Drought Tolerant Edible GardenApril 22, 2014
A majority of our gardening clients ask for drought tolerant edible gardens. Usually, they tack on a request for low maintenance as well. Achieving all three goals: low water needs, edible and easy care doesn’t quite fall into lock-step with a traditional, seasonal vegetable garden filled with (say) tomatoes, spinach and carrots.
While you could reach this trinity with a neglected yard lush with edible “weeds” like purslane and dandelion, your neighbors might not see the value as much as you do. Certainly, an herb garden might begin to fit this bill, but you would still need to provide supplemental water to get the garden growing, plus a few flavorful, woody herbal shrubs aren’t likely to truly fill your family’s belly. So, what’s the key to creating a beautiful garden that you can eat and you don’t need to heavily water in a drought or fuss with every day?
Enter noted plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson, author of several books including Trees of Seattle and Wild Plants of Seattle. Also, he is the author of over a hundred articles on weeds and the former curator of the Weed Garden at Seattle Tilth. In his own garden, he cultivates all sorts of fun plants — from natives to weeds to the rare and unusual. And, he’s tasted many of them and happily shares what he’s eaten. In one of his recent newsletters, he mentioned that many sedums are edible; he knows because he has eaten them.
If you read this blog or have worked with Garden Mentors® on a garden design or consulting project, you know there are any number of hardy, beautiful, drought tolerant, perennial sedums. These plants come in a range of colors and sizes, and their blooms are magnets for honeybees and other pollinators. And, the seed heads that remain into winter are food for foraging songbirds.
Turns out, according to Arthur Lee in our recent email exchange, many are also food for our plates. He does warn that while, “Hundreds of Sedum species exist, I have tasted only dozens. Most are unpleasantly astringent, or even acrid.” But there are several he does favor including one of our favorites for the garden: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and a Great Plant Picks favorite Sedum ‘Sieboldii’.
Arthur Lee’s Top Tasting Sedum List:
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (‘Herbstfreude’) Europe (Autumn Stonecrop)
Sedum præaltum DC., Mexico (Mexican Bush Stonecrop. Green Cockscomb)
Sedum rhodanthum Gray, W. USA (Queen’s Crown)
Sedum Rosea (L.) Scop. = Rhodiola Rosea, Circumboreal (Roseroot)
Sedum ×?rubrotinctum R.T. Clausen = S. guatemalense hort. 1975, Mexico (Stonecrop. Christmas Cheer. Pork & Beans. Jelly-bean Plant)
Sedum rupestre L. = S. reflexum L., W & C Eur. (Jenny Stonecrop. Stone Orpine)
Sedum sarmentosum Bge. = S. lineare ‘Golden Teardrop’, E Asia (Stringy, Trailing or Whorled S. Gold, Graveyard or Yellow Moss. Star Sedum)
Sedum sieboldii Sweet ex Hook. = Hylotelephium S. (Sweet ex Hook.) H. Ohba), Japan, (October Daphne Stonecrop)
Sedum suaveolens Kimnach 1978 = Graptopetalum s. (Kimnach) R.T. Clausen 1981, NW Mexico on shaded cliff faces
If you would like to learn more about (or from) Arthur Lee Jacobson, visit his website or visit his garden. Turns out I got in touch as he was preparing for an open garden day on Sunday, April 27, 2014 from 12pm-6pm. He will have all of these sedums (and much, much more) on display, open for discussion, and much more.
Be sure to ask about his up-cycled bike wheel edible succulent garden while you’re there!
Garden Mentors® has not eaten any Sedum species, but we’ll be trying a few bites soon. And, we’ll be trying them sparingly as we do with every new food. Remember: Not all edibles work for all individuals, so try eating sedums at your own risk. According to Arthur Lee’s newsletter, the best bites come with new growth in spring, which is right now. And, he suggests they’ll taste better picked in the morning.
Update: Robin gave a tender new leaf of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ a nibble, raw. Her verdict: It’s bitter, but not terrible, and that tiny bite didn’t make her sick or kill her. Cooked might be interesting or with a bit of of dressing. But, for now, she’s taking her consumption slow, as with all new foods.)