Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) is a traditional European vegetable known for its tasty shoots, leaves and flower buds. This spinach relative grows in full sun or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. Harvest the tender shoots in spring. Hardy to Zone 3.
Native to eastern North America, groundnut (Apios Americana) is a nitrogen-fixing, 6-foot vine that bears high-protein tubers that taste like nutty-flavored potatoes. Grow groundnut vines near a shrub (as support) in a moist site that receives full sun or partial shade. Harvest in fall. Hardy to Zone 3.
In the same family as sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus, also called sunchokes) are grown for their underground tubers. You can eat them raw or cooked like potatoes. Their charming yellow flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden. Jerusalem artichokes are vigorous plants that spread by underground rhizomes and may become difficult to eradicate. Some gardeners consider them invasive. Zones 4-9.
Many gardeners grow Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) for their ornamental value, not realizing that they can be grown for their delicious, early Spring fiddleheads, which are a coveted delicacy in fine dining restaurants nationwide. (Fiddleheads pictured at the top.) They love cool, shady spots and are very hardy from Zones 2-8.
Ramps are an onion relative (Allium tricoccum) that grows wild in deciduous forests east of the Mississippi, emerging every Spring. They are a local delicacy that many people forage from the wild. How much easier to simply grow your own? Leaves and bulbs are both edible. Grow in a shady border in moist loam, or naturalize beneath trees. Hardy to Zone 4.
Scarlet Runner Beans
Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) are usually grown as ornamentals in most people’s gardens, but they are quite edible and nutritious, both as green beans and, later, as dried beans. The flowers, young leaves and tubers are also edible when cooked. Some Scarlet Runner beans plants have been known to live 20 or more years, practically taking over a garden! Hardy to Zone 4.
Sea Kale (Crambe maritime) is sometimes grown as an ornamental for its gray-blue leaves and white flowers on 3-foot-tall plants. The shoots, young leaves and flowers are edible, too. Hardy to Zone 4.
Sorrel is a perennial herb with tart, lemon-flavored leaves used for soups, stews, salads, and sauces. The two main sorrels grown are common sorrel, Rumex acetosa, and French sorrel, Rumex scutatus. They are relatives of rhubarb, and the leaves contain small amounts of oxalic acid that’s not harmful when consumed in small quantities, (unless you are sensitive to oxalates). Sorrel tastes best in early spring; it becomes bitter as the weather warms. It’s a delicacy that is hard to find in markets because it wilts shortly after harvest. Garden sorrel is hardy to Zone 5; French sorrel is hardy to Zone 6.
Perennial seeds and plants can be hard to find, depending on where you live. Here are some resources to get you started.
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