Growing food crops does not have to be a dull, earth-tone affair. There are numerous edible plants that not only provide a delicious harvest but can also bring a vibrant burst of color or moment of beauty into your landscape. The following are a few of my favorite ornamental edibles.
Traditional Garden Annuals
One of my absolute favorite crops in South Carolina is okra. Unfortunately, the divisive flavor and texture of okra means that many gardeners never grow this crop. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is member of the mallow family, which is related to some well-known plants like cotton, hollyhock and hibiscus. As a result, most okra varieties feature gorgeous, large, yellow blooms with a deep purple interior, which in my mind, is unparalleled among vegetables and is a standout even among many traditional ornamentals. As an added bonus, okra flowers will help attract many beneficial pollinators to your yard.
Summer Squash Plants
The productivity of zucchini and squash plants is well documented and that means a lot of flowers, along with an often overwhelming squash harvest. These amazing blossoms are typically school-bus yellow and stand out among the broad squash leaves. While great to look at, these flowers are edible, too. The delicate flavor of squash blossoms are delicious when fried, baked, steamed or included in various pasta sauces.
Another colorful addition to the garden, the stalks of Swiss chard come in array of bright colors from ruby red to snow white and bright yellow. These spring or fall greens add a nice splash of color both on your plate and in your garden.
Trees and Shrubs
Beyond the delicious harvest berry harvest, blueberry plants also make a notable addition to your landscape and can substitute for traditional hedges and bush plantings. Most blueberry cultivars feature a striking red or orange fall color, vibrant stem color in the winter months, and delicate spring flowers, meaning that blueberry bushes can be enjoyed year-round.
While fruit trees can be challenging to grow, cherry trees may be worth the effort. Like blueberry bushes, cherry trees can provide a blast of color through each of the four seasons. In the spring the trees feature wonderful pink or white blossoms followed by colorful fruiting in the summer and bright orange foliage in the fall. When winter arrives, the bark of the cherry tree is the real star nearly glowing with lustrous reddish tones.