Thursday, 31 January 2008


I read this wonderful piece in the KGI forum, by Nancy, and thought it would be useful to take into account when planning where to plant your autumn vegetables...

"Greens and onion-family members are the most shade-tolerant of vegetables. Of the onions, scallions & chives will tolerate more shade than bulbing onions. Corn Salad aka Mache, and Miner's Lettuce, would both make good salad greens. Lovage (basically a perennial celery) - Comfrey - Sorrel - Horseradish - Lemon Balm - Borage - Garlic Mustard can be an invasive weed, but if you have a taste for strong-flavored greens you might like it - Lady's Mantle - Mint - Nasturtium (a permaculture book I read said the viney type can be trained up trees) - Calendula - Sweet Cicely (licorice-flavor), Tansy.

Stinging Nettles are highly nutritious and said to be delicious steamed - cooking takes the sting out, but you'd have to gather them with gloves on. I mean to plant some when I have a shade patch free of weeds and grass - I don't want to have to weed around them!I used to have a semi-shady patch of a tuber-producing Betony (Stachys) from Peru, called Oca, but lost it a few years ago when I was going through some big changes and didn't have enough time for my garden.

However, since most of our domesticated vegetables were originally bred from species that prefer open sunny ground, you'll find more shade-lovers among wild plants. Peterson's guide to edible wild plants has nice long list of plants you might find in moist woods - I won't copy all of it. Some of them don't reproduce very fast and it would take years to cultivate a patch before it would be big enough to harvest from. Ostrich fern produces edible fiddleheads. Wood sorrel makes a nice green nibble or salad ingredient. Violets someone already mentioned. Wild ginger. Spiderwort. Wild leeks, aka ramps, are hugely popular in some parts of the country, not sure how far north they can grow. Honewort is the native cousin of the Japanese Mitsuba; I've yet to find Honewort seeds for sale but I've seen Mitsuba in some seed catalogs.

Many of the strawberry species - European alpines & musk strawberries, or native wild strawberries - prefer some shade and might do better for you than the domesticated strawberries. Wintergreen and Salal might do well for you; I'm too far south for them.On a larger scale, Redbud flowers and young leaves another salad item. Pawpaw prefers some shade, makes wonderful exotic fruit, and there are cultivars bred to produce more fruit than the species naturally tends to. Spicebush berries are a lot like Allspice; I must say that the ones I've planted have yet to produce any fruit after 4 years, and I've read that there are male and female plants so you'd need several.

Most of these, being unfamiliar, might or might not suit your taste, but I've left out of the list a lot of things that either grow too slowly to be worth cultivating unless one is very patient, or tend to be described as edible but not necessarily tasty."

1 comment:

Chook said...

Fantastic!!! This is just what I wanted to see. I'm just about to start work on my shade patch. Now - where do I get all of these wild plants?