The 30 Most Valuable Plants for Urban and Suburban Food Forests

December 13, 2017 at 4:47 pm

The following edible plants give you the most bang for your buck when space is limited

In a recent post, I wrote about why permaculture is humanity’s last hope for long-term survival. We could go back to hunting and gathering, but there isn’t much wild food left to hunt or gather, thanks to the global destruction caused by agriculture.

Permaculture is not only sustainable, it’s regenerative, says author of the world’s best selling permaculture book Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition Toby Hemenway. It regenerates the soil, plant life, wild animals and eventually creates rich, complex, bio-diverse forest ecosystems, which produce tons of free, nutrient-dense foods.

But we can’t create paradise on Earth over night. We have to start somewhere, and it might as well be in our backyards. Since most of the global population now lives in cities and suburbs, Hemenway gives us tools to start from there and work our way out.

Below is a list of the 30 most useful plants for urban and suburban gardens from his book The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience:

1. Chestnut tree. In addition to nutritious, delicious chestnuts, the leaves are used medicinally for fever, cough, whooping cough, and other respiratory problems. They create habitat for small animals, attract beneficial garden insects and create forage for chickens and other animals. They also make a great hedge row, help break the wind for smaller garden plants, and provide  lumber.

2. Pine tree. Pinenuts, habitat, forage, hedge row, wind break, lumber,

3. Black locust. Nitrogen-fixing, edible flowers, edible seeds, attracts beneficial insects, creates animal forage and habitat, hedgerow, windbreak, lumber.

4. Honey locust. Edible seed pod, attracts beneficial insects, creates animal forage habitat and erosion control.

5. Apple Tree, Apples, beneficial insects, habitat, forage, hedgerow. Late and early varieties for eating, storage and cider can be grafted onto one tree.

6. Stone Fruit Tree. Stone fruit, beneficial insects, habitat, forage, hedgerow

7. Medlar tree. Related to rose bushes this small tree produces delicious fruit in the late falland provides habitat for small animals.

8. Bamboo. Edible bamboo shoots, habitat and forage for animals, makes a good hedgerow and provides windbreak, can be used as poles or support stakes for other plants, and the fiber can be used to make paper, cloth and other material.

9. Buffalo berry bush. Berries, beneficial insects, habitat, forage for chickens and other animals, hedgerow, windbreak, natural red dye making, nitrogen-fixing, drought resistant.

10. Red currant bush. Can be grown in shade, edible flowers and fruit, beneficial insects, habitat, forage, grows and spreads easily.

11. Gooseberry bush. Doesn’t need too much sunlight, edible berries, beneficial insects, habitat, forage, hedgerow.

12. Goumi bush. Tart berries, beneficial insects, habitat, forage, windbreak, hedgerow, nitrogen-fixing, tolerates air pollution.

13. Hazlenut bush. Nuts, oil, habitat, forage, windbreak, hedgerow, can be used for basket-making.

14. Purple Ozier Willow. Medicinal bark and leaves, habitat, windbreak, branches make beautiful baskets.

15. Raspberry bush. Berries, beneficial insects, forage, habitat, hedgerow.

16. Siberian pea shrub. Peas, beneficial insects, forage, windbreaker, hedgerow, nitrogen fixer, soil stabilizer, the leaves make blue dye.

17. American licorice. Edible licorice root, medicinal, nitrogen producing.

18. Cardoon. Edible fruit, beneficial insects, makes great mulch.

19. Comfrey. Edible leaves, medicinal, beneficial insects, chicken forage, nutrient accumulator species, produces large quantities of biomass, spreads easily by root division.

20. Daylily. Edible flowers, leaves, roots, attracts hummingbirds, stems can be twisted into cords.

21. Egyptian or walking onion. Edible flowers, leaves, roots and bulbs, attracts beneficial insects, while repelling pesky insects, nutrient accumulator species, can be used to make yellow dye.

22. Groundnut. Edible nuts and roots, nitrogen-fixer.

23. Kale. Hardy, perennial, nutritious greens.

24. Maximilan sunflower. Edible roots and shoots, attracts beneficial insects, repels deer.

25. Oca. Edible flowers, leaves and roots. Alternative to potato, rich in vitamins and minerals.

26. Russian sage. Edible leaves, attracts beneficial insects and hummingbirds, windbreak, hedgerow.

27. Sweet cicely. Edible leaves, seeds and roots, beneficial insects and can be used as a furniture cleaner/polish.

28. Yarrow. Edible, medicinal leaves used in tea, beneficial insects, nutrient accumulator,

29. Grapes. Edible fruit and leaves, habitat for small animals and used in dye making.

30. Kiwi. Edible fruit, habitat, spread aggressively by birds in areas with summer rain.