Food Forest Plants
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ZonesLightMoistureSoil textureSoil pHFormHeightWidthRoot SpanLifespanGrowth RateNative?Edible?Medicinal?Nitrogen fixer?Ground cover?Dynamic Accumulator?Nectary?Cover crop?Notes
If Edible: Flavor Profile
Goji Berry/ Wolfberry5Full sunDrought tolerantS, L, Cshrub, mediumberries, shootsxxcan be tough to start, but once established, grows quickly & can grow in poor soil - can become invasive. recovers well from pruning. Hardy to about -15 F. Good for erosion control.
Alpine Strawberry5Some shadeMoistS, L, Cacid-neutralshrubfruitxxTolerates heavy clay. Fruit is smaller than normal strawberries (1.5 cm) but abundant. Loses vigor after first few years. Likes pine needle mulch. Grows well with bush beans, spinach, borage, lettuce and pyrethrum
Salad Burnet5Full sunMoistS, L, Cherb2'1'leavesMild perennial salad green with cucumber flavor. Can turn bitter in hot, dry conditions.
Beetberry5full sunDrought tolerantshrub2'annualxLeaves, berriesxSelf-seeding annual with edible leaves and small red berries. Like its relatives Quinoa and Lamb's Quarters, the leaves contain saponins and should be rinsed before eating.
Pinon Pine5Full sunDryneutraltree50'35's-mxnuts, needle teatraditional source of protein
Lady's Mantle5Some shadeDrought tolerantherbperennialxxEasy-to-grow in partially shaded areas, spreads easily. "The herb is alterative, antirheumatic, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, sedative, styptic, tonic and vulnerary" (PFAF)
Lotus5Some shadeDrought tolerant5.1-8.5Herb1"1-2'mx
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant3/10/2010Full sunDrought tolerantS, L, Cherb3'1'annualxleavesxxEdible leaves. Attracts bees. Used by Anasazi and Navajo as "fourth sister". Pretty purple-pink flowers in July-Aug
Lamb's Quarters/Huauzontle0 (?)Full sunDrought tolerantS,L,C4'2'fxleaves, inflorescence, seedsCommon garden weed - self-sows freely in most soils. Indicator of nitrogen-rich soils. Good companion for potatoes, corn and cucurbits. Leaves are good spinach substitute. Contains saponins, which can cause indigestion unless cooked/rinsed.
Running club moss1 - 8Partial shadeDrought tolerantherb, small5-12"indefsx
Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke)2 - 10Some shadeMoistherb, large6-12'indefperennialftubersxHeavy yield with little maintenance. Tubers sweeten after frost. Can take over if not managed. Contains inulin, which can cause indigestion. Long-term storage, boiling, or slow roasting will convert inulin to starches, making tubers more easily digestible. "The first frost kills the stems and leaves, but the tubers can withstand freezing for months" - PFAF "Whole tubers or pieces about 2 oz. should be planted like potatoes and covered to a depth of 5 in."- PFAF
Serviceberry/Saskatoon "Pigeon Berry" (Amelanchier alnifolia var. pumila)2 - 3Some shadeMoistS (L, C)5.5-7Shrub, M15'15'15-30 yrsxberryFor inflamation and pain when fruit ingested * true to seed. Plants fruit in 2-3 years. Hardy to -40 F
Silverberry2 - 6Full sunDrought tolerant15-30 yrsxfruitxOGW tastier, BRN hardier. good for hedgerows, poor soils, windbreaks. Resent root disturbance. Good-smelling flowers
Sweetfern2 - 6Some shadeDrought tolerantshrub, small3'4-8's-mteaxTolerates dry soil when grown in the shade. Leaves are astringent, blood purifier, expectorant and tonic.
Siberian Pea Shrub2 - 9Full sunDrought tolerantShrub, large15-30 yrsfpodsGood chicken feed, seeds are 36% protein, good hedge (thorny), winter hardy, drought tolerant. New growth can be trimmed and left on ground as nitrogen-rich mulch. "The seeds are edible cooked. Small, but produced in abundance, there are 4 - 6 seeds per pod. Having a bland flavor, it is best used in spicy dishes. The raw seed has a mild pea-like flavor. The seed contains 12.4% of a fatty oil and up to 36% protein, and it has been recommended as an emergency food for humans -
Ground Nut3 - 10Some shadeMoistS, Lneutral to v. acidicVine, M4'10'-25'mtuberxGrows naturally in low marshy areas of NE United States, forming long thin roots with tubers at intervals along their length. Can twine around neighboring plants for support, or trail on the ground. Tuber is 17% protein and takes 2-3 years to reach a sizeable harvest. Can be eaten raw or cooked. Best when harvested in autumn. stores well until the spring.
Wood Nettle3 - 8ShadeMoistherb1-3'1-3'cooking greens, teaxstings before cooked
Ginger, wild3 - 8ShadeMoistS, L, Cshrub, m4"1'stubersxRoots have pungent peppery ginger smell
Echinacea3 - 8Some shadeDrought tolerants,lherb, large3-4'1-2'm-fxxPFAF: "The plant has a general stimulatory effect on the immune system and is widely used in modern herbal treatments". Drought-tolerant once established. Attracts slugs. Harvest and dry roots and/or tops of mature plants and use in teas and decoctions. Great guide to growing and harvesting:
Sorrel, Garden3 - 9Some shadeDrought tolerantherb1'2'perennialleavesxLeaves are available year-round if in a good microclimate. However, "they tend to be almost tasteless early on, gradually gaining their characteristic and desired acidity and flavor as the season wears on". lemony flavor due to oxalic acid -> raw leaves in hi quantities will lock up other nutrients.
Groundplum Milk Vetch3 to 8Full sunDryS, Lherb (small)6-15"1-2'fxleaves, fruitxxSomewhat difficult to grow, esp for transplants. "The fruits are edible. They are very juicy and taste a little like pea pods. They were eaten by Native Americans and early settlers."
Currant, clove/buffalo3bSome shadeDrought tolerant(S, L) CxberryxOTC: one of the only currants that can be eaten raw. Best to have 2 plants for pollination. They appear to be self infertile. Hardy to -30 F. EFG: most drought-tolerant currant. PFAF: clove-scented flowers. ripens from late July and can hang on the bush until early autumn. Can also be dried for winter use.
Welsh Bunching Onions4 - 10Full sunmoist5.5 - 8herb, medium2-3'1-2'perennials-mbulbs, leavesxxVery hardy and easy to grow. bulbs are small (.5-1 inch diameter) but have strong flavor. leaves have mild onion flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. repels insects.
Kiwi, hardy4 - 8Moistvinefruit
Sea Kale4 - 8Some shadeDrought tolerant6.5-8herb, m2-3'3'5-10 yrsm-fleavesxlikes good, rich, deep soil and an open and sunny position with plenty of compost and manure. drought-tolerant
Ramps4 - 8ShadeMoistS, Lleaves, rootxPlant bulbs fairly deeply. Requires relatively rich soil. Inhibits the growth of legumes.
Chinese Magnolia4bFull shadeMoistberryxLemony berries. Leaves can be used as tea. Does well in full shade. Drought intolerant - requires irrigation. The fully dormant plant is hardy to about 0 F, though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts.
Paw Paw5 - 7Sun or shadeMoistshrub (l)15"15"sfruitNative to SE USA - Nebraska to Florida (largest native american fruit). requires some irrigation in CO climate. Hardy to -30 F. Begins bearing in 4 - 6 years and yields up to 75 lbs per tree. Slow-growing at first, established plants average 1-2 feet growth.
Goumi5 - 8Some shadeDrought tolerantS, Lshrub, large6-8'6-8'm - fberriesxDrought tolerant nitrogen fixer, hardy to -20 F. Great for hedges and companion planting. "The fruit must be fully ripe before it can be enjoyed raw, if even slightly under-ripe it will be quite astringent... the fruit is well hidden in the shrub and is quite difficult to harvest without damaging the plant."
Valerian5 - 8Full Sun-Partial ShadeMoistS, L, Cshrub, med4-6'xValerian root has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality and reduce blood pressure. Dry, rocky soil produces more potent oils than fertile soil. "When grown for its medicinal root, the plant should not be allowed to flower." "Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae) is a hardy perennial flowering plant, with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers...Valerian was used as a perfume in the sixteenth century...Native to Europe and parts of Asia, Valerian has been introduced into North America...Valerian, in pharmacology and phytotherapic medicine, is the name of a herb or dietary supplement prepared from roots of the plant, which, after maceration, trituration, dehydration processes...may be used for certain effects including sedation and anxiolytic effect." Wikipedia (
Prickly Pear5 - 9Full sunDryshrub4-8'3'sxfruit, padsxneedles
Rosemary 'arp'5 - 9Full sunDrought tolerantshrub, small/medium3-4'3-4'sherbx
Prostrate Broom6 - 8Full sunDrought tolerantherb (small)4 - 8"3' +mxdislikes root disturbance
Jujube6 - 9Full sunDrought toleranttree, small-medium15-30'15-30'ffruitxxHardy to -13 F. Grows quickly even in poor soil. Drought tolerant. Responds well to coppicing. 1/2-inchx1-inch fruit can be eaten raw or dried. Increases immune system resistance