When it comes to your garden you want it to both be beautiful and practical. While veggies are very practical sometimes they are lacking in the beauty department. However you can use even areas exposed to the neighborhood, like front yards, to add plants to your landscaping that look great and are useful at the same time. Here are some of the cool plants you can grow and eat with no one the wiser:
Canna Lilies – The first one on our list is very common to Southern climates. Able to grow in various types of soil from dry and rocky to underwater, this hardy flowering plant is beautiful as well as prolific. This plant propagates by sending out shoots so your best bet is to keep it in a container or raised garden bed. It can take over your entire garden if you let it. However those new shoots have another purpose. They can be eaten! The young shoots can be cooked and eaten like bamboo shoots and are great sliced up in stir-fries. The tuber-like growths that form in the root system of the Canna Lily are also edible. They can be eaten like a potato and have even more starch content. Prized by Native Americans, these tubers can be dried and ground into flour for baking. The large banana-like leaves of this plant can also be used to wrap food for cooking.
Lotus – A water plant that is perfect for small ponds, the pretty pads and colorful blooms make this plant well known among gardeners. But did you know that parts of this plant are edible as well? The seed pods that form in the fall are full of nutritious and delicious seeds. Eat them raw, roast them or ground them up into nut butter. Make sure you remove the green center first because it has a bitter and unpleasant taste. These seeds are full of vitamins and minerals and taste great. In the late summer and early fall runners also form with tubers at the end. Since they grow underwater they can be difficult to harvest but they can be eaten like a potato. Better yet, slice it and candy it with sugar and ginger for a tasty treat.
Redbud Tree – This tree is well known for the decorative pink flowers that form directly on the branches in spring. However that is not the only reason to plant this small tree. The flowers are edible and quite sweet when open. They make a beautiful addition to salads. After the flowers fall off seed pods form. They look and taste like snow peas. However you should eat them within three weeks of their appearance because they quickly turn hard and stringy. Add the seed pods whole to salads or sauté them for a tasty meal.
Maple Tree – We all know about Maple syrup, but that is a Northern thing, right? Well, Maple trees have a lot more to offer than just sap. The young leaves of the tree can be eaten raw and make a great addition to salads. They have a slightly bitter flavor and pair well with oil and vinegar dressings. The seeds of this tree are also edible. They form in wing like seed pods that need to be removed, but then the seeds can be eaten raw or roasted like pumpkin seeds to bring out the flavor.
Pecans and Walnuts –This one is easy to understand. Pecan trees thrive in the hot Texas climate and there is nothing better than snapping open a fresh nut and digging out the tasty innards. Some types of Walnuts also do well in Texas, though not all of them produce good tasting nuts. Make sure you know what type of Walnut you have before biting into one.
Date Palm – Palm trees do not do well everywhere, but if you live in an area where they thrive you can be rewarded with dates. In the U.S. zones 9 to 11, where the weather is hot and dry, are the best places to get a date crop. These small fruits are super sweet and are best eaten dried. They can be added to a variety of dishes and are very big in ethnic cuisines.
Rose – The common rose is one that you would not really think about eating but there are a couple parts that are edible. For one the flower petals themselves are edible. They can be added to salads for a lightly flavored and beautiful accent or made into jelly. Rose hips, the round parts that form when the flower dies, are full of Vitamin C and taste great. You can make tea out of it or a tasty jelly.
Sweet Alyssum – these tiny white flowers are common additions to spring flower beds. Though they wilt in the heat during the spring you can harvest this relative of the mustard plant for its seeds, leaves and flowers. The leaves can be used like mustard greens and the seeds and flowers give a spicy kick to dishes raw or cooked.
Mayhaw or Hawthorn Bush – Common near the swamps of Louisiana, this East Texas treat is frequently made into jelly. The Hawthorn bush grows in wet areas near swamps and bayous. The Mayhaw fruit is red and is best harvested when it becomes dark colored. With a tart flavor and tons of vitamins this small bush is worth planning in low lying areas of your yard.
Barbados Cherry – Imported from the Caribbean this evergreen shrub loves the Texas heat. Each of the small red berries it produces has a day’s worth of Vitamin C. With a strong sour flavor the berries can be added to dishes raw or cooked but are best eaten as jelly. You can also eat the flowers but that cuts down on the berry harvest. Harvested from May until the first frost, you get the largest harvest of berries if you have two or more plants within four to sixteen feet of each other.
Bottlebrush Tree – Another small tree with a brilliant display the red bottle brush flowers have the scent of mint or menthol. Used as a bug deterrent you can lay branches and flowers around areas you want to keep bugs out. You can also rub the flowers on your skin to dissuade mosquitoes. As far as eating goes both the leaves and flowers of this plant are edible. Make them into a tasty tea or add to cooked dishes for an exotic flavor punch. The leaves are best used if they are dried for a few weeks and they can last several years if kept dry and covered.
Kumquat and Loquat – Last but not least are some Chinese imports. These two small bushes are frequently grown for their large green leaves and sweet scented flowers. However they also have some tasty fruit. Related to the citrus family, the Kumquat is ripe and ready for harvest when it loses all of the green coloration. It can survive cooler temperatures and produces its fruit for a long period of time. The skin of the fruit is sweet while the inside is sour making it a good idea to eat the fruit with the skin on. It is frequently made into jelly and eaten that way but it can also be dried, canned or eaten fresh. More like an apple or plum, the Loquat is ripe when the skin of the fruit becomes slightly wrinkled. The fruit is full of vitamins and minerals and is used medicinally in high concentration as a light sedative. It can also be made into wine. The leaves are also used medicinally to treat digestive and respiratory issues. The fruit can be eaten raw but is usually made into jelly.
This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from housekeeping.org. She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @ gmail.com.