Growing food in your yard is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Nothing’s more local than a home grown veggie patch. But what if your personal microclimate just isn’t right for growing food? For a vegetable gardener, nothing is less appealing than a patch of shade. Take heart! Shady areas can be a blessing on hot summer days, and there are even vegetables and fruit that thrive in the shade. What are these elusive plants?
Leaves Love Cool Places
Those who have a semi-shade yard often have a wonderful ability to grow greens that would bolt in hotter, sunnier areas. When everyone else’s lettuce and spinach are going to seed and turning bitter, your greens are still growing strong far into July. For those who have an even shadier yard, try growing sorrel. This lemon-flavored leaf has an intense taste in spring salads, and it thrives and self-sows in shadier areas.
Many greens from Asia are a perfect addition to a shadier garden. Mizuna, daikon, and kohlrabi love cooler places. Mizuna is a leafy green that adds visual interest and a fabulous taste to early spring salads. Daikon is a giant white radish that can be quite pungent. Kohlrabi? It’s the most creative-looking vegetable around, an orb that looks like a miniature UFO and can be chopped into sticks for veggie dip. It tastes a little like broccoli.
Fruit In the Shade
There are even fruiting plants that will grow in the shade. Red elderberry is an excellent jam and wine plant that is native to the Pacific Northwest. Salmonberry is a relative of the raspberry, and its orangey-red berries become ripe in June. Gooseberries will also tolerate partial shade, and kiwi vines are noted for climbing up shade trees to reach the sun.
Oddball Food Plants That Love the Shade
These may not be the oddest plants around, but they’re definitely not beans and peas. Those gardeners who love licorice might like to try Sweet Cicely. This fern-like plant can take over the shade garden if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for a plant for the intense shade, and you don’t mind eating your way through a profusion of licorice-like leaves, Sweet Cicely is for you. Another plant for the shade is the ostrich fern, whose fiddleheads must be boiled or steamed for at least 20 minutes – and served with butter, of course! This gorgeous fern extends to over a meter when its fronds finally emerge.
Shade gardeners, unite! You may not be able to grow tomatoes and squash, but food can be grown just about anywhere. Even under a nice, shady tree.