Unexpected Edibles
Many perennials and woody plants that are a permanent part of our landscapes have edible possibilities. 
Some are obvious and others more obscure.
 

Species

Common Name

Attributes

PLANTS WITH FRUIT

Actindia varieties

Kiwi

Fruits better with male pollinator, smaller but sweeter than commercial grown

Akebia quinata

Fiveleaf Akebia

Fruit is gooey and has a great, sweet taste but seedy.  The skin though is bitter.  Not self-fertile.

Amelanchier species

Serviceberry

Sweet, small fruit ripen in June, can be used raw, cooked or dried

Aronia melanocarpa

Chokeberry

Fruit tastes vary by variety, used in jelly & juice, self-fertile, rich in pectin

Chaenomeles speciosa

Flowering Quince

A stringent tartness dissipates with cooking, used in jelly.  Pick after frost.

Cornus kousa

Chinese Dogwood

Fruit is used raw or cooked, sweet and juicy, custard-like flesh.  Ripens late summer.

Cornus mas

Cornelian Cherry

Tart cherry-like fruit ripen in August.  Use in jelly and jam.

Gaultheria procumbens

Wintergreen

Round ¾ inch bright red berries have wintergreen flavor.  Best picked after frost.

Malus domestica

Eating apples

Domestic fruit, grown for apples.  Cultivars range in texture and tartness.

Malus dolgo

Crabappe

Can be used in jellies and jams.

Sambucus canandensis

Elderberry

Cooked flowers/fruit are very flavorful, useful in pies and jelly.  Must be cooked, never eat raw.

Vaccinium

Blueberry

Useful raw, cooked or dried.

Vaccinium macrocarpon

American Cranberry

Classic cranberry, tart fruit is usually dried or cooked, high in vitamin C.

Viburnum (native)

Viburnum

V. cassinoides, lentago, prunifolium have edible raisin-like fruits in autumn.  V. trilobum in jelly and jam.

PLANTS WITH NUTS & SEEDS

Carya ovata/lacinosa

Hickory

Edible nuts are sweet raw or cooked into cakes and pies

Castanea mollissima

Chinese Chestnut

Sweet nuts when cooked, low in fat and oils but high in good carbohydrates and protein.

Cephalotaxus

Japanese Plum Yew

The seed and fruit are eaten in Japan.  Fruit is said to be better from Fastigiata.  Not self-fertile

Corylus species

Filbert

Edible Hazelnuts, excellent raw or can be used in baking.  Ripens mid to late fall.

Fagus americana

American Beech

Sweet nuts in fall, with a good texture.  Can be used raw or cooked.

Fagus sylvatica

European Beech

Edible nuts can be toxic in large numbers.

Juglans

Walnut

Produces large nuts with age.  Raw seed is sweet and rich tasting.

Pinus korainesis

Korean Pine

Pines are not self-fertile.  Seeds are delicacies.

Pinus parviflora

Japanese White Pine

Pines are not self-fertile.  Seeds are delicacies.

Quercus

Oak

Nuts can be sweet.  Can be used raw, cooked or ground.

FOR THE TROPICAL FEEL

Asimina triloba

Paw Paw

A relative of the tropical Custard Apple, the fruit tastes of banana custard.  Fruit ripens in fall and needs cross-pollination.

Ficus ‘Chicago Hardy’

Chicago Hardy Fig

Fruits are purplish-brown with a good sweet flavor when fully ripe.

Passiflora incarnate

Hardy Passion Vine

Fruit has a sweet taste cooked or raw, once ripe.  Useful in jelly, little pulp.  High in niacin.

Phyllostachys aureosculata

Yellow Groove Bamboo

Young shoots are excellent after cooking, barely bitter.  Can also be used raw.

Phyllostachys nuda

Snow Bamboo

Young shoots are excellent after cooking, barely bitter.  Can also be used raw

EDIBLE FLOWERS

Aquilegia species

Columbine

Flowers are very sweet, rich in nectar, and make a beautiful garnish.

Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed

Flower buds cooked.  Flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup.

Hemerocallis

Daylily

Daylily buds and flowers can taste a bit like asparagus/green peppers

Hibiscus syriacus

Rose of Sharon

Flowers and young leaves have a mild, sweet flavor

Monarda

Bee Balm

Leaves and flowers add pleasant aroma to salad and tea, reminiscent of Earl Grey tea

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Russian Sage

Flowers have a sweet taste, lavender scent, useful in salads or as a garnish.

Tradescantia

Spiderwort

Flowers (raw) and young leaves (raw or cooked) edible.  Flowers make a nice garnish.

AROMATIC FOLIAGE & SEASONING

Agastache

Anise Hyssop

Sweet anise taste to the leaves that can be used raw or cooked.

Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender

Raw leaves and flower petals used as aromatics only in moderation.

Myrica pensylvanica

Northern Bayberry

Leaves can be used as bay leaves, remove after cooking.  Delicate but subtle flavor.

Thymus species

Thyme

Leaves raw or dried give a nice aroma and flavor to food.  Harvest early summer if drying.

STEMS & ROOTS

Acorus

Sweet Flag

Stalks and spadix taste good when tender, rhizomes are candied or dried and ground.

Asarum canadense

Wild Ginger

Roots edible, spicy flavor, aids digestion

Dryopteris filix femina, Matteucia struthiopteris, Osmunda cinnamonea

Ferns

Young fronds , before they fully unroll, are thick and succulent when cooked.

Pontaderia cordata

Pickerel Rush

Whole plant can be eaten raw or cooked, nutty flavor. Seed can be cooked like rice or roasted.

Sagittaria latifolia

Arrowhead

Root has texture of potato and flavor of sweet chestnut when roasted.  Harvest late summer.

Typha latifolia

Cattail

Highly edible plant with many uses and preparations. Young flower shoot tastes like sweet corn.

TEA

 

 

Galium odoratum

Sweet Woodruff

Leaves make an excellent tea, flowers a tasty garnish.  Scent of freshly mown hay.

Rhus typhina

Staghorn Sumac

Fruit has a tart lemony flavor high in vitamin C.  Soak in hot water for a lemonade substitute.

Rosa rugosa

Rugosa Rose

Very sweet fruit used raw or cooked, high in vitamin C.  Flower petals edible too.

Sassafras albidum

Sassafras

Collect roots in spring when tree is dormant.

IMPORTANT TO BEE KEEPERS

Nyssa sylvatica

Black Gum or Tupelo

Source of tupelo honey.

Oxydendrum arboretum

Sourwood

Pollen source for late season honey.

OTHER USES

Acer saccharum

Sugar Maple

Sap is used in production of maple syrup, harvested late winter, early spring.

Betula alleghaniensis

Yellow Birch

Usefulness as flavoring, tastes of a sweet wintergreen. Sap is harvested early spring.

Humulus lupulus

Hops

Used mainly for the flavoring for beer.

Juniperus communis & scopulorum

Juniper

Dried fruits of these varieties can be used for flavoring.  Communis is used to flavor Gin.

No liability is accepted for any adverse reactions from the use of these plants.  Plants need to be correctly identified, properly cleaned, and where applicable, prepared correctly.
Many resources exist for obtaining more certainty before any plant is ingested.