13 BEST Edible Plants for Los Angeles and Orange County California Landscaping
It goes without saving that avocados, citrus, rosemary and thyme should be growing in everyone's garden in California. They're beautiful year round, can withstand drought and deliver potent food and medicine.
If there's one thing we know it's that growing food should be easy, affordable and damn good looking. You know that our region is home to one of the most productive farm belts in the world. But did you know California is also a paradise for perennial crop production?
We've put together a list of our favorite ultra easy low-water food producing crops so you can always have something to eat in your yard. Jussst in case of emergency (or pure curiosity). You'll recognize a few of these but there'll be quite a few more you never imagined putting in your salad.
Did you know the average American eats only 6 different fruits and vegetables in their regular diet? Even if you're a diverse omnivore our country's farms produce barely more than 36 different food crops. But there are literally 1000s of edible plant varieties on the planet.
Let's mix it up!
Click on the links for each plants to read about edibility ratings and toxicity risks. Don't be too intimidated by toxicity ratings. Just about every fruit or vegetable we eat has some (or even a lot). Why do you think beans and broccoli give us gas???
DISCLAIMER: Consume at your own risk. California Wild Gardens is not responsible for any and all effects related to plant consumption. Nor are any parties associated with California Wild Gardens. Always start with a small amount and see how your body responds before proceeding.
13 BEST Edible Plants for L.A. and OC Landscaping
Persea americana - We know you know. These big juicy beasts are the talk of the California town. Avocado trees yield big bumper crops of fruit every other year. And their pits can be crushed for a delectable oil. They can be a bit tricky to grow as the trees get big and most require cross pollination. But more and more self-fertile - and also DWARF - varieties are coming out all the time...Like this "Little Cado"
2. Redbud Tree
Cercis Occidentalis - Western redbud is a gorgeous California chaparral native tree that produces pretty pink edible flowers in spring and edible [*when cooked*] purple bean pods in early fall. Paired with cute heart-shaped leaves, a preference for part shade and gorgeous fall color you got one magic easy-to-grow bean tree on your hands.
Cnidoscolus - Chaya, or Mayan Spinach, is my go to secret greens tree. Shade loving, latino growing cooking greens glory. Ultra nutrient dense leaves can be substituted for spinach, collard greens or chard. One less thing on the grocery bill here you come!
4. Feijoa - Pineapple Guava
Acca sellowiana - The gorgeous flowers of this shiny-leaved hedge plant (or tree!) make a glamorous edible addition to deserts and salads. And then there's the fruit, little pineapple-banana custardy guavas. A favorite garden plant in Australia, check the blogs from down under for recipe ideas! Oh, and look out for squirrels, they love these things.
Agave Americana - That's right, this massive every L.A. backyard bad boy is also an epic emergency food - and water! - source. The young flowering stalks can be cooked as a vegetable and even the leaves can be cooked in a pinch.
6. Golden Bamboo
Phyllostachys aurea - There are a dozen bamboo's that produce sweet shoots for preserving or eating fresh.This one is one of the sweetest, most readily available and consistent spring producers.
Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis - the less hybridized the varietal the better. The greens of this plant were one of the main salad ingredients on the chocolate farm I lived on in in Costa Rica. They're a tiny bit slimy but savory, juicy and with a slight spice that cuts up well with big chunks of carrots and lime. The flowers also make the classic tea and beverage ingredient! They grow like crazy without a lot of care and be pruned [aka harvested] regularly.
Pasiflora edulis - In addition to the smoothie star Passionfruit, the true Passion flower (an American native) can be cooked and eaten like a hearty vegetable. Sure it's hard to eat blossoms that are so big, beautiful and butterfly attracting but there's usually more than enough to go around. Of course dried passionfruit is a classic sleeping supplement and mood lifter in old fashion herbal remedies.
Simmondsia chinensis - The name might sound tropical, but this plant is actually a California desert native. The protein rich nuts were used for fodder for sheep and goats in much of the 19th century. While unprocessed the nuts have a bitter taste, their oil is highly sought after for skin care. We recommend having at least one nut producing plant in the garden for an emergency protein source, and this one is on a nice size with gorgeous olive-like foliage.
10. Native Currant
Ribes aureum - Beautiful generous producer of juicy wine berries the whole family can snack on. A true California native that can grow in full sun or part shade and churns out a pest resistant crop for long periods.
11. Day Lily
Hemerocallis fulva (or any less hybridized yellow variety) - A popular vegetable in China the yellow buds cook up like fragrant green beans. The shoots cook up like a fresher version of asparagus. The flowers petals also make a gorgeous and juicy addition to salads.
12. Canna Lily
Canna - We saved one of the most essential for last: gorgeous, easy grow root vegetables. Root vegetables are important and often forgotten crops to add to your larder.
13. Cabbage Palm
Cordyline - Darn good-looking easy grow root vegetables! sweet starchy tuber that grows gorgeously in shade, pots or tropical gardens
A few others to think about: dragon fruit, pitaya and other cactus fruits (like night blooming cactus!), air potato, lotus root and SO much more! Don't forget the self-spreading walking onions.
In short there's an endless cornucopia of exciting culinary prospects out there just waiting to fill out our dinner plates.
Curious about more crazy edibles? Check out Eric Toensmeir, Food forester at large, Perennial Vegetables and author
And Our favorite predictable vegetables:
Arugala, Kale, Tomato/Pepper, Squash, Beans