Eat your garden plants – talk by Chris from Pennard Plants

Chris Smith of Pennard Plants spent an evening telling us about all sorts of new and overlooked common edible plants that we can grow in our gardens. This was an interesting evening which left us all inspired to try something new…

Grow perennial plants, particularly edible ones – this saves time

Chris recommends some unusual plants that we might not think of eating BUT DO NOT EAT IF YOU ARE NOT SURE OF THE IDENTIFICATION


Berberis darwinii – blue berries early in the season. In fact all Berberis berries are edible

Mahonia aquifolium – related to the Berberis, the blue berries are eaten widely in USA, good in jam

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) – herbaceous perennial, very easy to confuse with poisonous hedgerow plants. Leaves and stems (but all parts edible) can be added to rhubarb it is not a sweetener but removes the tartness of the rhubarb requiring 1/3 less sugar to be added.

Many Alliums – Wild garlic, 3 cornered leek (invasive), chives (chive leaf tea is a good fungicide as it is high in sulphur), Egyptian ‘walking onion’ (bulbils grow atop long stem), Allium wallichi (good in shade), everlasting onion (doesn’t die back in the winter like Welsh onion)

Perennial kales
a) Dorbentons – low growing
b) Taunton – big plant, less prone to slugs, snails & butterfly, mulch annually, good all year round

Jerusalem artichoke

Try parsnip cake, beetroot brownies, courgette cake..

The young shoots of Soloman’s seal taste a bit like asparagus

Daylily flowers or steam the young shoots

Fuchsia fruit when fully ripe can taste like morello cherry

Magnolia petals can be used to infuse vinegar or oil with sweet fragrance

Chinese artichokes – members of the mint family, easy to grow, will spread, fry with butter,hardy

Oca – Oxalis family, only just hardy, dig up and eat the largest tubers, replant the smaller ones chit in March / April, plant out May. Can eat the leaves also but don’t eat too many. Widely eaten in New Zealand and Asia: boil or roast

Mashua – relative of the Nasturtium. Different colours, spicy flavour, can eat leaves & flowers also. Climbs to 5-6 foot, quite hardy,easy, very productive

Yacon – 5-6 foot high, very very productive, like a dahlia dig up after the frost. Again like a dahlia you cannot grow it from the tuber rather a stem base where the buds are. Tubers are crisp & crunchy and keep til May. Can eat raw, tastes of pears, good infruit salad or roast, or make a syrup (very expensive to buy this syrup). Contains Inulin, a sweetness that the body cannot absorb therefore it is low calorie.

Szechuan pepper – very spicy (the flavour is in the pink coating rather than the black seed) very hardy shrub 5-6 foot high. Very productive, eat fresh or dry, difficult to propagate

Raspberry, wine berry…

Blue berry ‘Sunshine Blue’ – fruits over a long period (until November), ericaceous, productive

Honey berry- a member of the shrubby honeysuckle family (Lonicera caerulea var. Kamtschatica) flowering all winter, fruits in June, very hardy as it is from Siberia. You need two plants to ensure pollination and fruit set.

Ugni – last crop can be picked in September and kept several months in the fridge. Tastes of strawberry, makes good jam, very easy, can get a bit damaged by the cold so grow in warm sheltered spot.

Arona (choke berry) – very hardy, lots of white foamy flowers, black berries, high in vitamins & anit oxidants, a bit tart so good mixed in with other berries

Eleagnus – Shrub. all produce edible berries in the autumn. Eleagnus umbelatus has the largest fruit. This is also a nitrogen fixing plant so good for the garden fertility

Amelanchier – small tree with attractive flowers, spring & autumn colour. In Canada Amelanchier alnifolia is grown for its larger berries – taste like green apples


Medlar – eat when ripe not rotten. Makes good jelly, add to puddings instead of dates, very productive

Chaenomeles – the garden ornamental quince – hard fruit make good jelly

Crab apples – ‘Wisley crab’ produces fruit the size of an apple, dark red with red flesh

Some interesting potato varieties to try:
Violetta – purple flesh
Pink Gypsy – pink & white markings
Inca Belle – cooks in 1/3 of the time of a ‘normal’ potato, roasts in 20 mins

For full details of these plants and their availability are on  They will also be available at the
Pennard plants Potato day 22nd January Caryford Community Hall, Castle Cary 10.30-1.30 for over 90 different potato varieties! 

Further reading 
‘Taste of the unexpected’ by Mark Diacono


notes by Angela Morley