Although many families have vegetable gardens in their yards today, there are also many more who feel they need to decide whether they create the beautiful landscape that they’ve always wanted or a culinary garden. They need to make this decision simply because they do not have the space for both. However, this doesn’t have to be as difficult as it is may seem. Read on and learn how to create your own beautifully edible landscape.
A Beautifully Edible Landscape
There are many, many plants that you can have as part of your landscape, that you will be able to eat as well! Although some plants may be more for one climate over another, don’t forget that you can use containers as well. So don’t be afraid to include tropicals even if you live in a colder climate.
In this article, we will discuss 8 plants that you might think are decorative only, but have culinary uses as well, along with a few plants you might think belong in the vegetable garden, but work great in the landscape as well. And they are all easy to either find or start yourself. You can have your landscape and eat it too!
1. Swiss Chard:
Although usually found in the garden, swiss chard can work itself well into a landscape or even a window box. When combined with other flowers and plants, its’ large, deep green leaves makes for a very nice display. Add a bit of color by using rainbow chard with its’ brightly colored stalks. Harvest as you would in the vegetable garden.
Swiss chard plant plugs may be purchased or the plants may easily be started from seeds.
Although it needs a warm climate to survive year round in the ground, the papaya is a fun tree to have in your garden. The large unique leaves of the plant will stand out among the other plants in the garden, and for those in colder climates, the papaya may be grown in a container.
Papayas grow fast and begin to bear fruit within a year of planting. Trees may be male, female or hermaphrodite. If you have male or female plants, you will need one of the opposite to fertilize the blossoms. However if your tree is a hermaphrodite, it will fertilize itself.
The papaya can get quite large, 16 to over 30ft tall. This is great if you can actually plant it in the ground, but not so much if you want to keep your tree in a container. Because the trees grow so quickly from seed (the seed that you get out of a papaya fruit from the grocery store will work fine), if the tree becomes too difficult to manage in its’ container, or even in the garden, take it out and start a new one.
Papaya will produce fruit regularly, so if you you find yourself over run with the fruit, to where you can’t give it away, the fruit will dry/dehydrate nicely, as well as make excellent preserves.
Did you know that a good many cactus plants are edible? Especially popular in the garden are the paddle type cactus, which includes the prickly pear. These paddle type cactus have edible fruits as well as the paddles themselves being edible. Although some of the paddles can be easier to clean than others when it comes to removing the little spines, they are not difficult to prepare, and there are many recipes available for this addition to your culinary landscape.
And for those who live in colder climates, there are choices for you as well. You can either keep the cactus in pots, or there are some that do very well in northern gardens and will survive year round outdoors.
Along with it being a pretty and popular flower, especially in tropical gardens, the hibiscus is high in vitamin C and minerals. There is a bit of a controversy as to if all or just certain types are edible, but either way, there are still many that will fir into this category. Also, what is used on the plant and how it is used, depends on the flower. Tea, salads and garnish, and cranberry substitute are just a small sampling of what some of the flowers are used for.
Although they prefer direct planting in the garden, the hibiscus will also do pretty well in a container. If you are in a cold, northern area, this will allow you to bring the plant indoors for the winter. However, there are now some more cold tolerant plants being sold in the north, with a huge, almost dinner plate size flower, that might be worth looking in to if you live in that region. Like their smaller, warmth loving counterparts, they come in some beautiful colors as well, however it would be advantageous to double check to make sure that these are just as safe for culinary use.
When you think of pineapples, you probably don’t think about them as part of a culinary garden. But, it makes a delightful addition, as well as a conversation piece. And it really is an easy plant to start. The next time you purchase a fresh pineapple, after you cut the green top off, place it in a soil filled pot. Water as you would any other plant, and there it is. You have a new pineapple plant underway.
As with all tropical plants, if you live in a warm climate, your pineapple may be placed directly into the soil. However, if you are in a northern climate or have very limited ground area, your new pineapple will do very well in a container (although like any other plant, it will need some transplanting a few times as it grows) and can come indoors in the cold.
It is quite interesting to see a pineapple grow (1 per plant only), and the little pineapples are quite cute, looking like mini me’s of the adults. Keep in mind however, that once the pineapple has grown and has been harvested, the plant will no longer produce fruit. It may produce “pups” though, which are baby pineapple plants that you can remove and replant to grow even more fruit. If your old pineapple plant is no longer producing fruit, but does produce lots of pups (as one of mine does), it may be worth keeping it for a bit, just for the new plants. However, if after the plant fruits and it fails to produce pups, or it has been producing pups and you see it winding down, the plant will only take up precious garden or container space, and it should be pulled.
One thing is for sure, once you have successfully grown your own pineapple and have tasted the freshly picked fruit, you’ll want to start a new one ASAP! (And you can use the top from the fruit you grew!)
6. Kale and 7. Pansies:
Both of these plants are commonly seen together in flower gardens in various colors, around mail boxes, sign posts, and more. But few realize that both of these plants are edible. While kale can be used in salads, made into chips, used as a garnish and more, pansies may also be used in salads, garnish, cake decorating and sugared.
Kale and pansies are very easy to find in almost any home and garden store as young plants and seeds. Both are very easy to grow, and can be grown directly in the garden or in a container. (It is worth mentioning, however, that if you are growing kale, pansies or any edible plant around a mailbox that is on the side of the road, it is advisable not to consume those particular plants, due to contaminates that they may pick up.)
One of the most common and easy to grow herbs, chives come in many “flavors”, with each having its own edible flowers. (I personally love the purple globes of the onion chives.) They are also one of the first herbs a new herb gardener will put into a garden.
Chives can be found most anywhere herbs are sold, either in seed or plant form. They come up quickly, return year after year and can easily be tucked around the other plants in a garden, grown in a container outdoors or in a pot on the kitchen counter. And when their flowers bloom, they lend a beautiful and surprising pop to the landscape.
Chives pack a big punch for a rather small and un-intimidating plant and are a great choice for the beginning gardener or even a kid’s garden.
So, there you have it. Although it is just a small selection, that barely scratches the surface, you can see that it isn’t necessary to have to choose between a decorative garden with flowers, and food. You can have both! And don’t forget, most fruits and veggies begin life as a flower, in a whole host of shapes, sizes and colors, so depending on exactly what you’re looking for in your garden, as far as the garden, you just might be able to have it all!
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