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Ten Show Stopping Edibles

9 Stunning Plants That You Can Eat - LivingHomegrown.com

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.

Theresa Loe's Garden - LivingHomegrown.com

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.

10 Show Stopping Edibles - LivingHomegrown.com

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.

10 Show Stopping Edibles - LivingHomegrown.com

2) Radiant 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.

10 Show Stopping Edibles - LivingHomegrown.com

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.

10 Show Stopping Edibles - LivingHomegrown.com

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.

10 Show Stopping Edibles

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).

10 Show Stopping Edibles - LivingHomegrown.com

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)

10 Show Stopping Edibles

From my father’s winter garden

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.

10 Show Stopping Edibles

Frills Basil is on the left

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 Show Stopping Edibles - LivingHomegrown.com

Tri-Colored Sage

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!)

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.

14 Comments:

  • Jon says:

    Hi,
    I am also growing Rose Bianca (first time). How do you know when to pick it?
    Looks great , but i keep waiting in an attempt to get in just a little bigger.

    Thanks so much

    • theresa says:

      Jon,

      I go by feel. You want it to be firm with a little give. Too long on the vine and it starts to get soft. It starts out hard as a rock. So I just feel it each day until it starts to have a little give to it and then I pick. I hope that helps.

  • Mike LeFevre says:

    Hey now, beauty and functionality? Who would guess. My favorites are like yours: Chard (Neon Lights Mix) the red and the yellow especially, Eggplant (I grow the Black Beauty, because I like the size) because the blossoms are breathtaking but hard to photograph, Squash (any type and variety) their blossoms are the greatest and I have multi-photos to prove it. Any garden at sunrise with the dew or sprinkler drops sparkling like jewels on the leaves and vegetables….well, that is just the bee’s knees.

  • Kristy Kerce says:

    My pretty plants are burgundy okra, roselle, and cranberry hibiscus.

    • theresa says:

      Hi Kristy –

      I have not seen burgundy okra! I must check that one out. And cranberry hibiscus sounds divine. I love roselle too. It doesn’t even look real.

  • Laura Maxwell says:

    Hi

    How do you keep critters from munching on your plants?

    Laura

    • theresa says:

      Hi Laura-
      They don’t munch on the plants so much as the fruit & Veggies (which I assume is what you meant). I have a darn squirrel who is my biggest problem right now. He takes bites out of things. Ugh! I don’t have a special system, but am able to get most of my harvest if I don’t wait too long. I also have a system of cages to keep out birds and the squirrel. I use netting and a some chicken wire on my tomatoes sometimes. Other than that, I try to be faster then they are. Ha!

  • Gen says:

    I love using edible plants to add visual interest! We planted chives and evergreen bunching onions instead of ornamental grasses in a couple different flower beds. Edible flowers like nasturtium, calendula, and bee balm have been incorporated into the landscape, as well as ostrich fern (fiddle head fern), chili plants, and quite a few others. Love it!

    • theresa says:

      That’s great Gen. Sounds like a great combination. I have never grown fiddle head fern or chili plants, but I have seen them and they have great textures and colors.

  • franki says:

    didn’t know I was so fashionable.
    Chard volunteers all over my yard. I planted Bright Lights one year and it came back as red chard.
    Trombetta loves an old bbq grill lid. didn’t think it would grow in something so shallow but the metal/heat makes it grow like crazy.
    The base of the bbq is my herb garden.
    I have a 3-4yr old pepper plant I brought in one autumn because it still had green peppers. It’s thriving as a houseplant. Have a green & red pepper on it right now. Small but tasty.
    Cherry tomatoes are pretty, too. Red, Snow White, Yellow Pear, Sungold.
    I put a pallet on it’s side with containers of strawberries and use it as a screen for tomato plant containers & their ugly cages. I have some bean plants in containers between strawberries, thinking they would climb all over the pallet. alas, not so much. I’m bean impaired. I usually have 2 ripe beans at a time. this year I planted twice as many and was able to harvest 3 last week…

  • Christy M says:

    My golden oregano adds a bright chartreuse color to the garden. Purple Basil looks great next to the bright color.

  • Joyce says:

    I love pineapple sage. It grows tall and proud. Taste delicious.

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