Here Are 7 Edible Shrubs and Trees
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
It's an excellent alternative for shifting from high-energy annuals to high-yielding perennials for food sources to eat the leaves of trees and shrubs.
Moringa (the Moringa genus)
I adore this tree in general. It is fast-growing, drought-resistant, and exceedingly productive. The leaves are tiny and may be eaten raw as salad greens or added to omelets, stir-fries, soups, and other dishes. I can barely walk by a tree without grabbing some leaves for a snack. They have a mustard or rocket flavor with a bit of nutty.
In addition to being famous for its health benefits, moringa is a great accumulator of nutrients in the garden. It is also an excellent understory tree, or it may be coppiced, grown as a living fence, or pruned into a hedge. Its roots and stems, like its seeds, are also edible and may be used to purify water.
Katuk (Sauropus androgynus)
Sweet leaf bush, a katuk bush, is one of my favorite shrubs and trees. They have a sweet, pea-like taste and are produced in large numbers by the plant. The leaves are nutrient-dense, particularly in protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. They're also known as tropical asparagus tips because they thrive in wet soils, tolerate some shade (an understory jungle shrub), and root well in water. In the tropics, katuk thrives but can also be grown in a greenhouse. It got erroneously marketed as a weight-loss supplement due to eating katuk in minimal amounts. After being incorrectly marketed as a weight-loss supplement, the food was wrapped in a dangerous-to-eat scandal.
Mulberry (the Morus family)
A permaculture favorite, mulberry is a quick-growing and productive tree that produces lots of berries instead of leaves. It is drought-resistant and can be chopped down and used as mulch or animal feed in various climates. The leaves are edible but must be cooked before eating. They can also be used to make tea in the same fashion as mulberry leaves. It's a great multipurpose plant that might become a large tree if adequately cared for.
Chaya (the Cnidoscolus family)
I'm growing this tree in quantities by cutting off branches and sticking them in the dirt. Cut a short branch off, let the sap dry, and stick it in the ground. However, it will take time, but it will root. The shrubs grow more than seven feet tall and require little attention to produce heavily. Chaya must be cooked (not in aluminum, which we should avoid anyway) as it is poisonous raw, just like kidney beans, chicken, and potatoes. It resembles spinach and is similar in many respects. It can be used in eggs, stews, rice, and pizza, in addition to the usual spinach uses. It is entirely edible.
Goji (Lycium barbarum)
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are a Chinese fruit that has gained attention in the international superfood community. Goji berries are high in amino acids and antioxidants, which are beneficial in preventing cancer. Goji berries are most commonly eaten dried, but their leaves can be eaten raw or cooked as a soup or stir-fry.
Goji berries are simple to cultivate and even grow in containers. They can be grown as shrubs or grown on a trellis. The plants thrive in alkaline soil and will spread over the ground if left to their own devices. Young plants need moist soil, but established plants are tolerant to drought. They are drought-resistant once established.
Linden (the Tilia family)
The linden, or basswood, has species from Europe, Asia, and North America. In addition to being known as lime trees outside the United States, they have non-toxic, non-disgusting, and non-ridiculously tough leaves. They are one of the only large trees that produce flowers rather than fruit. Besides being a rapid grower, linden trees are great for shade and blossom. Young linden leaves may be used in sandwiches and salads to replace lettuce. Foragers benefit significantly from the abundance of leaves on linden trees and their nice size. They may also be used to make medicinal tea for colds, coughs, and throat issues.
Hibiscus (particularly, Hibiscus acetosella)
Many hibiscus species produce edible leaves. I like the hibiscus 'Cranberry Hibiscus' for its dark red leaves, which have a slightly tart taste just like cranberries, and their striking appearance in salads. 'Cranberry Hibiscus' plants are simple to cultivate, and I frequently save cuttings in water bottles to expand the number of plants in my garden. They can also be used to brew impressive lemonade. They are simple to grow, can self-seed and spread profusely, and can grow as high as two meters if cut back regularly. They blossom in full sun but can tolerate shade if given slightly acidic soil and a little drought.
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