Obscure Permaculture Plants (incomplete)

“Done is better than perfect.”

For a longer list:



Goji berry 

  • Recently ranked number one on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) Scale… used to rank foods with the healthy antioxidants (compounds that destroy free radicals that cause cancer and aging).

Lycium Sweet Lifeberry.jpg

Goji Berry (Wolfberry) plants are medium-sized, deciduous shrubs with small purple/blue flowers that produce small  red fruit (1-2 cm).  There are two very closely related species (Lycium barbarum, Lycium chinense).  I have had dried goji berries on a few occasions.  They remind me of raisins.  They have a bit of a nutty flavor reminiscent of a tart dried cherry.  I have also had goji berry juice (it was blended with apple juice), and it had a rather tropical flavor to it.  Quite good.

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates moderate shade (up to 80%,
Moisture: Medium to Low – often prefers sandier soils… soils that do not hold much water.  They don’t like wet roots.

Propagation:  By seed.  Shoot tips can root where they touch the ground.

Minimal.  May need to prune back arching tips to prevent the plant from spreading.

There are some reports of stomach upset when eating the uncooked parts of the plant.




yields in 2 to 3 years

20 lbs


The seaberry, hippophae rhamnoides or seabuckthorn, has been revered for centuries as a restorative health tonic. In modern times science has revealed potent levels of antioxidants and other cancer-resisting compounds and affects in the seaberry oil, pulp, leaves and skin. Seaberry is especially exceptional in it’s Omega 7 content along with the fact that it has 20-40x the vitamin C of oranges, many times the Vitamin A of carrots and also large quanities of Vitamin E.  It’s truly an antioxidant powerhouse of rare status.  It is extemely hardy, capable of withstanding -45F (zone 2), yet we’ve seen it growing in Tuscany Italy (zone 9ish). Few plants so adaptable to a shifting climate exist. Amazingly, seabuckthorn also enhances soil by fixing nitrogen – very rare for a fruiting plant. [Seaberry is NOT related to buckthorn and is not in the same genus or plant family


Primary Uses:

  • Fresh eating – only certain varieties, as the fruit is very tart (very acidic); however, fruit that has undergone a frost is often sweeter, but the fruit is often past its prime
  • Juice – often sweetened (sugar, honey) and even diluted with water (up to 5 parts water to 1 part Sea-Buckthorn Berry Juice)
  • Cooking (i.e. sauces) – try to avoid overcooking as this will destroy the flavor
  • Baking (pies, tarts, etc.)
  • Preserves, Jellies, Jams, etc.
  • Fruit Leather
  • Flavoring component to Beer, Wine, Liquors, Cordials, etc.

Secondary Uses:

  • Nitrogen fixing plant (puts nitrogen back into the soil) – inoculated with actinorhizal bacteria (Frankia).
  • Windbreak (especially in maritime climates)
  • Hedge/living fence
  • Soil conservation
  • Fall and Winter food for wildlife, especially birds
  • General insect nectar plant (Spring)
  • Small craft projects – fine grained wood
  • Charcoal production
  • Soaps, lotions, and other cosmetics
  • Dye from the berries and sap
  • A number of traditional medicinal uses

Yield: 20 pounds (9 kg) per plant



Turkish rocket


Water chestnut

Black Locust 

Fast grower and coppices well

In the Legume family

black locust 1.jpg


Black Locust is native to the southeastern United States, and is a great overstory tree as it allows a lot of light through to the understory. Black Locust is a prized as a timber tree, firewood tree, and honey plant (bees love them!). It is also well-known for fixing nitrogen into the soil. Black Locust is one of the most useful and ideal trees for a Temperate Climate farm or homestead.

  • Black Locust heartwood is very rot resistant – fence posts can last for 70-100 years in the ground without rotting!
  • Prime honey plant in Eastern Europe
  • Black Locust is one of the most widely grown timber trees in the world. The wood is strong and heavy. Said to be like oak.
  • The reason for the rot resistance is the presence of tyloses and extractives in the wood. Tyloses are bulges of plant tissue that make the wood water tight. Extractives are compounds found outside the cell wall of certain plants that can impart water resistance, and have antifungal properties.

Primary Uses:

  • Wood – fuelwood. Black Locust is fast growing, very hot burning, and very slow burning firewood – reported to be similar to anthracite coal. It can also burn when not seasoned well (i.e. still wet). Keep in mind that Black Locust wood can “spit” coals when burned, due to knots and beetle damage, so it is best to use young wood (with less beetle damage) in an open fireplace or use older wood in closed fireplaces and stoves.
  • Wood – stakes, poles, posts, ship building, boxes, crates, pegs, etc. (highly rot and water resistant!)
  • Wood – high quality, very hard timber (comparable to oak)
  • Edible Flowers – cooked. Used in fritters (flowers are battered and fried), pancakes, and floral jams. Can also be steeped to make tea or wine.
  • Nitrogen Fixing Plant – this plant creates its own nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with microorganisms (bacteria) in its roots. It typically produces an excess of nitrogen that can be used by neighboring plants. This is a leguminous plant; Black Locust inoculation group.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Dynamic Accumulator – Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land
  • Drought Tolerant – once established
  • Coppice or Pollard Plant – Black Locust coppices well, but suckers more freely when it is coppiced. Frequency of coppicing varies on desired diameter of wood and local climate conditions
  • Biomass Plant – very fast growing plant can produce large amounts of organic matter in a short time.
  • Erosion Control Species – the fibrous root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion, especially on banks
  • Wildlife Shelter Plant – mainly birds and small mammals
  • Hummingbird Plant – this plant has nectar that attracts Hummingbirds
  • Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on this plant’s leaves.
  • Parasitoid Wasps prefer to rest and hide in/on this plant.
  • Fodder/Forage Plant – leaves contain 23-24% protein and is comparable to alfalfa. Used in Korea, Bulgaria, Nepal, and India for cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, etc.. There exists some controversy on this topic. Many people feed Black Locust to their livestock with no issues. Other avoid it due to reports of toxicity. I really am not sure where the truth lies, but I lean toward it being an ancillary forage. Most likely, if the animals have access to mixed forage, Black Locust should cause no problems. However, it is universally considered toxic to horses.



Lambs Quarters   

NOT to be confused with Lambs Ears which is a different species and poisonous

More nutritious than spinach

Aphid attractant (pest sink)

Seed similar to Quinoa!


Calories 43
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.8 g 1%
Saturated fat 0.1 g 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.4 g  
Monounsaturated fat 0.2 g  
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 43 mg 1%
Potassium 452 mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 7 g 2%
Dietary fiber 4 g 16%
Protein 4.2 g 8%
Vitamin A 232% Vitamin C 133%
Calcium 30% Iron 6%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 15%
Vitamin B-12 0% Magnesium 8%

The good: This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

The bad: This food is very high in Sodium.

Read More http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2869/2#ixzz474pjurp9






Can use leaves to put in salad

Amaranth palmeri listed as invasive


Some agriculturalists, because of Amaranth’s characteristics in the garden, specifically germinate the Amaranth plants to grow up as companion plants alongside their preferred crops. For example, ground beetles, which eat many of the invasive insects around the fields, often find shelter in the Amaranth roots. Plus the roots of the Amaranth break up the soil, making room their more delicate neighbors to get a proper root hold in the soil. Lastly the Amaranth also traps and kills leaf miners and other nasty bugs, which would otherwise dine on the crops nearby.

The seeds were cultivated on a large scale in ancient Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru, but nowadays it is only cultivated in small farms of in Mexico, Central America, China, India, Nepal, and other tropical countries. Amaranth has been seen as a crop of the future because it is easily harvested, it is a good source of protein, it has several edible forms, and it is easy to cook. A single large seed head can weigh up to one kilogram (1k) and hold over 500,000 seeds.

Amaranth species have been cultivated as leaf vegetables in many parts of the world. From Indonesia to Malaysia, from the Philippines to China, Amaranth is called by different names but it is revered throughout for its leafy vegetable qualities. It mixes well with garlic, onions, chilies, salt, pepper, spices, and other greens to make colorful dishes. In China, Viet Nam and other parts of Southeast Asia the leaves and stems are used with success in stir-fry vegetables and soups.

The roots of a mature Amaranth are a popular vegetable. They are white and cook well with tomatoes and tamarind gravy. Apparently the roots have a milky taste that is quite alkaline. The roots, seeds, and leave have become a traditional food stock in Africa because the plants are nutritious, hardy and, most importantly, inexpensive.  East Africans have given Amaranth a common name that translates to the expression: “We have money left over for fish!”





There are so many similarities between quinoa (keen’ wah) and amaranth that it seems appropriate to describe them together. Quinoa, however, is a cool weather crop and amaranth is a warm weather one.

Quinoa and amaranth are two very old, high-protein plants that hail from South America. They were held sacred in ancient Inca and Aztec cultures. Both now hold great potential for self-sustaining gardens in the northern hemisphere. They grow as easily as their weedy relatives (pigweed or lamb’s-quarters) and the quality of food they offer far surpasses that of our common grains. Traditional hand-harvesting methods can obtain bounteous harvests.

Quinoa and amaranth are treated as grains although they have broad leaves, unlike the true grains and corn, which are grasses. Their leaves are among the most nutritious of vegetable greens, but it is their fruit that is usually meant when these plants are referred to as “crops.” And that fruit or grain is quite special. The protein content of these two foods has a essential amino acid balance that is near the ideal. They both come closer to meeting the genuine protein requirements of the human body than either cow’s milk or soybeans. They are high in the amino acid lysine, which is lacking in most cereals such as wheat, sorghum, corn and barley.

Both quinoa and amaranth are quite adaptable, disease-free and drought-tolerant plants. They thrive in rich soil—as long as it is well drained—but both will, once established, produce abundant harvests under dry conditions.

The wild relatives of both amaranth and quinoa have long been familiar to North American gardeners and are often called by the same name of pigweed. The pigweed that is related to quinoa is also called lamb’s-quarters (Chenopodium album), while the ancestor of amaranth is known as red-rooted pigweed or wild amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus). Both pigweeds have the amazing ability to flower and go to seed at any stage of their growth and both will cross with their cultivated progeny. The grower who wants pure strains of either quinoa or amaranth must therefore pay close attention to weeds.

Most cultivars of amaranth and quinoa grow four- to eight-feet high and, when in flower, are majestic plants whose presence emits a special radiance in any garden. Quinoa’s unique flower hues are most striking at a close distance around dawn or dusk, while amaranth’s flamboyant bronze and burgundy tones are dazzling in bright sunshine. Smaller ornamental amaranths such as Love-Lies-Bleeding and Prince’s-Feather have been listed in garden catalogues for hundreds of years.



Hardy Kiwi (low priority) 

2 to 5 years to yield


Have you tasted these remarkable miniature kiwis yet? Every bit as delicious as the larger, more familiar fuzzy kiwi, hardy kiwis are much easier to grow and eat (skin and all). And just about every home gardener in North America can grow them.

Hardy kiwi is a catchall term for types of kiwis (Actinidia) that, when dormant, can survive temperatures as low as -40? F (USDA Hardiness Zone 3). These beautiful, vigorous natives of Russia, China, Japan, and Korea have deep green leaves and long whiplike vines that can grow as much as 20 feet in a season. In the wild, they may climb 50 feet or more into treetops.

The fruits, somewhat larger and rounder than grapes and with a more opaque green skin, hang in long, heavy clusters. Like fuzzy kiwis, they have soft flesh with small, black, crunchy seeds. They taste sweeter than fuzzy kiwis and don’t require peeling. Hardy kiwis are not common in markets because they don’t ship very well. But you might notice them sold in specialty markets as “baby kiwis.”





Sunchoke (low priority) 

May cause gas

Not a nutritional powerhouse

Grows in shit soil


Jerusalem artichokes are one of the most controversial vegetables. Some people love them and are ready to pay a hefty price. I have seen organic Jerusalem artichokes for more than $5 per pound. Others plainly and simply hate them, mainly because they can cause intestinal gas. The most outspoken condemnation is from an early 17th-century popular botany book, Gerard’s Herbal, where Jerusalem artichokes are called “more fit for swine than men.” If harvested after frost, the inulin (the dietary fiber that is the culprit for causing gas), is significantly reduced. Also, cooking Jerusalem artichokes at high heat, like in my Jerusalem artichoke salad, and not eating them raw makes them easier to digest.

The gardening tips for growing Jerusalem artichokes are just as divided. Some sources warn you that they will take over your garden and you will deeply regret plating them. Others tell you to remove the flower buds so the tubers grow bigger. Go figure.

I am taking the middle route, trying to thoroughly dig out all the tubers so they won’t spread into unwanted areas. And, I leave the flowers on. They are pretty and I would not haul a ladder into the herb garden to reach them anyway. And, if the Jerusalem artichokes ever take over I shall maybe consider getting a pig. Pigs love Jerusalem artichokes and can locate the tubers in the soil. Just like truffles! With the exception that the pigs dig the tubers up and eat them, which takes care of the tubers spreading.




















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