By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Snippet: Plants you never realized you could eat from the backyard. Perennials that are pretty and edible. A vegetable calendar that works for Arizona gardens. Edible border plants. Shrubs you can eat. Pretty vegetable plants. Edible garden flowers.
Indigenous people have known many of these plants since the beginning. Here are some fun facts about local plants as tasty as they are pretty in the backyard gardens.
Here is a listing of some edible perennials that may surprise you. All are available at Watters Garden Center or are being shipped in a few weeks. Insider links to each plant are provided to learn more to pre-order and secure your plants before other gardeners. Here’s a list of favorite edible plants for the backyard.
Panda bears enjoy munching on bamboo shoots, but they aren’t the only creatures that want them. I like to grow bamboo in a container on the back deck. It’s beautiful and edible. When early shoots appear in mid-spring, they are tender and delicious. Conveniently, bamboo grows quickly and prolifically under the right conditions, so you may grow as much or as little as you like.
With brightly colored flowers on top of stalks that grow up to three feet tall, with floppy leaves circling the base, a lily usually is considered an ornamental contribution to a landscape. But did you know it’s also edible? Enjoy the shoots, some of the spring tubers, the flower buds, and the blossoms.
The dahlia plant is small, no more than a foot high, grows well in compact spaces, and easily blends into spicy container gardens. Its petals and small tubers are unique edibles. Experiment with different varieties to discover their distinct flavors.
While roses are pretty to look at and sweet to smell, they also can be delicious to taste. In many Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, roses make sweet floral preserves and vibrant garnishes. Here are 12 recipes for using rose leaves, hips, and flowers from Mother Earth News.
This classic garden plant is easy to grow with various varieties. I really enjoy hostas with variegated leaves to spruce up the shade garden. Break off the edible young shoots from the clumps in the center of the plant. There is some debate about whether all species of hostas are edible, but the ‘Sagae’ variety was initially used as edible and is safe for sampling.
The pads are intimidating because of their tiny spines but easily removed by scraping with a knife. The pads are cooked and added over meat and fish. Prickly Pear Pad Recipes. The plum-shaped fruit, called Indian figs, prickly pears, or tunas, ripens in late September. The outside becomes bright red, and the insides turn a fiery orange, making a beautiful syrup, preserves, or jelly. In some parts of Mexico, the tunas are fermented to produce heady liquor.
Honeysuckle will quickly cover a wall or fence with a cascade of color and fragrance. It also produces an abundance of edible blossoms. As an extra surprise, the blue-berried variety produces a blueberry-like fruit!
Lady’s leek is grown as an ornamental for its bright bursts of small flowers. The name gives it away as an edible leek, also part of the garlic family. Use the delicate flowers, onion-like stalks, or garlic-like bulbs in your garden recipes.
This local native grows wild at all elevations of Arizona. Flowers (petals only) and fruit are edible. Other parts of the plant contain saponin, which is poisonous; even Javelina won’t eat this spiky plant. The flowers have a crunchy, fresh flavor.
Perennials to Avoid – Some flowers should not be eaten. Here’s the list of local plants to avoid eating: azalea, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, oleander, rhododendron, jack-in-the-pulpit, lily of the valley, and wisteria.
Free Gardening Class at Watters Garden Center in July.
July 2 @ 9:30 am: Gardening for Newcomers
July 9 @ 9:30 am – Plant Better Berries and Grapes
July 16 @ 9:30 am – Avoid these Common Pest at All Cost
Visit the Entire Spring Class Schedule
Until next issue, I’ll be helping local gardeners plant edible flowers here at Watters Garden Center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or Top10Flowers.com.