Here’s A Guide To Unusual Perennial Food Plants That Can Thrive, Or Cope, With Partial Shade In British Gardens. Many Suit Food Forests.

I’ve always been intrigued by shade tolerant plants. Simply because most vegetables prefer bright sunshine to shade. To share my list of the more Unusual Perennial Food Plants That tolerate Or Prefer Shade .. here’s a quick list.

Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens)

This fragrant herb enjoys full sun to partial shade. It grows quickly and spreads easily, so planting it in a container is often recommended to prevent it from taking over your garden beds. Though in our food forest we let mint runs free, as being in woodchip they are easy to remove by hand. And they are excellent for pollinators.

Babington’s leek (Allium fistulosum var. babingtonii)

Can tolerate partial shade. This perennial leek has flat, blue-green leaves with a milder flavour than traditional leeks.  Leave it for the first year to bulk up. It’s a great choice for adding a splash of colour to a shady border.

Bellflowers (hardy) (Campanula spp.)

Most hardy varieties of bellflowers tolerate partial shade. These charming flowering perennials come in a variety of colours and heights, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. This is not a plant I’ve eaten but I’m assured it can be. See the link above.

Bladder campion (Silene vulgaris)

This wildflower can tolerate partial shade and has pink flowers with bladder-like calyxes. It’s a good choice for a low-maintenance wildflower meadow. The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads. older leaves are better boiled or fried first. Sauteed with garlic or added to omelettes.

Bowles’s mint (Mentha × villosa var. alopecuroides ‘Bowles Variety’)

Prefers full sun to partial shade. This mint variety has a delightful citrusy aroma and flavour. Like other mints, it spreads easily. Growing up to a metre high with beautiful pale mauve flowers loved by pollinators it is a hardy herbaceous perennial.

An Unusual Perennial Food Plants  that tolerates shade> Image from Incredible Vegetables
Hablitzia tamnoides from Incredible Vegetables

Caucasian spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides)

Tolerates partial shade. This leafy green vegetable is a great alternative to spinach, especially in hot weather. It has been grown in Scandinavia as an ornamental before given a new lease of life by an acquaintance of mine, author and plant expert Stephen Barstow. Stephen is the author of Around the World in 80 Plants. He also supplied Incredible Vegetable with their first plants, the progeny were ones I subsequently bought for our food forest.

More Unusual Perennial Food Plants Below

Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

Some varieties of columbine (e.g., Aquilegia canadensis) can tolerate partial shade, but flowering may be reduced. These delicate flowering perennials come in a wide range of colours. The flowers are edible but opinions are mixed on the rest of the plant with the general opinion being it is toxic!

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

This common “weed” tolerates full sun to partial shade. While often considered unwelcome, dandelions can attract pollinators and offer edible greens and flowers. Stephen Barstow, see above, forces it as an early spring vegetable at his home in Malvik in Norway. In the UKJ we have over 250 different variants of the dandelion.

European elder (Sambucus nigra)

This shrub can tolerate partial shade and produces clusters of white flowers followed by black berries (be aware, the berries are poisonous unless cooked). wine can be made from the flowers and berries ands elderflower drinks have become very popular in recent years. The wine made from the berries is as close to a good port as I’ve ever drunk without grapes!

False strawberry (Potentilla indica)

Prefers full sun to partial shade. This low-growing perennial produces yellow flowers and small fruits that resemble strawberries. The fruits and leaves of mock strawberry are edible but lack the flavour off real strawberries.

Golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium spp.)

While preferring full sun, some varieties like Chrysosplenium oppositifolium can tolerate partial shade. These low-growing perennials have star-shaped yellow flowers and attractive foliage. It is apparently edible though fairly tasteless. I’ve not tried it myself.

Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus):

Tolerates partial shade. This leafy green vegetable is a traditional European crop that’s making a comeback, offering a flavour similar to spinach. We have several plants in our food forest and will propagate more as it grows. 

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

Tolerates partial shade. This perennial herb is grown for its pungent underground root, used as a condiment. It does however require adequate moisture.

Hostas (Hosta spp.)

Thrive in partial shade. These shade-loving perennials come in a variety of sizes and foliage colours, making them a popular choice for low-maintenance gardens. The shoots are edible.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Prefers full sun to partial shade. This aromatic herb has a lemony scent and flavour, used in teas and other culinary applications.

Lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea)

Tolerates full to partial shade. This low-growing evergreen perennial forms a dense carpet of green foliage, making it a good choice for groundcover in shady areas. Though it’s rarely thick enough to stop all the plants.

Mallows (Lavatera spp.)

Certain mallow varieties like Lavatera cachemiriana tolerate partial shade. These flowering shrubs come in a range of colours and attract pollinators. Lavatera is edible though I’ve never fancied it. But is is a good plant for biodiverse gardens so worth growing.

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Prefers full sun to partial shade, but can tolerate some shade. This tall perennial is grown for its mucilaginous root, with are made into marshmallows and reportedly used medicinally. The leaves and flowers are also apparently edible in salads.

Mitsuba aka Japanese Parsley, (Cryptotaenia japonica)

Tolerates partial shade. This Japanese herb has a parsley-like flavour and is used in salads and other dishes. The flowers, stems, leaves and roots are edible.

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

Prefers partial shade to full shade. This large fern has tall, arching fronds and is a striking addition to a shady border. It’s one of those unusual perennial ferns with edible young ‘shoots’ that re safe too eat. Don’t try ferns unless you are sure they are safe!

Beware.  Some wild plants are poisonous so please note that you should be absolutely certain  you have identified a plant correctly before consuming it.  Plants can also prompt allergic and other negative reactions so, before eating any quantity, ensure you are not sensitive or allergic to plants you don’t have experience of eating.  

If in doubt don’t eat them.  None of the following should be taken as advice that plants are safe to eat  Please always get professional advice before consuming or handling unknown or unusual plants. 

Tag: Unusual Perennial Food Plants
Image Attribution: Mandy at Incredible Vegetables

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