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Favorite edibles for shade?

 
Robyn Oxley
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Hi Dave!
I live in the Pacific Northwest and am in the process of starting a food forest in our backyard. We already have some large, mature fruit trees and wonder if you can recommend edibles that will grow well in shade.
Thanks!
Robyn
 
Dave Jacke
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Robyn,

Thanks for the question! Much depends, of course on how much shade you have . . . etc etc, but here are a few ideas. There are many medicinals I would grow in shade too, but you are asking for edibles, so ....

My favorite shade-loving edible, by very far, is wild leek or ramps, Allium tricoccum. DELICIOUS sweet onion flavor, spring ephemeral (green for about a month in spring, dormant the rest of the year), each bulb puts out two donkey-ear-shaped leaves. I usually harvest only one leaf per plant, but that's because my patch is still establishing and I'm trying to let them make seed and spread and keep coming back each year. They prefer rich moist soil under deciduous trees. My patch is under a crabapple and doing fine even in sandy soil (with lots of compost), though I expect they'd be better off in loamier, moister soil.

Other ones I like or would try:
- mushrooms, of course!
- miner's lettuce, Montia (now Claytonia) perfoliata
- Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris (fiddleheads)
- Amphicarpaea bracteata, ground bean (the common-er name "hogpeanut" is a slight against native people, so I shy away from that name)
- giant Solomon's seal, Polygonatum commutatum biflorum
- hosta (early spring shoots edible)
- if you have a lot of room and aren't afraid of a potential monster, fuki, Petasites japonica
- rhubarbs can actually do OK in shade
- violets of almost any stripe, but especially cultivars Rebecca, Little David, or Delicia, which taste like a mix of vanilla and wintergreen (yum!)

There are others, but this will have to do for now.
Peace! And enjoy.

d
 
Robyn Oxley
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Wow, thanks so much! I look forward to researching all your suggestions!!
Robyn
 
John Polk
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If you live anywhere 'fine dining', 5-star chefs pay a premium price for ramps.

A good source for seeds, bulbs, or a 148 pg book on ramps is here:
http://www.rampfarm.com/

A great addition to omelets, breakfast potatoes, stir-fries, soups, salads, etc.

 
Ce Rice
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Wow, great question and great answer. Some cool plants i'd never heard of. Definetly got me to thinking!!
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Speaking of sprawling monsters... don't forget nettles, Urtica dioica,m wonderful green, freezes well, and mint... apple mint being my favorite tea... . Thanks for the viola variety tip!
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Paul Cereghino wrote: and mint... apple mint being my favorite tea... .

Apple mint is eating my family's old place from several different directions. It's hardcore in temperate climates!
Raspberries, mountain pawpaw, currants, gooseberries and alpine strawberries enjoy dappled shade in forest margins.
(I haven't taken your climate into account...)
 
Ed Waters
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My OH just wrote an article on ramps: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-maffett/ramps_b_3117971.html

The over harvesting is a problem. One thing that works really well for us is we replant the roots along with the very tip of the bulb after we have prepared them. They grow right back the following year. We work with the chef's that we supply to also collect these for us. In areas where the ramps are well established, I am finding that the numbers can triple in one year's time. That may not be indicative of overall rates, but it seems to hold for us.
 
William Donald
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elderberries!!
medicinal AND edible as a berry or jam!

Im about to plant a few elderberry bushes in the shadier sections of a garden I am designing. They do well with maintenance too, so you could prune them in favor of the sun if you're shade is that limiting (they like partial shade, not full).
 
Jose Reymondez
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Location: Galicia, Spain Zone 9
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There are a bunch of Mahonia species (like Oregon Grape) that fruit in the shade I think.
 
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