Growing new foods

One of the aims of the Gardens of Love project is to provide healthy food, that feeds on a physical as well as an energetic level.

The intention is to grow new, perennial foods, in a forest garden setting, with loving attention for the plants and animals.

Perennial plants have more time to build up nutrients than annual plants. In addition to that, there has generally been less selection for bigger edible parts, and sweeter, milder flavours. This is important because the selection for these traits has often resulted in a decrease in nutritional value of our modern annual food crops.

Our diets and our food plants don’t seem to provide the average person with the nutrients and energy she needs to be healthy.

With lots of help from the ‘Plants for a future’ book and website, and plant list from ‘the agroforestry research trust’, a nursery that provides plants specifically for growing in a ‘forest’ setting, I came up with a long wish list of trees, shrubs and perennial plants with edible properties.

Some of these are perhaps not as tasty as annuals, many may be a bit tough, others are on the edge of the climatological range where they can grow.  And some provide us with very normal things like apples and berries. We can also add unusual annual vegetables to the mix, although we will not be able to grow them under trees.

The important thing is to expand the range of foods we eat, as well as using plants that are ‘wilder’, to overcome that selection problem.

The aim is to grow new foods, to find out how best to prepare them, and to make them a normal part of the diet, for us and eventually for anyone who is interested.

In permaculture design it should be our aim, for every aspect of the garden that each element has multiple purposes.

For example:  a tree could give nuts, wood, shade and look beautiful and be a nesting place for birds and a home for insects

Or: a shrub has beautiful flowers that are heavenly scented, possibly are edible or perhaps can be made into a dye and eventually provide fruits, as well as providing shelter to small mammals, birds and insects.

Some plants have more to offer than others, so it makes sense to grow more of the plants and trees with a lot of uses than plants with only a couple, or just one. (although just one is unlikely, because there is always the use of it being beautiful, and for anything that flowers there will be bees, butterflies or other insects that are attracted to it).

A list of plants that I selected can be found on the dedicated Trees and plants pages.

For more information also go to, the Plants for a Future website, with information on a very wide selection of useful plants.

Below you will find a small selection of the plants we can grow, to give an idea of the possibilities.

  • It is quite easy to grow a wide variety of fruits and nuts, from the well-known such as apples and pears, to pine nuts, almonds, northern pecan nuts and chestnuts, blue sausage fruit and an enormous array of berries, like goumi berries, which plants also fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere, honey berry, cornelian cherries and crataegus berries.
  • Perennial leaves are quite possible too, although the texture might not always be great. Some lovely examples include campanula leaves, sweet flag (a water plant), wild cabbage, Chinese cedar leaves, wood sorrel and lime leaves.

  • There are numerous tuberous roots and bulbs to serve as source of starch, for instance arrowhead, reedmace, oca, yam, reeds and dog’s tooth violet. 

  • There are quite a few seeds and seedpods as well, such as from the snowdrop tree, the American water lotus or milkweeds, and some legumes (beans and peas family). Legumes are especially interesting, because they work with a type of bacteria in the soil to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere in their roots.This is used in part by the plant, but also benefits its neighbours. Some examples are the Siberian pea shrub, earth nut peas and Prairie mimosa. 

  • The grains come out a bit poorly: usually they have very small seeds, or they only last a couple of years. It is possible to grow perennial rye, float grass or perennial wheat.

  • We can also eat flowers, such as primroses, rose petals, violets and pansies, borage, nasturtiums, campanula flowers,day lilies, snapdragons, hibiscus and many more.


Different Gardians will likely choose to specialise in different areas of growing. We’d all grow our own food, but someone may choose to specialise in growing medicinal herbs, or dye plants, or edible flowers for instance.