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.




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. This is the nightmare you cannot wake up from. 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 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 wish I could do more, believe me. I wish I could stop the murder, the torture, the enslavement, the destruction. But realistically, my influence will be quite limited. I believe having a relationship with nature is one of the most direct ways to feel satisfied, loved 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 and supply chains fall apart? 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.

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.

The list of plants below is only what I have been looking into or trying to grow myself, it is not meant to be anything beyond that. There are an endless number of food plants, but I mainly research those that are cultivated or those with qualities that make them good candidates for cultivation. I must also be able to get my hands on seeds, so that severely limits my options as well. The list will be expanded and updated as I grow more plants and learn new things.




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 (nor do I have the land to). 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 sustainable way requires a monumental 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 that the foods that provide the most 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, some can be harvested every year like the super-productive sunchoke. While perennial roots are more work than simply picking fruit off a tree, they usually require very 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 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 lots of organic matter for mulching. Weedy annuals like perilla can compete with grass 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 fruit 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.

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 spready quickly by rhizome and outcompete food crops; Erechtites hieraciifolius [American burnweed], Acalypha rhomboidea [copperleaf], and Persicaria maculosa [lady's thumb] all multiply rapidly by seed and can quickly 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 help 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 native 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.

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.

Moving beyond building soil, 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 a slug may come through and eat them. Or a bunny may walk on 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 where you've put them and when you've decided to water them, 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. This can be as simple as letting seeds drop of their own accord, but for the best results it often means spreading them around the garden beds where we think they will grow well. Lucky for them we have legs! We can move their seeds around farther than they can, and I'm sure they would thank us this if they could. Seeds can be left in their pods and dropped right on top of any mulch or garden debris. 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. 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 allows us to use natural processes to our advantage and 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 defenses against competition, disease and predation.

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 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.




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.


  1. 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 decay. Plants like Elaeagnus multiflora [goumi] and Phaseolus coccineus [runner bean] fix nitrogen in the soil and keep it productive.
  2. 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.
  3. Weed selectively. Native plants growing 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 compete with our food crops are ripped up and mulched in place.
  4. Disperse seeds naturally. Seeds should be dispersed on top of mulch and in their pods if they have any. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. If you already have a gutter system, all you need to do is a purchase a few parts here and hook them up to a large barrel (or trash can). The system is easy to expand as well.

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.




Grass → Garden

This is a rough and generalized process for converting areas overtaken by native grasses and plants 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 kenaf and barley that can be direct seeded into compacted soil and succeed even with heavy competition from grasses.




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, and how productive they are. Numbered in order of preference.


Vegetables

  1. Aralia Cordata 'Udo' (Perennial): Edible young leaves and stem on a productive die-back bush.
  2. Dystaenia Takesimana 'Seombadi' (Perennial): Stalks and leaves provide an excellent alternative to celery.
  3. Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus 'Good King Henry' (Perennial): Choice flower heads and spinach-like leaves.
  4. Bunias Orientalis 'Turkish Rocket' (Perennial): A perennial mustard, flowers every year and eaten like rapini.
  5. Brassica Rapa Rapa 'Turnip' (Annual): Delicious leaves and flowerheads with a root that feeds the soil.
  6. Opuntia Humifosa 'Prickly Pear' (Perennial): Cold hardy cactus for poor soil, both pads and fruit can be eaten.
  7. Perilla Frutescens 'Perilla' (Annual): Green varieties are used as a vegetable and can be grown in quantity.
  8. Sedum Sarmentosum 'Dolnamul' (Perennial): A fast-growing, edible sedum that forms a beautiful carpet.


Onions

  1. Allium Cepa Proliferum 'Walking Onion' (Perennial): One of the easiest onions to grow and very versatile.
  2. Allium Hookeri 'Hooker's Onion' (Perennial): Another easy onion with delicious leaves.


Roots

  1. Helianthus Tuberosus 'Sunchoke' (Perennial): Grows anywhere in sun and produces heavily.
  2. Canna Edulis 'Achira' (Annual): Peruvian root crop with large tropical leaves and sweet rhizomes.
  3. Colocasia Esculenta 'Taro' (Annual): Some varieties mature in under 6 months, producing small cormels.
  4. Tropaeolum Tuberosum 'Mashua' (Annual): Another Andean root crop forming tubers in short days of fall.
  5. Platycodon Grandiflorus 'Doraji' (Perennial): Korean root crop, growing larger every year until harvest.
  6. Solanum Ajanhuiri 'Potato' (Annual): A potato species from Peru known for its frost resistance.
  7. Apios Americana 'Groundnut' (Perennial): A native nitrogen fixer with small, protein rich tubers.


Seeds

  1. Amaranthus Caudatus 'Amaranth' (Annual): One of the easiest and most productive grains.
  2. Phaseolus Coccineus 'Runner Bean' (Annual): A reliable and versatile nitrogen-fixing vine.


Fruit/Trees

  1. Corylus Americana 'American Hazelnut' (Perennial): A native nut tree small enough for the backyard.
  2. Prunus Americana 'Plum' (Perennial): Native, easy to grow and loaded with plums.
  3. Elaeagnus Multiflora 'Goumi' (Perennial): A great support tree that fixes nitrogen with edible berries.
  4. Actinidia Arguta 'Hardy Kiwi' (Perennial): The vigorous and hardy cousin to the kiwi with small, hairless fruit.
  5. Ficus Carica 'Fig' (Perennial): Will grow anywhere there is sun and very simply to propagate.
  6. Morus Nigra 'Mulberry' (Perennial): Dwarf varieties are perfect for smaller spaces, berries produced in quantity.


If I were starting a garden from scratch, these are the crops I would focus on. Get some trees going early as they will often take years to bear fruit. Plums, figs and mulberries all grow very easily. Goumi will help support them by fixing nitrogen. Dedicate some beds for regular soil disturbance to grow roots, an important source of energy. Start with sunchoke and achira, both easy and very productive. Learn to grow perennial vegetables by starting them from seed in pots. Seombadi, good king henry, and turkish rocket are all wonderful choices. Grow at least a few of each and transplant them to beds that will get little soil disturbance. Purchase some perennial onion bulbs like walking onion or hooker's onion, plant them alongside your perennial vegetables, and divide them at the end of every year. Direct seed some turnips or radishes and after they flower disperse the seed they produce across your perennial beds. Building a garden is work, but the magic is that it gets easier and more productive over time.




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.



Crops propagated by their root like achira, taro, mashua, potato and sunchoke should ideally have multiple varieties, and every season they should be rotated within the beds so each variety is growing in a different spot. Crops that can be propagated by either division or seed, like marshmallow and doraji, can be divided but should regularly be grown from seed as well to maintain genetic diversity.

These polycultures are not self-sustaining and should be regularly fed/mulched, especially if they are growing in the same bed from year to year. Japanese mugwort is an easy plant to use for mulch. Beans or clover can be incorporated for nitrogen. Depending on the local environment, 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.




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 a useful way to compare crops.

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. For example, achira is harvested at the end of the growing season and takes up more space, but potatoes can usually be harvested after only a few months and take up comparatively little space.


Roots

CropCalories/PoundPounds/PlantCalories/Plant
Achira37062220
Sunchoke33051650
Mashua31041240
Taro50021000
Potato3502700
Oca3301330
Burdock4000.5200




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 zone 7, may differ in other climates. 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 very 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 drying and 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 may be at the end of the growing season or it may be earlier. 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 indicate 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.

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

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 usually 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.

Conditions: 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.

Storage: My ideal form of storage for root crops is none at all - allowing the plant to remain in the ground until it is ready to be eaten. I don't have any great storage space either, so everything brought indoors must be cleaned to prevent bugs from hitching a ride. This is a considerable amount of work to do all at once depending on the plant and something I like to avoid if I can. Regarding annual root crops, I also actively select for plants that can stay alive as long as possible so I don't need to worry about harvesting and storing them. Instead I can keep them 'stored' in the ground until ready for use. As a general rule, if they must be harvested they should be kept in a cool, dark environment with some humidity and airflow. Many non-cold-hardy roots don't like to remain dormant for long, so it may be useful to have some form of covered unit or greenhouse to keep them alive during winter. Grains are particularly easy to store and should be kept dry but require no special conditions. Leafy vegetables can be wrapped in a cloth or bag and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.




Herbs


Agastache Rugosa 'Korean Mint' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Division, seed.

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

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

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. All are easily grown and not picky about soil or sun. Also easily controlled. Good for awkward spots in the garden as it fills space well and can be cut back regularly. Produces tons of seed. I like this particular species for its wonderful aroma, it makes a delicious tea and garnish alike. An essential addition to the herb garden. A. foeniculum is common as well.

Photos: A. rugosa.


Anethum Graveolens 'Dill' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed. SELF SOWS

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Attracts beneficial insects.

Status: Established.

Notes: The famous pickling herb. 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, even though it has good seed production. 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. An understory plant that can grow alongside ramps. A. europaeum is also used the same way.

Photos: A. canadense.


Chenopodium Ambrosioides 'Epazote' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Seed.

Notes:


Diplotaxis Tenuifolia 'Wild Rocket' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established.

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. This species can be used just the same but is a perennial. Will do fine in shade. A perennial alternative to arugula.


Eruca Vesicaria 'Arugula' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: None.

Notes: Maybe it's because I haven't tried the right variety yet, but arugula seems a bit overrated to me. It bolts as soon as the weather starts to heat up and doesn't produce enough seed to really get established. And even with a good crop the leaves are not mild enough to be used in any quantity. Perhaps it can be useful as a groundcover in between slightly larger crops which will provide it with some shade.

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.

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 and will tolerate wetter soils. Plus is it just an absolutely gorgeous plant with an amazing aroma. Limited culinary use but can be infused into soaps or perfumes. L. latifolia is used in the same way. I also grow what I believe to be L. stoechas which is only used medicinally.

Photos: L. stoechas.


Melissa Officinalis 'Lemon Balm' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem.

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

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

Notes: Once known as a medicinal panacea, now often relegated to weed status. If you are looking for a sedative this is probably the easiest choice. Very easily grown and spreads quickly. Plant in a spot where it can be easily managed. Fantastic aroma and wonderful as a tea.

Photos: M. officinalis.


Mentha Spicata 'Spearmint' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Division, stem, seed.

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

Wildlife: Deer resistant

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. Attracts beneficial insects.

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. Still, they all seem to be used medicinally far more often. Beautiful flowers that pollinators enjoy.

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: Established.

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.

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 even in moderate shade. 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. SELF SOWS

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.

Photos: P. crispum.


Porophyllum Ruderale 'Quillquiña' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Seed.

Notes:


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.

Status: Established.

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.

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. 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 but for some reason I didn't notice any seed being produced. No idea why and none have popped up since they died. Wild sage, S. verbanica, forms a small rosette and is one of the least palatable species. It is a nice groundcover though.

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


Sison Amomum 'Stone Parsley' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

Notes: An uncommon herb seldom found in cultivation. Germination is good and doesn't seem picky about soil or sun so far. 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: Seed.

Notes:


Thymus Serpyllum 'Wild Thyme' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem.

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' | Perennial ⚫

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.

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. 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. 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 will likely have to grow it from seed. A. racemosa has different edible properties and is rarely cultivated for this purpose.

Photos: A. cordata.


Artemisia Princeps 'Japanese Mugwort' '쑥' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed, stem.

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS SOIL REGENERATION

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 right preparation is essential as they can be bitter.

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. 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 many others. Said to be a lucid dreaming aid as well.

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: Established.

Notes: A historic Roman vegetable, grown primarily for its roots and shoots but may be valued for the flowers as well. Needs well-draining soil in my experience, not suitable for clay. Prefers sun but will do fine in part shade. 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.

Status: Established.

Notes: One of many edible asters and a traditional Korean vegetable. Prefers full sun. Young leaves or tender new growth is eaten. 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. COASTAL

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 vegetable but does not do well in shade. When in sun the plant does very well with a deep taproot that makes it drought-tolerant 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: Mostly deer resistant, except in winter. Bunnies nibble on leaves.

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.

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.

Of the flowering forms I have noticed that some are able to continue growing, albeit in a very stunted way, even after flowering and without being pruned. This makes me wonder about the potential for a polycarpic perennial kale (flowering more than once). So I do see a lot of potential in these weird forms as well.

Most of the plants also generate a lot of seed, so in my garden I generally toss the pods around the beds, see what comes up, see how many of them flower after the first winter, see how many of those are able to continue growing, keep track of the specimens that appear to be perennial, and just generally try to select for interesting specimens as they come up.

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.

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: Seed.

Notes: B. rapa consists of many different plants including turnips, rapini and bok choy.


Brassica Juncea 'Mustard' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

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. 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.

I particularly like curled-leaf mustard as it is incredibly cold hardy and grows through snow just fine. This variety also prefers to germinate in very cold weather. Whereas turnips or other Brassicas are growing most of the year, curled-leaf mustard mostly shows up during winter. I appreciate this quality for two reasons. The first is that the more food I can have growing over winter, the better. The second is that I can have a hundred seeds for this variety sitting in my beds and they won't be competing during the growing season when I have tons of other stuff I'd like to grow. Instead the seeds just wait until the right temperature comes, when most other plants have already died off. Incorporating these 'timed-release' sort of seeds into my annual beds improves diversity with limited increase in competition. 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.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

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. 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.

Photos: B. orientalis.


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

Edible: Root, shoot.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Seed.

Notes:


Capsicum Pubescen 'Rocoto Pepper' | Annual

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Potted - orange, red.

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. I tried bringing a few indoors for winter but after cleaning and trimming they did not survive, perhaps I brought them in too late. Even so this is still a fun plant to grow. 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! Many ways to prepare this vegetable, and very easy to care for as long as it gets enough sun. To get an idea of the cultivation requirements, just look to its weedy brother C. album. Both are easily grown and require little soil fertility or water.

Photos: C. bonus-henricus.


Claytonia Perfoliata 'Miner's Lettuce' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, stem, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Deep shade to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established.

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. Does not get bitter when in flower either. A small plant with very small leaves, prefers a moist and partially shaded spot.

C. sibirica can also be eaten the same way, although this species prefers more shade. Species within this genus show a great deal of variation. They don't seem to do well with competition due to their small size and I haven't had luck with direct seeding them. Transplanting may work to get them started as they are prolific seeders once established.


Cryptotaenia Japonica 'Mitsuba' 'ミツバ' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

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 not super far off but definitely tougher, rougher 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 American species.

Photos: C. japonica.


Cynara Cardunculus 'Cardoon' | Perennial ⚫

Edible: Leaf, flower bud.

Propagation: Seed.

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

Wildlife: Deer resistant? Slugs.

Status: Established.

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 as much hardier and therefore the only 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 must be 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. I grow the Gobbo di Nizza variety. I regularly find slugs on the leaves but they don't seem to pose much of a threat. The flowers are stunning and appreciated by pollinators.

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 sensitive.

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. The harvest is more limited though in that none of the flowering stalk is eaten - only the shoots, usually in spring. Still, older specimens produce a good volume of shoots.

Prefers sun but will do fine in part shade. Easy to grow. Sometimes referred to as Korean celery, and may be a good perennial substitute for celery.

Photos: D. takesimana.


Galinsoga Parviflora 'Gallant Soldier' | Annual

Edible: Shoot, stem, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed. SELF SOWS

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established.

Notes: One of the weediest vegetable listed here. 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. 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. SELF SOWS

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

Notes: Common in Japan but rarely cultivated here in the west. And for shame! A unique vegetable, great taste and beautiful flowers. In my garden it tends to bolt once the weather heats up and the rain stops being so frequent, often before getting large enough to harvest. For this reason it is sometimes grown as a fall crop. That being said the seed germination is quite good when tossed over disturbed soil. There are two main types available - one with smaller, serrated leaves and another with larger, more tender leaves.

Useful Plants Of Japan, Described And Illustrated indicates this plant was sown in the fall and overwintered. In my climate it does not overwinter, however. 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 good for eating. 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.


Gynostemma Pentaphyllum 'Jiaogulan' '绞股蓝' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

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. 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 a few that scramble around and one planted right below an old ornamental bush I don't care about. 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, only 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. And it's not like dandelion or some other weeds because this is one you actually want to eat and one that is 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 poisonous 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).

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. 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.

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 (despite what you may read online).

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.


Ipomoea Aquatica 'Water Spinach' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Wet soil.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established.

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 and shouldn't be planted when the nights are still cold. The plant also spreads horizontally on the ground, with a relatively low density of leaves, making it space inefficient for what you end up harvesting. But wait, there's more! When I grew this the seed pods barely had enough time to ripen, making the prospect of it self seeding very unlikely.

It is still a unique vegetable with interesting potential to work in polycultures 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: Shoot, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established.

Notes:

Photos:


Ligularia Fischeri 'Gomchwi' '곰취' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed. Germination may be poor.

Conditions: Shade to part shade.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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.

There is a cultivated variety 'Spiciformis' that has different characteristics and is a useful source of genetic diversity. 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: Potted.

Notes:

Photos: M. verticillata.


Peperomia Pellucida 'Pepper Elder' | Annual

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Seed. Prefers warm soil to germinate.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established.

Notes: An adorable, beautiful, delicious and medicinal groundcover. It grows 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.

Status: Established.

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 from Kitazawa Seed 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.

Photos: P. frutescens.


Petasites Japonicus 'Japanese Butterbur' 'フキ' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf petiole, leaf, inflorescence.

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

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 wet and shady areas where few other edible plants will grow. Prefers very little direct sun if any but will tolerate some heat. 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 a slo a purple-tinted variety. Related to P. frigidus, arctic butterbur, which is used for the young flowering shoots.

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 sensitive?

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. I am in love with this plant!

Photos: P. japonicum


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. P. multiflorum and P. biflorum can also be used. Many others.

Photos: Polygonatum spp.


Rheum Acuminatum 'Rhubarb' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf petiole.

Propagation: Division., seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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 particular species is not the standard, but a small form from Nepal that is almost always dried and pickled (although occasionally the drying is skipped). It also seems to appreciate shelter from heat.

R. rhabarbarum is the standard, also with 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.

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

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established.

Notes: Sorrel is so easy to grow it makes for an excellent introduction to perennial vegetables. And despite the common warnings about oxalic acid, it is easy to prepare as long as it is cooked in some way. 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. For that reason I think this plant is worthy of being incorporated into regenerative food systems. Common sorrel, R. acetosa, is the standard. Many others.

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.

Photos: S. minor.


Silene Vulgaris 'Bladder Campion' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None.

Notes:


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.


Smyrnium Olusatrum 'Alexanders' | Biennial

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

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Seed.

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, flower.

Propagation: Seed. 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 with other crops and stays low to the ground. It sprawls and functions as a non-competetive groundcover in that way.

Leaves of S. neglecta can also be eaten. S. pubera is a native perennial, growing into small mounds. The leaves are technically edible but actually quite tough and not palatable like the annual species.

Some species in this genus looks similar to species in Cerastium genus, those are usually much fuzzier but also edible in the same way.

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: Seed.

Notes:


Taraxacum Officinale 'Dandelion' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed. SELF SOWS

Conditions: Shade to sun. DROUGHT TOLERANT SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

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.


Tropaeolum Majus 'Nasturtium' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, flower.

Propagation: Seed. 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.

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 late 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 have not had any interactions with it, but I do have a wild nettle in my garden that doesn't usually sting very much. 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.

Photos: U. dioica.


Zingiber Mioga 'Myoga Ginger' | Perennial

Edible: Shoot, flower.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established + Z. kawagoii.

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.

Z. kawagoii also survives winter for me. None of it is edible but I have seen reports that the root is used medicinally. I grow Z. officinale, common ginger, 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.


Allium Cepa Aggregatum 'Potato Onion' | Perennial ⚫

Edible: Bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb, seed. Slow from seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

Notes:

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.

Status: Established.

Notes: My favorite onion to grow because it's so easy and versatile. I put as many of these as I can fit in my garden because they can be used just like any other onion. Both the bulbs and greens are eaten. You really can't have enough of these.

The onions form clumps that can be divided every season, making them very easy to multiply. They also develop bulbets when flowering which can be planted as well. Once established they will pretty much survive anything.

Photos: A. cepa proliferum.


Allium Fistulosum 'Bunching Onion' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

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.


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.

Photos: A. hookeri.


Allium Oschaninii 'Grey Shallot' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf.

Propagation: Bulb.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

Notes: The only true shallot, originally found growing wild in China. Not the same species as common shallots.


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: Established.

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.

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. 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.


Allium Tuberosum 'Garlic Chives' | Perennial

Edible: Bulb, leaf, scape, flower.

Propagation: Bulb, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

Notes:




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.

Photos: A. triphylla.


Alpinia Galanga 'Galangal' | Annual

Edible: Rhizome, shoot, flower.

Propagation: Division. Prefers warm soil to sprout.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Potted.

Notes: In the ginger family (along with common ginger and turmeric), this one more common in southeast Asia. Of all the gingers I grow, this seems to be the easiest and the most heat tolerant. On the flipside it is not very cold hardy. It is also the most beautiful in my personal opinion. 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 and 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.

The roots and leaves can be eaten as vegetables, although the leaves can a bit too hairy for that. Excellent potential as a root crop given how quickly and easily it grows. When harvesting, part of the root can be divided and replanted, making it very easy to propagate as well. Excellent medicinal for soar throat or coughs.

Photos: A. officinalis.


Apios Americana 'Groundnut' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Tuber, seedpod.

Propagation: Division, seed.

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 I find they don't do particularly well in shade. 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.

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: Established.

Notes: Now this is 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 speceis, eaten the same way.

Photos: A. minus.


Beta Vulgaris 'Beet' | Perennial

Edible: Root.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established.

Notes:

Photos: B. vulgaris.


Brassica Rapa Rapa 'Turnip' | Biennial 🖤

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established.

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! Just like other taproots, if you filled a bed with turnips and then let them die in the soil, the improvements would be massive in just a single season. But none of the other taprooted plants create such high quality leaves, and very few of them grow as easily as the turnip.

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?

They seem more resilient than other mustards, especially for summer-growth. Plus they are super easy to overwinter, so they basically grow year round. Overwintered plants also produce a significant amount of greens in spring. Used to pelt ancient roman governors, not just a nutritious food but also a revolutionary weapon! I have been impressed with the 'Scarlet Ohno Revival' variety from Wild Garden Seed. Let best plants go to seed, harvest others before flowering.

Photos: B. rapa.


Campanula Rapunculus 'Rampion' | Biennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

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.


Canna Edulis 'Achira' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Rhizome, shoot. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

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! This is a wonderful soil regeneration plant.

Finally, this plant is productive. It requires the entire growing season, but expect yields of at least 5 pounds per plant in non-optimal conditions. With the right soil, water and sun you will get even more out of it. This plant is a perennial in roughly Z7 and above. When grown as a perennial the root can be harvested 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!

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: Seed.

Notes:


Codonopsis Lanceolata 'Deodeok' '더덕' | Perennial ⚫

Edible: Root.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Potted.

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. They usually die a few weeks after germination and I still haven't figured out why.

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 vine, known as dang shen (党参), although the root can be eaten like a vegetable as well. These two species are 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. Virtually no problems.

Status: Established.

Notes: One of the oldest and most important 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 but certainly worthy of more widespread cultivation, especially in permaculture circles. This species is a reliable perennial in my garden and likely hardy to Z6. 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. The plant spread by stolons, so patches will quickly form. It prefers conditions similar to taro but is tougher and more resilient than taro. Wet soil will help it grow better. Will tolerate fairly deep shade.

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. They must be cooked just like taro.

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.

Given how big this plant is it makes for a good mulch plant as well. The frustrating thing about this plant is that it only sprouts in late June. So the growing season is short and by this point the rains have become less common, meaning drier soil and slower growth.

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 (even in a reference book I have). 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: Seed.

Notes:


Curcuma Longa 'Turmeric' | Annual

Edible: Rhizome, shoot.

Propagation: Division. Prefers warm soil to sprout.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Potted.

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 as soon as the plant starts growing, the rhizome starts expanding. 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. 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.

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. In my experience, carrots have been a bit harder to really incorporate because so many of them end up dying in natural conditions. Many seem to rot easily and they do seem a bit pickier than both radishes and turnips. But with the right cold-hardy varieties and persistent selection, I think they will do just fine. Cold hardiness is essential so they can be left in the ground over winter in order to produce seed the following spring.

Despite their sensitivities, they do have a few qualities I really enjoy. The seedlings seem to pick up speed very quickly and shoot right past whatever mulch or ground covers are nearby. This quick vertical growth helps ensure they don't get shaded out while still very young (a common problem with turnips and radishes). They also store well and make for an a excellent staple crop.

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.

Photos: D. carota sativa.


Dioscorea Batatas 'Chinese Yam' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber, leaf, aerial tuber.

Propagation: Aerial tuber.

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, many people plant them in grow bags or containers, 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: Sun.

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 but nothing particularly special. Normally propagated by separating offshoots from the mother root.

Photos:


Hedychium Coronarium 'White Ginger' | Perennial

Edible: Rhizome, flower.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Potted.

Notes: A beautiful and semi-hardy alternative to common ginger with tall tropical stalks and flowers that smell absolutely divine. This can grow as a perennial in my climate. It will not tolerate heat so I grow 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.

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

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

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. Many say this can be planted practically anywhere, and while it may grow just fine in most conditions, it does need decent soil (preferably loose) and access to water in order to produce a good crop of tubers. 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.

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 taste of tubers as well. Produces a good amount of biomass which make for great mulch. An excellent famine crop.

Photos: H. tuberosus.


Inula Helenium 'Elecampane' | Perennial

Edible: Root, leaf.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established + I. racemosa.

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: Seed.

Notes:


Lycopus Lucidus 'Chinese Bugleweed' '地笋' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber, leaf.

Propagation: Division, seed.

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

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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 that are popular with some insects.

Tubers haven't formed well the first year, it may need a few years to build up a stock or maybe looser soil and more water. The Wild Edible Plants of Shangri-la table linked in the resources section and this profile suggest the shoots or tender new growth are also eaten. Some other species within this genus have edible roots as well, like natives L. asper and L. americanus.

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: None.

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 an incredible source of care-free sustenance.

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 roots contain a woody core that must be removed after cooking. The only nursery I know of that sells this is Sacred Succulents.

Photos:


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: None.

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 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: Seed.

Notes:


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? Chipmunk 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 major 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.


Psoralea Esculenta 'Breadroot' | Perennial

Edible: Root.

Propagation: Seed.

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

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Seed.

Notes:


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?

Status: Established.

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 and one of the many taproots I like to focus on growing in my garden for exactly that reason. I grow mainly daikons. I am unsure of exactly how cold hardy they are as some seem to survive winter but many don't. I imagine with some natural selection a cold hardy population can be established.

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.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Potted.

Notes:


Scorzonera Hispanica 'Black Salsify' | Perennial

Edible: Root, shoot, flower. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Seed.

Notes:


Solanum Tuberosum 'Potato' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Tuber. CALORIE CROP

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

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive. Many pests, affecting some varieties more than others.

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 until frost at which point I will harvest most of them and immediately replant the remaining as seed potatoes. The potatoes would then sit in the ground over winter and sprout 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 to once per season. However the longer potatoes are kept in the ground, the greater the chance they will succumb to disease, insects or rot. So finding the right variety for this method will be essential. Well-draining will help prevent rot, while a diverse planting will help prevent disease and insects.

Photos: Solanum spp.


Stachys Affinis 'Crosne' | Perennial

Edible: Tuber.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Leaves bitten by bugs.

Status: Established.

Notes:

Photos: S. affinis.


Tropaeolum Tuberosum 'Mashua' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Tuber, leaf, flower. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Tuber.

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:

Photos: U. tuberosus.




Field + Grain


Amaranthus Caudatus 'Amaranth' | Annual 🖤

Edible: Leaf, seed. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. Prefers warm soil to germinate.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established.

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 something like barley. 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.

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.

I have tried growing some plants a bit more naturally, tossing their seeds around the beds and seeing how well they do. Generally they do very poorly, germinating late and growing quite small. The seedlings seem to be a bit too wimpy to handle competition well. But even when small they still go on to produce some seed which is nice. And they are quite beautiful anyway.

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, but many others are very similar.

Photos: Amaranthus spp.


Atriplex Hortensis 'Orach' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, seed.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer and bunny sensitive.

Status: Seed.

Notes:


Celosia Argentea 'Plumed Cockscomb' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Seed.

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.


Chenopodium Nuttalliae 'Huauzontle' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, inflorescence.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Seed.

Notes:


Helianthus Annuus 'Sunflower' | Annual

Edible: Leaf, flower head, seed. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Birds enjoy seeds?

Status: Seed.

Notes:


Hibiscus Cannabinum 'Kenaf' | Annual

Edible: Leaf.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established.

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. I planted these directly into compacted soil covered in grass, did not provide any irrigation in addition to what the rain offered them, and many still grew beautifully. This is a very special quality. 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.

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.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

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! I think barley is valuable because it occupies an important niche, preferring to grow in cold weather when very little else is growing. This helps keep the soil alive and filled with roots while also providing us food during times of relative scarcity in the garden.

As a grass itself it tolerates competition from other grasses and is generally very flexible regarding soil conditions. Full sun is important 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.


Sorghum Bicolor 'Sorghum' | Annual

Edible: Seed. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Sun. Prefers warm soil to germinate.

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Birds enjoy seeds?

Status: Seed.

Notes:




Woody + Fruit


Actinidia Arguta 'Hardy Kiwi' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Shoot, fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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. 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.


Aralia Elata 'Angelica Tree' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

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. Be sure to leave enough shoots unharvested so the tree can stay healthy. A. nudicaulis, wild sarsaparilla, is a small understory perennial with edible roots, shoots and berries.

Photos: A. elata. A. nudicaulis.


Aronia Melanocarpa 'Chokeberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None.

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


Berberis spp. 'Barberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None.

Notes:


Corylus Americana 'American Hazelnut' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Nut. CALORIE CROP

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: None.

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 native varieties.


Elaeagnus Multiflora 'Goumi' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Shade to sun. NITROGEN FIXER SOIL REGENERATION

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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. 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.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established.

Notes: The plant famously used as a medicinal tea by mormon pioneers. Thins tems 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.

Photos: Ephedra spp.


Ficus Carica 'Fig' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

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 small so they make great backyard options, and 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 any hardy variety will survive the winter just fine. F. palmata is the wild fig, some forms can grow as a dieback perennial in my climate but won't produce any fruit.

Photos: F. carica.


Fragaria Virginiana 'Wild Strawberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Division., seed. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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. F. vesca, the woodland strawberry, grows similarly. They do well in shade but fruit better when getting enough sun. An excellent groundcover.

Photos: F. virginiana.


Fuchsia spp. 'Fuchsia' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established.

Notes: Mainly grown as an ornamental for the absolutely stunning flowers. However the fruits of most 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. My transplants have taken off in a moist spot with little sun.

Photos: Fuchsia spp.


Gaultheria spp. 'Wintergreen' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting. Cold stratify.

Conditions: Shade to sun. Rich soil.

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established.

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 beleive it has been 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 has at least one form that is cold hardy to my climate, and P. furens is hardy as well. They produce beautiful berries that have a fascinating story behind them, so I appreciate growing them.

Photos: Pernettya spp.


Leycesteria Formosa 'Himalayan Honeysuckle' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established.

Notes:

Photos:


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, especially 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 tend to 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: 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. They are often grafted into osange orange rootstock to prevent them from suckering and becoming too bushy. I imagine the graft also improves cold hardiness. When mature they should grow to about 15 feet tall.

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

Photos: M. tricuspidata.


Morus Nigra 'Black Mulberry' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Fruit, leaf.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

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. Most of them I cut down right away but some I let grow a bit and use for mulch. One of the wonderful qualities of this species is how fast it grows practically anywhere. So I try to make use of them when I can, but keep in mind that once they get to be a few feet tall they can be a pain to get rid of.

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'.

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.

Photos: Morus spp.


Passiflora Incarnata 'Maypop' | Perennial

Edible: Leaf, fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: None.

Notes:


Poncirus Trifoliata 'Bitter Orange' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

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?

Status: Established.

Notes: A reliable fruit tree native to America and with many different 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.

Photos: P. americana. P. tomentosa.


Polylepis Australis 'Kewina' | Perennial

Medicinal: Bark, leaf.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

Status: Established.

Notes: A gorgeous tree from the Andes. Not edible but used medicinally and an important species in its native region currently losing much of its population.

Photos: P. australis.


Rubus Idaeus 'Raspberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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.

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. R. fruticosus is the blackberry, another vigorous choice. Of all the cane types in this genus I think thornless raspberries are the easiest to manage.

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 and grows very easily. It will tolerate considerable shade and competition. 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.

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.

Photos: R. nigrum.


Sambucus Canadensis 'Elderberry' | Perennial

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

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 prove very fruitful.

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. So if you are hesitant about growing a fruit tree, start with this one!

Photos: S. canadensis.


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

Edible: Fruit.

Propagation: Seed, cutting.

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.

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.

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 soaked and scarified 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. 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?

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 seem to 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. V. vitus-idaea is the lingonberry. V. caespitosum is the dwarf bilberry. These and more are cold hardy and have edible fruit.

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.




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.

Photos:


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.


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

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. You can also burn them off if you have the right equipment (this is probably easier).

This species is a standard in cultivation. It is cold hardy in my climate but will go limp and flop over during winter. O. cacanapa has larger pads and doesn't seem to go limp. It is also a lighter blue color which is pretty. O. stricta should also be suitable for cold winters. Many other cold hardy species used for food. Pads can be rooted easily, best to get these or live plants for a quick start.

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: Established.

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.

Photos: P. oleracea.


Sedum Sarmentosum 'Dolnamul' '돌나물' | Perennial 🖤

Edible: Stem, leaf.

Propagation: Division, stem.

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS DROUGHT TOLERANT

Wildlife: Deer resiliant?

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. 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. If left unchecked it can blanket large areas. Well-suited for growing in pots or hanging over edges. One of my favorite groundcovers.

Photos: S. sarmentosum.




Bamboo


Chusquea Culeou 'Bamboo' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to sun. Shelter from heat.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

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.


Fargesia Robusta 'Bamboo' | Perennial

Edible: Shoots.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to sun. EASY & VIGOROUS

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.




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 + M. orientalis.

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.


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 + O. cinnamomea.

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.

Photos: O. cinnamomea.


Pyrrosia Petiolosa 'Taste Of China' | Perennial

Medicinal: Leaf?

Propagation: Division, spore.

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

Wildlife: Deer resistant?

Status: Established.

Notes: Used medicinally, not eaten. One of the hardiest species in this genus. Same condtions as any of the other ferns. Can be found growing on moss-covered trees in the wild.




Medicinal


Aloe Aristata 'Lace Aloe' | Perennial

Medicinal: None.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

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.


Gentiana Tibetica 'Tibetan Gentian' | Perennial

Medicinal: Root.

Propagation: Seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established.

Notes: Beautiful plants, the roots of which are the gold standard for bitter digestives. G. lutea is used similarly although has preformed much worse for me. I would therefore suggest the tibetan species.

Photos: Gentiana spp.


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. Roots will give you a quicker start.


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. It grows in the crevices of rock walls. In an attempt to imitate these conditions, I have mine potted in akadema, sphagnum moss, and worm castings. It seems to be doing alright. 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.

Conditions: Shade to part shade. Woodland.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive?

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.

Photos: P. vulgaris.


Silene Capensis 'Xhosa Dream Root' | Perennial

Medicinal: Root.

Propagation: Division, seed.

Conditions: Part shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer sensitive.

Status: Established.

Notes: As a casual lucid dreamer myself I am interested in experimenting with this plant. It seems the root is typically powdered and added to water but I am unsure of the dosage.

Photos: S. capensis.




Support


Trifolium Pratense 'Red Clover' | Perennial

Support: Nitrogen, groundcover.

Propagation: Seed. SELF SOWS

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

Wildlife: Deer resistant. Bunny sensitive.

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!


Musa Basjoo 'Japanese Banana' | Perennial

Support: Mulch, shade.

Propagation: Division.

Conditions: Shade to sun.

Wildlife: Deer resistant.

Status: Established.

Notes: This is the hardiest species of banana, down to at least Z7 (lower with mulch). 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. 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 for me it is 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.




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




Notable Reference Books

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





Resources


Research

Plants For A Future (Database)

Useful Tropical Plants (Database)

Useful Temperate Plants (Database)

Edible Plants Of The World (Database)

eFlora Botanical Reference (Database)

Biodiversity Heritage Library (Database)

Okayama University Plant Ecology (Database)

Atomi University Index (Database)

Korean Native Wildflower Research Institute (Database)

A Modern Herbal (Database)

Japan Flower Database (Database)

Grow Biointensive (Blog)

Eat The Weeds (Blog)

Edimentals (Blog)

Of Plums and Pignuts (Blog)

Human Habitat Project (Blog)

Himalayan Wild Food Plants (Blog)

Hiroyuki's Blog on Japanese Cooking (Blog)

Korean Bapsang (Blog)

Bburi Kitchen (Blog)

Naturalist Newsletter Archive (Blog)

Edible Leeds (Blog)

Inventory Of Perennial Vegetables (Table)

List Of Vegetables In Korea (Table)

Leafy Vegetables Of Japan (Table)

Wild Edible Plants Of Shangri-la (Table)

Wild Edible Plants Of Honghe (Table)

Wild Edible Plants Of Inner Mongolia (Table)

Wild Edible Plants Of Sichuan (Table)

Sturtevant's Edible Plants Of The World (PDF)

Useful Plants Of Japan (PDF)

Flora Of Japan [PDF]

Chinese Materia Medica [PDF]

Plants Of The Four Winds (PDF)

Edible Leaves Of The Tropics (PDF)

Lost Crops Of The Incas (PDF)

Edible Wild Plants (PDF)

Food Plants Of North American Indians (PDF)

Dictionary Of Popular Names Of Economic Plants (PDF)

Dictionary Of Economic Products Of India (PDF)


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

Grilled Deodeok

Sautéed Doraji

Mugwort Rice Cake

Perilla Kimchi

Green Onion Kimchi

Sautéed Bellflower Roots

Stir-fried Aster Scaber

Braised Burdock Root

Dandelion Salad

Korean Radish

Soy Pickled Garlic

Cubed Radish Kimchi

Garlic Chives Kimchi

Steamed Perilla Leaves

Dandelion Crown

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Pine Cone Syrup

Pickled Angelica Stems

Steamed Nettles

Stuffed Lotus Root

Water Spinach Stir Fry

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Island Peppers

Island Garlic

Preparing Fuki

Shungiku Mazegohan

Myoga Shiso Rice

Chrysanthemum Leaves

Japanese Plum Wine: Umeshu




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




Contact

If you'd like to get in touch with me, I am available at noahzwill[@]gmail.com. 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.