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Trees/or shrubs with edible leaves?

Trevor Newman


Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 42
I have heard about a few trees and shrubs that produce edible leaves. These would be very important in a permaculture context, as they could potentially provide a perennial source of greens. I am only addressing plants that are hardy to zone 5.

First off, Tilia cordata, Little Leaf Linden, or Lime in the UK. This tree of many names supposedly has leaves that can be used as a salad/sandwich substitute for lettuce. Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust is highly fond of these leaves, and coppices the trees on a rotation of 5+ years or so. Coppicing would ensure that the plant doesn't grow too tall so that there are plenty of leaves within reach. Linden also produces nectary rich flowers that provide bee fodder. There is evidence that other members of this genus also have edible leaves, such as Tilia americana- the native NA species. I do not know the quality of the wood but perhaps this could be a multi-purpose perennial leaf crop/timber product/ honey tree!?

Next, I would like to metion Toonia sinesis, or Fragrant Spring Tree. This has been a popular vegetable in Japan for a while. I have heard that the leaves have a smoked garlicly flavor that is quite strong; according to Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables, the leaves are too strong to be used as a main green, but more so as a flavoring herb in stir fries,etc. Once again it could be coppiced on a rotation to prevent it from growing too large. As the name implies this is also a good ornamental with fragrance. There is a cultivar currently available called 'Flamingo' that may provide better leaves for eating.

Surprisingly the Mulberry tree(Morus spp.) what many know for its delecious edible fruits, also has leaves that can be used as a cooked green! I recently found this out during a conference and was absolutely stunned. The silkworms love em, they've gotta be good!? I have been unable to find any information regarding certain varieties for eating. However we could all start sampling the wild and cultivated types to find the best varieties!

Last but not least, is Lycium barbarum, or the Goji plant. This has been a popular healthful fruit in China for centuries. It recently gained interest in the Western world as an antioxidant rich 'superfood'. The dried fruits are absolutely delectable, and I have yet to try them fresh. What most people don't know is that the leaves of this tomato relative are of full edibility(cooked or fresh). I am unsure what the fruit yields are like, but this photo looks very promising: http://media.growsonyou.com/photos/products/26113.jpg
Perhaps this could be a productive berry and leaf crop? All of the growers I have talked to say it is extremely vigourous and hardy. I am propagating a bunch from seed right now(which is very very easy), so we should know more on this soon!!

If anyone has experience with these plants or has any information to add this would be greatly appreciated!



tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3082
Location: woodland, washington
    
  52
I've got one of each of those except the linden.  haven't eaten any mulberry leaves.

Toonia sinesis leaves are real tasty.  haven't done a whole lot other than stir fry them or toss them in with scrambled eggs.

Lycium barbarum leaves aren't bad, but they probably aren't going to blow anyone's mind because they're pretty bland.  unfortunately, I'm not such a gourmet, so there are probably better ways to use these leaves than my default: stir fry.

been intending to plant a couple of lindens for years now.  soon.  I have eaten linden leaves, though.  again, not really exciting flavor-wise, but they wouldn't be bad on a sandwich or maybe in soup.


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Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
How about the duel purpose of animal feed?

Could these leaves be eaten by goats, cows, horses?

We have some type of tree (maple maybe, without the sap) that I would not eat, but our rabbits think the leaves are candy!  They have eaten them, as I supply them, for years.

Would these trees also serve one's animals?
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Gotta include Moringa -in warmer climes - a very interesting thread on that plant was posted here recently.  It has value for both humans and livestock.  I've got a young mulberry in my food forest, and the moringa seeds should arrive any day. Mulberry leaf and twig is also rich in anti-oxidants and medicinal compounds ... very anti-inflammatory, good for arthritis and other conditions characterized by internal heat.

Willow and alder are commonly used by permies for livestock... as are leguminous tress like siberian pea shrub. In fact, if one has goats or other browsers, there are relatively more plants that are feed than not.

I think that we need to think more about 'tree leaf tofu' ... the cottage scale process of solubilizing and coagulating leaf protein is likely to reduce the presence of anti-nutritional factors and lectins, while allowing a permaculture style use of more lands without negatively affecting them.  For example, many species of oaks contain 10% protein in the leaves, but contain lots of wood and tannins ... oakfu might be a way to live lightly but well off an existing forest or patch of oak scrub.
Trevor Newman


Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 42
Animal feed plants is another topic that has a much wider range of candidates...since our four legged friends can digest cellulose they can eat many more tree leaves than us. Mulberry leaves in particular are very high in protein, I feed these to my goat and she absolutely loves them. However, one must be careful when selecting livestock feeds because goats and cattle can eat certain things that are toxic to horses, acorns for instance(and oak leaves).

'Tree Leaf Tofu' seems like an interesting concept! However solubilizing seems like it would be a difficult process that would require some energy(and ingenuity). Honey Locust pods provide an excellent source of soluble protein that can be used for both human/livestock feed...perhaps this would be a more available/low input source of protein?
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Yes, it does require some energy and effort to extract the protein. But I believe it is roughly on par with making bread ... we need to grind to a fine flour, add water, and heat. Then coagulate, using a small amount of vinegar, or calcium/magnesium salts (like food grade gypsum).  I think it would actually take less energy to grind up leaves than dried soybeans or wheat berries. There is still much to be learned as far as the species that are suitable and the optimal processes to use.

Some people enjoy baking from wheat berries or making tofu at home, but it is probably more efficient to do it on the scale of a neighborhood bakery or restaurant.

My general problem in designing a food forest has been related to protein and oils - I've found tons of things for carbs, and produce more than my body can handle.  I don't have enough space for 2 or 3 large nut trees. I'm afraid to try avocado due to climate and a fungus disease that is spreading here. I do have olives for fats.  Just went to the mailbox and my Moringa seeds arrived (!).  Am still looking for a high productivity permculture source of protein.

tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3082
Location: woodland, washington
    
  52
[quote author=Jonathan_Byron]Am still looking for a high productivity permculture source of protein.

all manner of critters fit the bill.  if that doesn't suit you, groundnut tubers (Apios americana) are pretty good at 17% crude protein.  almonds are available grafted to dwarfing root stocks.  honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) seeds contain up to 24% protein.  Caraganas are an easily grown perennial source of protein.  keep trying, I'm sure you'll find something that works for you.

Atriplex halimus, saltbush, is another shrub with tasty leaves.  I haven't had any luck tracking down a plant or seeds in the United States (pronounced "yooo-nited", but I've heard they're delicious.  any suggestions?
              


Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
I can vouch for tilia, have tried toona too, though not as much use for that one for me, since they are small.

Tilia is starting to become an important staple in my diet in spring-summer, and have plenty of coppiced sprouts growing all over the place, so I have plenty to eat of it.   If I recall, I think I first saw it mentioned on pfaf.org as and edible.  Very mild green that I can eat raw.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T35Snp-dffA midway shows my appreciation for Tilia
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
TrevorNewman wrote:The silkworms love em, they've gotta be good!?




I'm definitely not going to eat any Ailanthus leaves based on that rationale.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
i would like to see more on the actual people food from tree leaves as the thread began as i'm always looking for more reliable food sources from whatever source.

i do know that eastern hemlock needles are edible as a trail nibble to some extent but not as a basic food stuff

some leaves from shrubs are good for teas as are some barks and berries from trees and shrubs (ex sassafrass)

willow bark also makes a darn good aspirin


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
tel wrote:
all manner of critters fit the bill.  if that doesn't suit you, groundnut tubers (Apios americana) are pretty good at 17% crude protein.  almonds are available grafted to dwarfing root stocks.  honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) seeds contain up to 24% protein.  Caraganas are an easily grown perennial source of protein.  keep trying, I'm sure you'll find something that works for you.

Atriplex halimus, saltbush, is another shrub with tasty leaves.  I haven't had any luck tracking down a plant or seeds in the United States (pronounced "yooo-nited", but I've heard they're delicious.  any suggestions?


Thanks, Tel, I am checking on the groundnut and honey locust.

I am all for some critters, but my primary residence now is a half-acre suburban lot... maybe ducks or chickens.  My 'getaway' land is 110 acres zoned for agriculture), and would like to get sheep and birds there when I re-settle. 
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
I didn't mean to take the focus of this thread off of people-food in any way. 

It's just that lots of time we cannot eat all we grow, even when the purpose was to grow food for ourselves specifically.  When this happens I like to know if there are back-up uses (multiple stacking).  Any other uses beyond human food, not just animal feed.... would be nice to know.

So if those familiar with trees/shrubs for human consumption, know of other benefits/uses, any at all, please take the time to tack those on too as a foot note.  And thanks for commenting on the taste - that's great.
Pat Maas


Joined: May 08, 2008
Posts: 194
Location: McIntosh, NM
This is something that has crossed my mind as of late, edible tree leaves. What about Ginkgo or bamboo? I do have goji and mulberry here and am looking at other like tree "salad materials".
Trevor Newman


Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 42
Pat Maas...I have never heard anything about Ginkgo leaves being used for eating, however they do posses potent medicinal properties. Bamboo shoots are delecious and some species are quite hardy (down to negative 10). The leaves may be edible- probably a bit fiberous and not worth eating.
ronie dee


Joined: Mar 04, 2009
Posts: 586
Location: Cosby MO
    
    2
LoonyK wrote:
I can vouch for tilia, have tried toona too, though not as much use for that one for me, since they are small.

Tilia is starting to become an important staple in my diet in spring-summer, and have plenty of coppiced sprouts growing all over the place, so I have plenty to eat of it.   If I recall, I think I first saw it mentioned on pfaf.org as and edible.  Very mild green that I can eat raw.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T35Snp-dffA midway shows my appreciation for Tilia


You call it Tilia here and bass wood on the video.. i type in Tilia and get a vacuum food sealing device... so bass wood comes up with 30 varieties... You must like it as in your video you seem to have quite a few growing... Is there a certain variety that you are growing?


Sometimes the answer is not to cross an old bridge, nor to burn it, but to build a better bridge.
Pat Maas


Joined: May 08, 2008
Posts: 194
Location: McIntosh, NM
Thank you Trevor,
    I asked as am planting a few ginkgo trees this year and am long used to their medicinal properties. Would like to see if they can thrive in this environment and maybe produce nuts also. Bamboo shoots are awesome-just was wondering if the leaves were ok. Maybe have seen too many pandas eating bamboo on TV! 
              


Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
You call it Tilia here and bass wood on the video.. i type in Tilia and get a vacuum food sealing device... so bass wood comes up with 30 varieties... You must like it as in your video you seem to have quite a few growing... Is there a certain variety that you are growing?


yeah, I called it Tilia here because didn't know if some of you would know it by the common name of basswood.  Tilia is the genus name.  The basswood in the video is the native one growing around here, Tilia americana, or as I call it, American Basswood.  They grow around here as weeds, so haven't had to plant them, and they are great perennial food supply.  I just wish I knew about it a long time ago.   
ronie dee


Joined: Mar 04, 2009
Posts: 586
Location: Cosby MO
    
    2
THnx Loon... by around here, what general area? State or region? I may have them all over the place too and not know it.
              


Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
The link shows map of its range
http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/tilia/americana.jpg
ronie dee


Joined: Mar 04, 2009
Posts: 586
Location: Cosby MO
    
    2
Ok thnx again Loony.. I may have them growing all over,... i'll have to get the flora book out of the library and ID that basswood..
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
What about sasafrass? there are actual varieties used in the south as a cooking green, but in the spring, any wild sasafrass has tender delicious leaves. They remind me and others of froot loops hahaha
don't know about the toxicity factor, it's banned as a food in the united states, but i have eaten excessive amounts both raw and cooked and never noticed any problems.
                    


Joined: Mar 19, 2010
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
Sassafras leaves were the traditional 'filet' of filet gumbo fame.  I wonder if they are still used for this?  In wild foods cookbooks that I have they are.
They definitely change the flavor of a soup.  Worth a try.


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Matt Ferrall


Joined: Dec 26, 2008
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
    
    4
If we get into young new growth or buds,it really opens it up for alot of plants.Here in the PNW,with regards to natives, I have eaten young buds of birch(a bit astringent),maple flowers(mana anyone?),young growth of W.hemlock(high in vit.C),Hawthorn buds(probably my fav,called "bread&?"in england).I suspect the young growth of devils club would be edible since Aralia has been used as a major foodstuff in asia but perhaps Im drifting into shrubs here.


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Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is a fast growing pioneer tree with edible leaves that are high in protein. PFAF.org says it has a greater amino-acid content than wheat, corn, rice and barley


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
                              


Joined: Feb 25, 2010
Posts: 63
Location: North West PA, USA
A long time ago I planted some Frysville poplar trees (hybrid poplar?) and their news letter said that the leaves were edible. I did try a few but they didn't taste very good. 


Jeff


Jeff Davis

Less is more...
                            


Joined: Jul 26, 2011
Posts: 7
Hi lots of tree leaves are edible. I landed up in this forum while searching for the same. This type of food is underexploited by modern humans because there is such a large variety of other foods. Just yesterday i Posted a blog post on mulberry in my blog at http://someitemshave.blogspot.com ( I am new here and I hope it is not considered impolite to give a link, if it is I shall delete this post). 

Mulberry leaves are edible for sure and the dry leaves make a healthy tea. Dry some in shade for the purpose. Perhaps the white mulberry leaves are the best and as with any other tree leaf the most nutritious are new young leaves.

The most useful tree from a food point of view though appears to be the drumstick or morinda tree (?). The leaves are delicious with high nutrition and so are its young beans, flowers, nuts and roots. It grows easily in mild climates and can be grown from seed or cutting. The cutting is the fastest and easiest way to propogate it. I have written a lot about this tree in an earlier post in my blog.

curry leaf tree has edible leaves but they are too strong to eat in large quantities however mixed in as herb they impart a pleasant curry flavor to food. It produces beautifully scented tiny flowers in season as well.
Pat Maas


Joined: May 08, 2008
Posts: 194
Location: McIntosh, NM
Hi Ashok,
    I also have Moringa trees. I find them a tad to peppery for my taste, but they do do well as fermented plant juice for other plants and trees. Many of my mulberries didn't handle this past winter well, but those surviving will harvest some leaves once we get more monsoon rains. It's been too dry for the trees to harvest even a few small and new leaves.
   
                            


Joined: Jul 26, 2011
Posts: 7
Hello Pat

For sure as such the moringa leaves have a strong flavor and so do the flowers. Some people boil them for five minutes then strain to remove the strong taste. Others do that with goosefoot leaves too. That for sure some nutrition is lost but some remains.

A second method that i prefer is to stir fry them with chopped onion or oninon and sliced button mushrooms. The strong taste is then diluted to a pleasant taste. Some africans dry the leaves and add the powder to other dishes but as yet I have not tried that. I have a tree growing at home and several more in the street. The new young leaves are the best for human consumption
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6465
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
While this list is not limited to trees/shrubs, it certainly has some species you should easily find:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_plants_with_edible_leaves

And here is a listing of some perennials:
http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=37
duane hennon
volunteer

Joined: Sep 23, 2010
Posts: 376
    
  10
here is a website for making "leaf tufu" or leaf concentrate
http://www.leafforlife.org/index.htm
http://www.leafforlife.org/PAGES/leaf_concentrate.htm
http://www.leafforlife.org/PAGES/DOWNLOAD.HTM#lc_manual

the last one "Leaf Concentrate: A Field Guide for Small Scale Programs "
is something some may want to consider as a part of your system.
Pat Maas


Joined: May 08, 2008
Posts: 194
Location: McIntosh, NM
Thank you Duane,
    I raise a lot of leaf crops year round and this may help me in a long term goal in feeding my dairy animals during dry times. Am familiar with gathering growing tips before dawn for Natural Farming methods, but this gives me an added tool that helps with my own nutrition also.

Have a very healthy carrot crop that is pretty weed free 4'X40', so may see if can work those greens into the process to begin with. Carrot tops are a natural antibacterial used as a tea, so it should be interesting what nutrition they provide. Along with the Swiss chard, spinach, beets and many other greens could be interesting grown year round.

Can eat some Moringa raw or in tea, but get downright ill on the dried stuff for some reason, so would need to be very careful adding it to leaf concentrate mixes.

Thank you again
Steve Flanagan
volunteer

Joined: May 06, 2012
Posts: 322
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
    
    8
How hardy are Moringa? Anyone have some good reliable info? I would like to grow it, but I'm not sure if my winters are too cold, we get the occasional snow and low twenty's, very rarely upper teens.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Yellowhorn is another option with edible leaves, flowers and seeds:
http://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Xanthoceras+sorbifolium

mine are still small, but I will try some leaves this year...


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Steve Flanagan
volunteer

Joined: May 06, 2012
Posts: 322
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
    
    8
Mimosa (albizia) tree has edible leaves. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Albizia+julibrissin
Nick Garbarino


Joined: Apr 24, 2012
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
Addressing the question about sassafrass, yes it is still used as a seasoning in cajun gumbo. It is available commercially from cajun food suppliers. It is a powder made from the dried leaves. You sprinkle some on top just before serving. I have some in my kitchen and use it all the time. It gives it a nice lively flavor reminiscent of root beer. I understand that originally, root beer was made from sassafrass roots. Good thread, I'm adding sassafrass to my plant list as I saw some growing in a friend's garden nearby, so it apparently grows this far south.


Certifiable food forest gardener, free gardening advice offered and accepted. Permaculture is the intersection of environmentalsim and agriculture.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
i have seeds of linden ready to plant this fall, and I put in 4 goji this spring..i had read that the leaves were edible and that they should be protected from wildlife.

I have 3 baby mulberries too

Saybian Morgan
volunteer

Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 580
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
    
    8
Thank you soooo much for Tilia cordata, I never knew what that tree was in the backyard and I was going to prune all the lower limbs to let more light into the garden to grow stupid things like leafy green slugs end up eating. Now i'll eat the tree and have been doing so with a new ban on lettuce.
Now a quick question, if it coppices, does it's cuttings root easily like a willow does or does it just coppice. I have dreams of sticking steaks all throughout the garden and eating all the grow forcing it to polard to a straight pole until I can't reach it any longer. It would be nice if I could get it to grow fat and stumpy the one in the yard is over 30 feet tall, but since I can't grow a lettuce to save my life the rabbits wont be getting any of this tree.
osker brown


Joined: Jun 28, 2011
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
We use sassafras leaves more as a vegetable than a seasoning. It has high levels of soluble fiber which translates to a mucilaginous texture when chopped or chewed or cooked. This comes in very handy for firming up sauces or yogurt dips or soups. The soluble fiber also supposedly is the way our bodies mobilize cholesterol, so more soluble fiber in your diet means your body regulates cholesterol better.

It's also very tasty, and our kids love it. Our 3 year old especially will not eat 'normal' raw greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.), but we have to stop him from totally defoliating basswood, mulberry, and sassafras.

peace


Glorious Forest Farm
Varina Lakewood


Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
    
    1
Trevor Newman wrote:I have heard about a few trees and shrubs that produce edible leaves. These would be very important in a permaculture context, as they could potentially provide a perennial source of greens. I am only addressing plants that are hardy to zone 5.

Surprisingly the Mulberry tree(Morus spp.) what many know for its delecious edible fruits, also has leaves that can be used as a cooked green! I recently found this out during a conference and was absolutely stunned. The silkworms love em, they've gotta be good!? I have been unable to find any information regarding certain varieties for eating. However we could all start sampling the wild and cultivated types to find the best varieties!

If anyone has experience with these plants or has any information to add this would be greatly appreciated!


Peach tree leaves are edible. I know because my mom takes them for cystitis, I think it is. You can make a tea from them or she often will just crumble a dried leaf and eat it if she's in a hurry.

Seriously, do not eat plants based on that rationale! Did you know that one ancient assassination technique was to feed silkworms on poisonous plants, have the resultant silk made into something that someone would have against their skin often, like a scarf or dress and make a gift of it? I read they did that in Byzantine.
John Saltveit
volunteer

Joined: May 09, 2010
Posts: 607
    
  17
Rose of Sharon- Hibiscus Syriacus- has pretty, large flowers and edible leaves. I grow it for both.
John S
PDX OR
 
 
subject: Trees/or shrubs with edible leaves?
 
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