Low-Maintenance Edible Plants

Eight ideas for plants to turn your yard into a garden.
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Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Rugosa Rose

Jeremy Lewis, co-founder of Edible Yard & Garden (edibleyardandgarden.com) recommends the Rugosa Rose not only for its beauty but for the edible hips "that are just out of this world. They taste like little candies. You can make jam and jelly out of them but we just like to eat them raw."

Yarrow

A popular plant in butterfly gardens, this herbaceous perennial is well known for its medicinal use in teas (to combat severe colds) and as a topical salve to treat cuts and abrasions. The young leaves, which have a sweet, slightly bitter taste, can be used sparingly in egg dishes and stews or cooked like spinach and served as a side dish.

Asian Pear Tree

Often called apple pears because of their round shape, this fruit does not soften like a Bartlett pear but is crisp in texture and sweet and juicy when ripe. Asian pears are a common ingredient in Korean barbecue marinades and are tasty additions to cole slaw, compotes and other dishes. Plus they provide a striking visual accent to your yard when they are flowering.

Fennel

A hardy perennial with feathery fronds, fennel has a slight licorice-like flavor and is highly prized for its culinary and medicinal properties. It reseeds itself and makes an ideal ornamental plant with its yellow flowers and willowy appearance. The bulb can be sliced thinly and served raw in salads, roasted as a side dish to accompany pork or braised in chicken stock.

Italian Chicory

This leaf vegetable is a perennial, has a bitter, spicy flavor and can be eaten raw in salads or used as an ingredient in pasta, risotto or pizza. British chef Gordon Ramsay prefers to gently sauté it until “it becomes sweet and caramelized, like a cross between celery and Swiss chard.”

Jupiter's Beard

A native to the Mediterranean region, this perennial grows to a height of 3 feet and produces white, pink, red and crimson flowers. The sweet smelling flowers attract butterflies and an adventurous chef can try the leaves and roots in soups and salads just as the Romans did.

Strawberry Plant

This is one of the more rewarding and versatile fruits you can grow. You can let your strawberries go wild and use them as a ground cover or grow them in a sunny, well drained area where you can later harvest them for breakfast and dessert dishes. Or you can plant them in stacked planters where the plants will grow vertically, spilling over the sides.

Asparagus

On her blog author and master gardener Susan Morrison stated, “If asparagus were a car, it would be a sleekly elegant Lamborghini.” Besides its unique visual appeal, this intriguing perennial can produce delicious spears for more than 20 years though you can’t begin harvesting it until the third year. At the end of harvesting, the asparagus spears are replaced by ferns which can be used for mulch after the first frost.

Next Up

Low-Maintenance Plants and Flowers

A young family or a busy job may leave little time for gardening -- you may just want to be able to enjoy the yard without feeling guilty about the work to be done. Here are some ideas for plants that will look after themselves for most of the year, and not require a lot of pruning or fussing over.

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