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Questions: the Wuzzy Line Between Veggies and Weeds

Posts: 24
Location: Kettle Falls, WA
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I notice the wild carrot, aka Queen Annes Lace, is much better adapted to my environment than garden varieties are. It's a weed. It self sows. Deer don't bother it. Nobody waters it. Sure, wild carrot has much smaller roots. But what if I could breed a variety intermediate between the wild carrot and my wimpy domesticated ones? Since they're the same species, this should be possible. There are other veggies we might back cross with localy adapted weeds, like brassicas. Has it been tried? How might one go about this?

Also, it seems far fetched, but I wonder what would happen if I tried grafting cherry tomatoes or tomatillos onto hardy perrenial nightshade vines. I've got nightshade vines up here that overwinter. Is it stupid to think maybe I could create perrenial tomatoes this way? How are tomatoes grafted?

And while I'm at it- Internet databases indicate that there are wild parsnips growing in parts of Eastern Washington. I've gone on wild goose chases looking for them, to no avail. If you know of any patches growing anywhere in the Intermountain US, I want seed. The drier the habitat, the better.

And speaking of that, another plant I'm after is a rare natural hybrid between purple and yellow salisfy, called 'remarkable salisfy' that grows in the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho. Yellow salisfy is a tremendously successfull edibe weed. Purple salsify is it's tastier relative. If anyone in that region is looking for a special mission...

The more I study the matter, the more I realize how paramount localy adapted plants are.

Posts: 11802
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Keep in mind if you have feral vegetables such as mustard in your locale and you grow mustard and save seeds, your saved mustard is likely hybridized with the local feral variety!

I think a plan might be to sew as many different kinds of vegetables as you can and see which do well, letting those mature and go to seed and see which produce progeny the next season without intervention. In my garden Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley has naturalized. It will survive severe drought. Parsley is a very nutritious plant, so it's good to have on hand to add to other foods.
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I think plenty will depend on individual takes on 'edible'. I've never tried queen Anne's lace roots. What are they like?
I avoid growing queen Anne's lace because it would cross with my carrots, apparently making the next generation pretty unpalatable.
I'd probably go for plants that hadn't had the genetic strength bred out in the first place, like the wild cousins you mention.
I don't know enough about grafting to comment. I'd be curious how the high fertility requirements of a fruiting plant (tomato) would be combined with the low demands of wild nightshades. Or maybe that's not an issue and the roots will be happy in a high-fertility environment.
Over here, wild nightshades grow in low light. If we graft a sun-loving plant on shade-loving roots, does that create issues?
No help I'm afraid, I just thought I'd add in a couple more questions
Posts: 159
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My property is in the part of the Mid-West where William Wells grew up among the native people in the late 1700's. He earned his name of "Wild Carrot" both for his orangey-red hair and his taste for wild carrot soup. The novel "Heart of a Warrior" was written by a local resident who grew up hearing the area history. http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Warrior-Sweet-Breeze-William/dp/0615225683

I have nibbled on the roots raw and was not impressed. I have not tried them stewed, yet.
Posts: 3601
Location: woodland, washington
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seems like the biggest trouble with breeding a self-sowing carrot/Queen Anne's Lace would be that there's an abundant reservoir of regular old Queen Anne's Lace to dilute any improvements you make. so you might get one generation that's pretty good, one generation that's passable, and succeeding generations wouldn't be much different than the woody, small, prolific wild plant. if you kept it up, I'm sure you would eventually put enough of carrot genetics into your locality that you could keep it going. I don't think you could ever completely ignore it, though. you would always have to select seed from the plants you like. I would put that in the definitely-worth-a-shot category, but be prepared to put in your time. Queen Anne's Lace is a very useful plant in its own right, though: an effective contraceptive, rugged survivor in marginal dirt, and a superb insectary plant.

you're likely to run into the same problem with brassicas: there's so much escaped weedy stuff of limited food value that will dilute your efforts. again, I think it is totally worth a shot and is likely to succeed with a little patience. it will probably be quite some time before delicious broccolis are growing wild, though. but if we don't start sometime, it'll never happen. and sea kale (Crambe maritima) comes to mind. it's a wild brassicaceae vegetable that's pretty good unimproved. not likely to thrive on neglect where you're at, Kyle, but it suggests that there's hope. I'm also reminded of the kale that kept growing in a hayfield I worked on even after ten years of mowing, and occasional discing, plowing, and reseeding with grass. I only ever saw it in the summer, so it wasn't that sweet when I tasted it, but there's a survivor for sure.

on the wild parsnip front, they're just escaped cultivated parsnips. most places around here consider them noxious weeds, and not without reason. folks typically only know they've had an encounter with a wild parsnip when the painful blisters show up. and they are painful. haven't spent much time on the east side, but over here on the west side they're not terribly rare. if you really want to grow them, I think letting cultivated parsnips set seed would probably do the trick. a couple generations will probably retain their "office hands", but parsnip produces a lot of seed, and my guess is that it will adapt to neglect pretty quickly.

grafting tomatoes: I believe they're usually bench grafted. similar to grape vines. there's a tool that cuts the rootstock and scion so that they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. not too expensive for the basic model. grafting to nightshade isn't going to make a tomato perennial for you, though. if your nightshade is winter hardy, it will survive and the grafted tomato will die. some rootstocks will improve hardiness of the scion by a few degrees, but you'll fall far short of getting a tomato through an upper Columbia winter. tomatoes are weakly perennial where it's warm enough, though, and there are plenty of edible relatives that are long-lived perennials. but they're all tropical. except for a couple. maybe a long-term breeding project could make the difference, but chances are good that it would take multiple human generations to accomplish. getting tomatoes that reliably self-sow annually, though, seems more likely to be successful in the short term. I've seen plenty of volunteer tomatoes in unlikely places. and tomatillos and ground cherries self-sow no problem. and those couple of hardy perennial tomato relatives include plants that look a lot like tomatillos or ground cherries. the names escape me at the moment. in the genus Physalis, I think.

I'm not familiar with the wild or hybrid salsify, but it certainly sounds promising.

I sure like where your head's at, Kyle. keep it up.
Posts: 170
Location: western Washington, Snohomish county--zone 8b
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8 out of 10 of the weeds growing in my garden are delicious.
They are vigourous plants that are not bothered by pests and easily replace spinach and lettuce.

I have a new found appreciation for my weeds, but the cultivated species are available because they taste really good. don't fix whats not broken they say........The only fuzzy line in my garden is where the cultivated plants grow and where I let my edible weeds grow....insteadof "weeds" I will call these plants ....Vigorous Volunteers :0)

Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Had the same idea about crossing garden brassicas with local wild mustard. The wild mustard is reasonably tasty as is, though slightly on the bitter side. The florets taste like broccoli with a hit of mustard. The root tastes a bit like a spicy daikon, but much more fibrous.

Brassicas cross easily. Don't want the wild mustard in the garden, but I might plant a few daikon near the wild mustard patches on another bit of land to see what happens. I think the big taproot and relatively smaller leaves would be most likely to succeed in our hot, dry climate.

As for tomatoes, they can be grafted to other species, including potato, even avocado and tobacco! I agree, it's unlikely to result in a hardy perennial, but it might stretch the range just a little. I would go with heirloom cherries, as I think they are closer to primitive tomatoes.

I want to try breeding a hardy perennial sweet pepper by crossing rocoto pepper and sweet pepper. Once I have a sweet pepper that can survive our light winters, i'll work on growing something hardier.

In my opinion, breeding perennial veggies by crossing wilder cousins and domesticate varieties is a worthwhile project. But, yes, this will take decades with many dead-ends along the way.
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