I grow and preserve a lot of my own food because I
- Want fresh homegrown flavor
- Enjoy access to unusual produce not found in the grocery story
- Love gardening.
The last item is key for this post. As a gardener, I have a desire for my food garden to be pretty and productive.
It’s no secret that I use vegetables and herbs as landscape plants. I always have. (You can see some shots here)
Being Gorgeous Does Not Mean They Are Dingbats:
Through the years, there have been a select number of edible plants that I find simply stunning in the garden. In fact, I have to admit that a few of these I started growing purely for their looks.
Yes, I was using them like you would a super model at a car show to showcase my other garden assets. I didn’t even care if I ate them in the beginning. It was shallow of me…but I’m not ashamed.
After these beauties started producing food in my garden, they wooed me into tasting them. And then, they won me over in the kitchen as well.
Below is my list of “must-have” landscape plants – that all just happen to be edible. But here’s the thing, I find these plant so stunning that I would still grow them even if I wasn’t eating them. Their colors and textures are what drew me in. The fact that I can eat them…well, that just makes me adore them all the more.
10 Gorgeous Edibles That Deserve a Spot in Your Garden
Here are my favorites in my garden right now. When possible, I listed an online source. (These are not affiliates and I was not asked to promote anyone.) I’m sure there are other sources for many of these. In some cases, I do not have a link because I bought them at a local store. But I’m hoping by listing them here, it will make you seek them out in your area.
1) Striking Swiss Chard
People tease me about how much Swiss Chard I grow because it is way more than I could possibly eat. It’s true. I love how chard looks in my garden and I grow too much. But I eat it too! I use it raw in my smoothies and sautéed as a side dish. When I can’t keep up, I give the extra to my chickens and my neighbor. (They get equally excited.) My favorite chard is “Bright Lights” with yellow, pink or golden orange stems.
2) Radient Rose Bianca Eggplant
Both the flower and the fruit of this plant are unusual. In fact, I have been known to leave the eggplant hanging on the stem until the last possible moment – just so I can enjoy its glory! I slice it up and grill it all summer long. Rose Bianca is becoming more common in the nurseries and I am finding it everywhere.
3) Italian Summer Squash
This is a climbing squash called “Trombetta” and it is one of my best producers. Unfortunately, we just ate all the squash off the plant last week, so I have nothing to show at the moment. But it is quite lovely – even without any squash hanging off the stems. Perfect for small space gardens, this squash just needs something to climb up on. The creamy, white squash hang down off the plant like tree ornaments. The trick is to pick the squash while they are young. Too long on the vine and they grow to be 3 foot long clubs with a tough texture. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) I grow mine from seed from Renee’s Garden.
4) Dazzling Kale
Oh Kale…let me count the ways! There are numerous varieties to choose from with various leaf structure and coloring. Grow them all if you can! They offer color, text and high nutrition! You can start by growing Red Russian, Lassinto, and Redbor.
5) Pineberries (White Strawberries)
Yes, they really are white and they taste like pineapple-strawberry. I love them. They are not big producers. But who the heck cares?! They’re white! My local nursery carries them. But you can also mail order ‘White Delight” from Annie’s Annuals.
6) Uniquely Colored Peppers
I grow about 15 different peppers throughout my garden. I am especially fond of the brightly colored bell peppers. But hot peppers are mixed in as well. When the pepper plant is covered in color, it just adds pizzaz to the garden. I use peppers in my fermented vegetables, salads or just thrown on the grill. Some of my favorites include: Sweet Tangerine Dream, White Bell, Cherry Stuffer Sweet. I have also found a chocolate beauty bell and purple (which is almost black).
7) Colorful Varieties of Beans
I think most gardeners know the value of beans as a landscape plant. The vining varieties add visual interest to an otherwise drab wall or fence in the garden. Not only do you get a fast growing vine (that stays in control), but you get unusual flowers and colorful pods. All this makes vining beans the ultimate edible for the small space gardener! I grow about 6-7 different pole beans in my garden each year and a few bush varieties. They are all easily grown from seed. My favorites for visual impact are: Rattlesnake/Purple combo pack, French Gold, Scarlet Runner Bean and for bush beans I grow the Tri-Colored Bush pack. (In the photo above I have L-R: French Gold, Rattlesnake and Purple bush)
8) Eye-Candy Lettuce Plants
You cannot go wrong with lettuce. Look at all its advantages: easily grown from seed, 100′s of varieties to choose from and it is delicious. But add a few unusual varieties to the border of a flower bed and people will ask if you will share the seed. It just has great impact. I grow lettuce in unusual containers (to avoid snails & slugs) or as a edging plant. Try growing Romaine Freckles, Four Seasons Butterhead, or Flashy Trout Back.
9) New & Unusual Basils
I grow over 50 different kinds of herbs and yes, all herbs make great landscape plants. You get color, texture, aroma and even healing properties. But this year, I grew a few “new” varieties of basil that out performed the rest. Now, I do have a great climate for basil here in Los Angeles. So, I can’t vouch for how well these might do in your neck of the woods. Now two of my favorites, Emerald Frills and Ruby Frills are new releases from Burpee Home Gardens. You should be able to get them next year. But the lovely white variegated ‘pesto perpetuo’ basil (on the right in the photo above) is available all over the country. If you grow any of these, you will have a show stopper in your garden that also tastes great.
10) Sexy Sage
Sage (saliva) plants also make excellent landscape specimens. They are drought tolerant, colorful and many are fragrant and/or edible. But there is one that I would grow purely because it is so pretty. I love tri-color sage with it’s white edging.
So, what edibles would you grow purely for looks?
Are there any show stoppers in your garden this year?
(Tell me in the comments below!)