Edimental Plants Are Plants That Are Both Edible And Ornamental. But Which Ones Are Included Is Often Down To Culture As Much As Science. In This Article I Examine The Whole Edimental Plant Concept.
Edimental plants may well be a new idea to you. Indeed I can find no dictionaries that define the word and google only lists 10,500 references which is an incredibly low number for an online search. But edimentals do exist as a gardening idea and have done so for a very long time.
What Are Edimental Plants?
In one sense without a dictionary definition it’s hard to define the term. But in another sense that gives us freedom to determine its meaning. For mew it’s easy. It’s a plant that is both edible and ornamental. And I’ll shortly give you some examples.
But in a sense the definition I suggest makes it very difficult to propose plants that are considered edimental by everyone. For example the potato was initially grown in the UK as an ornamental plant. No one ate it because they thought it was poisonous. Now we consider it a food plant but few people grow it as an ornamental. That’s a pity in a way as it has wonderful foliage, is perennial and has beautiful flowers.
But is it a true edimental today?
Tomatoes are much the same. Grown as Love Apples but never eaten in one century and as a significant commercial edible crop a few centuries later.
Another edimental in my book is rhubarb. But most people grow it in the vegetable garden and consider it an edible. They’ll perhaps grow other members of the wider rhubarb family as ornamentals but not rhubarb. Why not? It has beautiful architectural leaves and a beautiful and dramatic flower spike.
Another plant that is no longer grown in most gardens as either an ornamental or edible plants is Alexanders. But in the 1700s cottage gardeners all recognised it as an edible and it was commonly grown. And being such a magnificent architectural plant I’d argue it was an edimental. But as so few people grow and eat it today is not an edimental?
Perhaps my definition means that plants can be edimental plants one century and a foraged plant another.
Which Part Of Edimental Plants Can We Eat?
The answer is simple. It depends!
Like all plants some have leaves and shoots that can be eaten, some have flowers, some roots or tubers … it can be any part or on some species several parts.
For example pansies are a wonderfully colourful plant with edible flowers.
And nasturtium have edible flowers and leaves that taste peppery.
Jerusalem artichoke is a tall erect plant that looks good in the back of a tall border and the toots can be lifted in autumn and eaten.
Dwarf Jerusalem artichokes are similar to the above. Just smaller.
Globe artichokes have that wonderful “thistle” looking flower that is wonderful eaten with melted butter. Not only are they wonderful to look at and to eat, they are also attractive to bees, and other pollinators, which makes them a great plant for biodiversity.
And so it goes on. There are so many plants that are edimental plants or edimentals as they are more often called.
Food Forest Edimentals
Many edimental plants work well in food forests. Rhubarb in the glades and Ostrich Fern for Fiddleheads in the understory are just two examples. Hostas are another ornamental edible though few people in England tend to eat it these days.
More Edimental Plant Species
Perennial Korean Celery (Dystaenia takesimana) aka Korean Pignut, Ulleng Giant Celery or Wild Celery,
This is an edimental plant that reaches two metres in height and has a flavour somewhere between lovage and celery. It’s interesting ion soups and stews and stays green all winter. It’s winter hardy and tolerate cold weather vey well.
Udo (Aralia cordata)
Udo is a hardy perennial that also grow to two metres in height. They prefer a shady spot and can be forced to produce early edible shoots in spring. Don’t harvest all the shoots though as you’l want it too grow all summer and be there for next year.
It will die back in autumn and, as well as a bit of shade, needs plenty of moisture. So it does best in shady moist spots.
Don’t worry if the plant gets ahead of you and you miss harvesting the young shoots, the young stems are also edible.
duo often take a year or two to bed in and get settled before making rapid growth. But by year two or three you’ll suddenly see rapid growth and big well established plants that last several years.
Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius)
Yacon hail from South America and are grown for their tubers. After digging the tubers leave them in sunlight for a up to a week and they get sweeter. The tubers are described as. fresh tasting, sweet, crisp with a hint of apple, pear and celery.
Yacon are propagated from rhizomatous shoots that develop at the base of the stem.
I grow some of my kale in my flowerbeds where they prosper. I’ve written extensively about perennial kale elsewhere so will not write more here. Just follow the link.
There are hundreds of edimental plants I could add to this post. and in time I’ll add more. In the meantime enjoy the video below.
External Information Sources
I’d normally link this post to an external source so you can learn more. I tend to use Wikipedia as a standard linking site as I find it reliable. However, the concept of edimentals is so unusual that it doesn’t even exist on Wikipedia.
Fortunately there is one source of information outside of wiki and it’s one I find very reliable. I commend https://www.edimentals.com to you.
For a great list of 80 perennials, many of which are edimentals, from around the world, I recommend the following book.
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