Edible Landscaping: Hidden Food and Medicine

Have you ever been told by a non-prepper that it’s not worth growing a garden “’cause if things get bad people are just gonna steal your stuff anyhow?”

That statement is made of fail. Fail, deep-fried and battered in fail, drowned in fail sauce with a side of fail. It’s like saying “why bother buying gold? People with guns will take it from you!”

Or better, “Why bother getting married? Marriages almost always end in divorce!”

Look… most people are idiots (MPAI). They make excuses for not prepping because they have inherent character flaws, like laziness, lack of self-control, and FAIL. You can ignore them.

However, if you are worried about people stealing your food in an emergency, consider growing some plants that most folks won’t recognize. The more they look like standard landscaping, the better. Mixing medicinal, edible and useful species together is a great way to NOT look like a gardener, while still feeding your family.

For instance, take a look at this patch of landscaping in my front yard:

Landscaping

Looks like a nice display, right? Got a little cactus… a little palm tree… some flowers and greenery. If you saw this, would you be thinking “FOOD?” Probably not. You’d just think the owner liked ornamental plants. Now here’s a look at the same patch with some labels in place:

Landscaping560

Wait? What’s all that? Are those EDIBLE?

Well, most of them are. At the very least, they’re useful species to have around. Let’s break this thing down a little bit. In this pretty landscaping we have:

Aloe

Reknowned as a healing herb, aloe’s juice is used for treating burns and wounds. It can also be taken internally for various complaints.

Bananas

A nice background plant, bananas are a delicious edible that can be cooked green as a starchy staple or allowed to ripen into one of the world’s most delicious fruit. Though highly recognizable as food, it also fits easily into a landscape plan.

Canna lilies

Canna lilies have edible blooms that can be put into salads, as well as having good, starchy, highly digestible roots that can be added to stews or slow-cooked until soft. The leaves are also useful as a source of good compost – worms love them.

Cassava

Cassava is a staple for the tropics and sub-tropics. Its roots are large and starchy, containing a wealth of calories. As an extra bonus, the leaves are edible as a nutritious green once boiled and contain plenty of protein. (If you don’t have any yet, you can buy cuttings here).

Comfrey

Also known as knit-bone, comfrey is a legendary healing herb for wounds. It’s also an excellent fertilizer plant for other, more needy crops. Chop the leaves and drop them around plants that need a boost – and voila! You’ve fertilized!

Globe Amaranth

Though it’s mostly an ornamental, this pretty annual can also be used to make healing teas. Or something. A friend gave me the plant, so I planted it. And it’s nice.

Malanga

Malanga is a tropical root crop that’s a cousin of the common “elephant ear.” It looks just like a regular elephant ear, except the roots are a delicious, nutty edible.

Papaya

This is like a tree that grows canteloupes. I’m too far north to grow them well, but I still grow them and harvest the occasional fruit before frost. An attractive plant, they’re highly ornamental inside their proper range.

Pindo Palm

Pindo palms are planted as an ornamental cold-hardy palm throughout the Deep South. What’s lesser known is how delicious their fruit is. Though they can be used for wines or jellies, as well as a tasty treat right from the tree, pindo fruit are rarely recognized as edible.

Prickly Pear

People know there is such a thing as a prickly pear… but they rarely know how to recognize or eat it. There are a bunch of “pad” cacti out there. From my reading, they’re basically all non-poisonous – but out of the bunch, the true “prickly pear” is one of the best sources of food.

Rosemary

Beyond being a tasty culinary herb, rosemary is also antiseptic and like, totally crazy healthy for you. (I read that on the internet and I believe everything I read on the internet.)

Wormwood

Wormwood lives up to its name. It actually drives parasites from humans and animals. I’ve also used it as a bracingly bitter tea to calm an upset stomach. Beyond that, wormwood is a good stand-in for hops in brewing, and can also be used to flavor your homemade absinthe.

Yaupon Holly

I wrote on this holly tree last week in my article on growing your own caffeine. It’s easy to grow and has caffeine in it. What more can be said? CAFFEINE!

Get Planting!

This bit of landscaping started as a little rose garden. From there, it grew into a larger patch of edible and ornamental species. Beyond what you can see in the pictures, there’s also oregano, lemon grass, ginger, hyssop, peanuts, velvet beans, loofah gourds and many more canna lilies. If you’re starting your own plants, it’s pretty easy to keep plugging things into your regular landscaping. As your edible varieties grow in number, you might want to start yanking out poisonous and non-useful species. As an example, I had a prickly hedge of holly out front which I replaced with blackberry bushes. One weekend’s work and we get to eat blackberries for years. (Or at least, we would have if it wasn’t for the toxic manure I brought in on accident.)

Your growing region is probably different from mine (meaning a lot of my plant choices won’t work for you), so keep an eye out for varieties you can grow locally. Do your research, keep your eyes open for non-traditional crops, avoid planting in rows, and you’ll be able to grow plenty of food without anyone knowing what you have.

Unless you’re an idiot and post a labeled photo on the internet.

D’oh!

About David The Good

David The Good is a naturalist, author and hard-core gardener who has grown his own food since 1984. At age five, he sprouted a bean in a Dixie cup of soil and caught the gardening bug. Soon after, his dad built an 8’ by 8’ plot for him and David hasn’t stopped growing since. David is the author of four books, writes a regular column for The Ag Mag in North Central Florida, is a Mother Earth News blogger and has also written for outlets including Backwoods Home, Survival Blog and Self-Reliance Magazine. You can find his books on Amazon here. David is a Christian, an artist, a husband, a father of seven, a cigar-smoker and an unrepentant economics junkie who now lives somewhere near the equator on a productive cocoa farm. Visit his daily gardening and survival blog here: The Survival Gardener And for lots more gardening info, click here and subscribe to his often hilarious YouTube channel.

View all posts by David The Good

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