More Information About Culinary Plants
The results weren't always pretty, but these intrepid tasters discovered an amazing variety of culinary plants that also happen to look great in the landscape. By the strict definition, a culinary plant is a vegetable (leaf, root, stem) that you eat, but not a fruit, seed, herb, leaf, or any part that you make tea or alcohol from. However, for our purposes, we are going to define a culinary plant as any plant that you can eat, including herbs and spices, fruits, seeds, as well as any plant part that can be used to make tea or can be fermented into spirits.
Of course not every culinary plant is as tasty as a turnip, and some garden perennials require quite a bit of processing (cooking, pickling, etc.) to be made edible, but the adventurous perennial gardener can greatly expand their palette if they are inclined to. Included in our list are plants that can be eaten raw, plants that require cooking to remove toxic or distasteful compounds, plants that are popular with cultures outside of the US, plants that were popular edibles in the past, subsistence crops (plants that take a lot of effort to prepare but provide only a few calories) and famine crops (plants that have distasteful flavors or textures but are be eaten when times are tough).
When growing culinary plants in the perennial garden, it is important to know which plant part to eat. People can eat almost any plant part including roots, bulbs (corms, rhizomes, tubers), stems, twigs, bark, pith, stem hearts (cortex), immature or mature leaves, leaf petioles, fruits, flower buds, flowers, nectar, pollen, seeds, or seed oil. In preparing our list of culinary plants we consulted many sources but relied heavily on the "Plants for a Future" website (www.pfaf.org) as a reference to the edibility rating of our plants. They also provide brief preparation guidelines and notes on toxicity. Disclaimer - we have not eaten most of these plants and advise caution and plenty of research before eating any plant in these lists...remember, here at PDN, we grow perennial plants for their looks, not their taste. When you finish your research and are looking for where to buy culinary plants for your perennial garden, we hope you will check out our culinary plant list.