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Which are your favourite "vegetable trees"?

 
Goran Christiansson
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Hello, growers!

In the temperate West-European climate where I reside, trees are no longer used for vegetables. This is a pity.
I want to introduce "vegetable trees" from other temperate regions.

Today, we have plantings of the "lettuce tree" - Tilia cordata - which is an excellent salad green. (recommendation: coppice/pollard to get fresh leaves from april to august)
We also have the "lentil tree" a.k.a. Siberian pea shrub, Caragana arborescens, which is still young, but seems to bear prolific. (Does anyone know of a selected cultivar with extra-large seeds?)
Some European chestnuts trees take the role of "potatoe trees".
We enjoy the stir fry and soup of the "onion tree" - Toona sinensis.

Now the question is to you:

Which other "vegetable trees" do you grow and recommend?


Which varieties work well for you, and where do you source them? 
(We have only selected varieties of chestnut, the rest are all seedlings - and I suspect there is a lot of opportunity for improved varieties!)

(- and as an aside: What do you think about the name "vegetable tree" to explain to "normal people" the possibility of tree crops/carbon farming?
I do have the excellent books of Eric Toensmeier, Martin Crawford and J. Russel Smith. Other pointers are welcome!)


 
Morfydd St. Clair
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
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Hi Goran!

I have planted a couple of Tilias, which I plan to keep coppiced.  I'm not much impressed with the taste but we'll see in a couple of years.

I've managed to kill my Siberian Pea Trees (I know, impressive), I think because I put them in a waterlogged location.  I'm thinking of replacing them with Caragana brevispina from the Balkan Ecology Project:  http://www.balkep.org/caragana-brevispina.html .  These seem to be smaller (good in my case) but with bigger pods (also good).  I know the leader of BEP posts here regularly - he may have more to add.

I have a couple of Yellowhorn trees, that I haven't yet tasted as they're quite young.  I'd love to have Saltbush, but I killed those as well. Sigh.  My garden is quite small, but I'm thinking I have room for a Silk Tree, which wouldn't get huge until it's time to take out the huge decrepit apple.

I'm in Germany, and have purchased from Martin Crawford (agroforestry.co.uk) and Eggert Baumschulen (eggert-baumschulen.de).  I have not had good luck with the Agroforestry trees, which may be because of my incompetence or from shipping trauma.  Shipping is also quite expensive to continental Europe.  Eggert Baumschulen is a fairly standard nursery, local but with quite an interesting selection, and so far their trees seem to be doing well.  I'm interested in ordering from BEP, but haven't yet taken the plunge.

For my Seattle, USA, garden, I've ordered happily from Forest Farm and Oikos Tree Crops, and have a lovely nursery (Swanson's) just around the corner.

ETA:  Oh, and I think the term "vegetable tree" makes a lot of sense!

ETA again:  Grammar
 
Tyler Ludens
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Our native Cedar Elm Ulmus crassifolia produces loads of edible seeds which can be cooked as a vegetable when immature.  Also native Redbud flowers and pods are edible.  Flowers are good raw in salad and immature pods can be cooked as a green bean.
 
Mike Turner
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Location: Upstate SC
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The new growth on mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) can be eaten as a cooked green, the tree fixes nitrogen, and is a fast grower, continuously producing new growth all summer long.  The tree also blooms for several months, producing flowers attractive to butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and can be cooked as a vegetable.
 
Morfydd St. Clair
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
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Mike Turner wrote:The new growth on mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) can be eaten as a cooked green, the tree fixes nitrogen, and is a fast grower, continuously producing new growth all summer long.  The tree also blooms for several months, producing flowers attractive to butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and can be cooked as a vegetable.


Right. I know it as Silk Tree, and should have included the botanical name.  It's also a beautiful tree and as a canopy layer provides dappled rather than deep shade.  It drops a lot of litter, which is great for mulch but untidy, so I need to be sure it's not directly over the patio.

I was hoping that the windbreak trees and hedge bushes around my Kleingarten were Beech, with edible leaves and nuts, but apparently they're Hornbeam.  Ah well, I get bushels and bushels of leaf-fall mulch every year.
 
Mike Turner
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I was wondering how many of these vegetable trees are good tasting as opposed to "edible" or "acquired taste".  There are a number of plants that are listed as edible and were eaten locally in quantity in the days before worldwide explorations introduced the best tasting and productive plants throughout the globe, at which time these edible but poor tasting, tedious to process, or low productive plants fell out of use. An example would be the camas lily, which was a mainstay vegetable for the natives in the Pacific Northwest interior, but now is little used as an edible.  Also acorns were a mainstay for the natives in California, but was quickly dropped in favor of the many plants from other parts of the world that were introduced by the Spanish missionaries.  Poi in Hawaii is probably also heading down this route since now there are so many other easier to process and less "acquired taste" food plants available now.
 
Shawn Harper
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Mike Turner wrote:I was wondering how many of these vegetable trees are good tasting as opposed to "edible" or "acquired taste".  There are a number of plants that are listed as edible and were eaten locally in quantity in the days before worldwide explorations introduced the best tasting and productive plants throughout the globe, at which time these edible but poor tasting, tedious to process, or low productive plants fell out of use. An example would be the camas lily, which was a mainstay vegetable for the natives in the Pacific Northwest interior, but now is little used as an edible.  Also acorns were a mainstay for the natives in California, but was quickly dropped in favor of the many plants from other parts of the world that were introduced by the Spanish missionaries.  Poi in Hawaii is probably also heading down this route since now there are so many other easier to process and less "acquired taste" food plants available now.


IMO a lot of non tasty edibles are only a dozen or so generations from tasty. They just need breeders to take an intrest.
 
Goran Christiansson
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"Just edible" or "delicious"...

Well, taste is of course different for each of us and here is a personal opinion piece. DonĀ“t flame - post your favourite vegetable trees instead. (I hate dandelion leaves, or at least the ones I have tasted were far to bitter for me. Some people love it.)

I really, really like the flavour of tender, translucent, light green linden leaves from the Tilia cordata. IMHO they are better than most kinds of lettuce. Not as crunchy, but superior flavour. Super simple to grow and to harvest.
Chestnuts are of course great, both in sweet and hearty dishes.
Toona sinensis leaves are a great combination of onion-flavour-chewy spinach. Very good. I cannot purchase any vegetable with this great taste and texture at the market.

I suspect that we have a west-european cultural blindness for/against vegetable-trees. When I lived in China, I saw plenty of excellent vegetable-trees that were grown and harvested on commercial scale (e.g. Toona sinensis). All over Asia I have seen fantastic bushes and trees with parts that are used as vegetables. I hope we can grow and share more knowledge about vegetable trees all over the world.
 
Roy Hinkley
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Location: S. Ontario Canada
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Today, we have plantings of the "lettuce tree" - Tilia cordata - which is an excellent salad green. (recommendation: coppice/pollard to get fresh leaves from april to august)


We have Basswood - Tilia americana - up here. The leaves are bland but OK in the spring. I'm just starting to look at this one.
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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So far missing from this thread has been any mention of the sourwood (Oxydendron), an Appalachian native; and the rose-of-Sharon, a hardy Asian hibiscus common as an ornamental.  New shoots of both are edible, even raw; the acid taste of the sourwood gives it it's name. 
 
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