery

Johann's Garden

Rare Seeds

Asian Seed

Vermont Wildflower Farm

Tradewinds Bamboo Nursery

Prairie Moon Nursery

Aloha Tropicals

Chinese Alpines

Fancy Fronds Nursery

Cold Hardy Cactus

Center Of The Web

J.L. Hudson Seeds

Scirpidiella's Plants


Preperations

Gomchwi Profile

Doraji Profile

Mugwort Profile

Omija Profile

Shepherd's Purse Profile

Aralia Profile

Goddeulbbaegi Profile

Preparing Fuki

Grilled Deodeok

Sautéed Doraji

Sautéed Bellflower Roots

Mugwort Rice Cake

Perilla Kimchi

Steamed Perilla Leaves

Stir-fried Aster Scaber

Braised Burdock Root

Dandelion Salad

Dandelion Crown

Korean Radish

Cubed Radish Kimchi

Pickled Angelica Stems

Steamed Nettles

Water Spinach Stir Fry

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Island Peppers

Island Garlic

Soy Pickled Garlic

Myoga Shiso Rice

Chrysanthemum Leaves

Shungiku Mazegohan

Japanese Plum Wine




And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the crime, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit- and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains. And the smell of rot fills the country. Burn coffee for fuel in the ships. Burn corn to keep warm, it makes a hot fire. Dump potatoes in the rivers and place guards along the banks to keep the hungry people from fishing them out.

There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificate- died of malnutrition- because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by... watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

- John Steinbeck




Contact

If you'd like to get in touch with me, I am available at hello[@]noahzwillinger.com. I'm happy to discuss anything and love to learn from others. If there are any seeds or plants you are looking for, I may be able to point you in the right direction.