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Edible perennial houseplants?

 
gardener
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I'm trying to get people in my area excited about growing food. However, many don't have access to outdoor growing space or time for community gardening. So, I'm looking to share edible houseplants with people.

So far I've grown citrus and dragon fruit with some success. Does anyone else have any ideas? Herbs come to mind.
 
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Hi.

Microgreens comes to mind. It's just for food, not pretty, but nutritious.

Also, culinary herbs are very popular in my area. Depends on your climate, but here we have usually persil, rosemary, thyme and basil.
None of these are perennial, though.

The problem with perennials in urban settings is that their yields are not much, or they are seasonal, and the space is premium. At least some these herbs can be planted in succesion and enjoy fresh herbs all year round.
 
gardener
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This thread has a few recommendations.

https://permies.com/t/209232/permaculture-house-plants/Food-houseplants#1767442

I posted photos of my chili plant that's perennial and there are quite a few suggestions for annuals.

Have sown a fresh batch of chili seeds as my original plants are getting tired and produced very few fruit this year.

 
pollinator
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I've discovered in recent years that sweet potatoes can be grown as houseplants. They are perennial in warm climates but easily kept as houseplants farther north. They may or may not make large storage roots (sweet potatoes), depending on conditions and variety, but the vines are edible and quickly regenerate new growth after harvesting. New plants are easily produced from cuttings. I suspect that many existing varieties might be grown like that as they are very adaptable plants.

I've been breeding sweet potatoes for some time and as an offshoot of that started selecting what I call an ornamental line, selected for flowering, a lack of large storage roots and growing in small pots.  I just recently put two and two together that these pretty ornamental plants are also edible. I keep this group semi-isolated from what I call my ornamental line, that does make nice storage roots.

Below is one that came up from seed in spring of 2022, was kept as a houseplant over winter and regrown outside in 2023. Both photos are of the same plant, one in December of 2022 the other in September of 2023. I kept the big one in the same pot this winter, bringing it inside to the kitchen window. It and several newly started cuttings are doing fine right now. I hope to release this plant for sale pretty soon. Once I figure out how to navigate the red tape of selling and shipping live plants.
InWindow-small-c.JPG
"Ms Bloom" Houseplant Sweet Potato as cutting
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"Ms Bloom" Houseplant Sweet Potato on patio
 
Megan Palmer
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I have just found an photo from 2009 of a chili plant that I grew from seed that is still producing fruit.

It lives indoors over winter and I put it outdoors in summer.

It tends to get attacked by aphids and most recently, got infected with scale insects that I have had to regularly scrape off.

It is currently living outdoors at the community garden and has been repotted into fresh soil.

The fruit are black and ought to turn red any day soon.
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Chili plant grown from seed in 2009
Chili plant grown from seed in 2009
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Same chili plant in 2024
Same chili plant in 2024
 
gardener
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I have mint and watercress in the aquarium.
Photo: shrimp is sitting on the watercress and mint is to the left. I recently used them in a salad so they're trimmed!
Mint is good for starters as it doesn't attract pests so much, and doesn't need a lot of light. And it smells nice.
Rosemary often catches some fungus infestation when I try to grow it indoors.
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Flora Eerschay
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And of course there is the Malabar spinach, such a weird plant! Actually, it should be a superstar among indoor edibles.
I was given some seeds at my local seed exchange and I didn't know what to do with them, so I tossed them into the pot and forgot. Then something weird started to grow out of it... and it wrapped around my glass cabinet and produced flowers :D so I couldn't move any furniture until I restarted these pots just recently, because of fungus gnats.
Malabar spinach looks really cool and has crunchy, watery leaves which can be eaten like regular spinach, but I only tried one or two.
I read it can also grow in darker spots (like for avocado) and there it will actually produce more leaves, which is what we want.
I'm now rooting it in water but I think some is also regrowing in that pot which I restarted (I only removed the top layer of soil, because it's very large).
IMG_20240205_105109.jpg
Malabar spinach, the cool looking indoor edible vine!
Malabar spinach, the cool looking indoor edible vine!
 
pollinator
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Flora, Malabar spinach has a natural mucilage in the leaves, so when you add leaves to soups or stews it acts as a natural thickener, much healthier than using manufactured flours and you gat your greens at the same time :-)
 
pollinator
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Flora, see the white round things to the left in your photo?  Those will turn dark purple later, and fall off eventually.  You can pick them when they turn dark and plant them like that to get a new plant.  Because it's a perennial, the seedlings will stay tiny for a very very long time before taking off and getting larger.

You can also ferment the "berries" and keep the seeds to grow later.

They will withstand heat and can vine all over, taking over a fence or taller plant.  I'm actually surprised you're growing it indoors.  They are one of the few edibles that will grow year round here in Hawaii in the garden, giving me greens in summer, when drought and heat and bugs kill most everything else.  And it's edible raw or cooked, unlike some of the other tropical perennial greens, which are poisonous raw (like cassava, taro, and chaya).

Because they are pretty fleshy, they maintain some meaty texture (the older leaves, at least) when cooked.  I like them cooked in my eggs.
 
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As a source for already growing garden herbs consider the supermarket. The local big chain store near me sells herbs in small flower pots: parsley, basil, that sort of thing. Like seemingly everything else in the super market these days, these have a "Best Before" or "Sell by Date." Once that has passed you can find them in the section with all the other sad produce for a very low price -- pennies instead of pounds (yes, I am living in the UK).

Take a sad and sorry little pot of parsley home, put it in a bigger bucket, give it a bit of water and it will be looking fine in no time. The last one I did this with lasted a year or two.

I have also grown tomato plants from the odd mouldy cherry tomato. No, I didn't get a huge yield, but my aim was simply to have something green and growing in the flat. And that lovely smell whenever you handle a tomato plant! It can't be beat!
 
pollinator
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Brazilian spinach (Alternanthera Sissoo) is an attractive, edible ground cover that is shade tolerant.

Okanawan spinach )Gynura bicolor) and longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens) are both vining ground covers.  

Small leaved spiderwort (Tradescantia fluminensis) is another edible ground cover that is available in green leaf and variegated forms.  It also has the common name “wandering Jew”, but that name is also used for a number of other similar looking plants, some of which are not edible.

Sweet potato leaves are edible and can be grown and harvested in situations where the leaves plant may not produce a usable sized tuber.
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Flora Eerschay
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Alina Green wrote:Flora, see the white round things to the left in your photo?  Those will turn dark purple later, and fall off eventually.  You can pick them when they turn dark and plant them like that to get a new plant.



I had a few of these dark berries... but I tossed them all to compost. Maybe they will sprout, if frosts don't kill them?
Meanwhile I found aphids on these cuttings, so I put them to the aquarium to let guppies clean them. I didn't see any on the watercress which was in the same jar, so maybe aphids don't like it?
IMG_20240206_192845.jpg
Guppies cleaning aphids off the spinach
Guppies cleaning aphids off the spinach
 
Alina Green
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Aphids do not seem to bother my malabar.  However, I do get holes in them sometimes, which I have found to be due to slug and snail damage (but I think that is only when they are desperate, in the summer when there is nothing else to eat).

Re: grocery store plants to grow, mint is a great one, easy to start.  Green onions/scallions/spring onions also.  Buy a bunch, cut off and eat the top greens, leaving the white section plus about 1/2-1 inch (12-25 mm) of the green part, to keep growing.  Ditto for lemongrass, if you can get it--although the take rate on that is only about 1 or 2 out of 10 stalks.

(I'm not sure how well they do indoors, however; they grow outside year-round here...someone with actual experience will need to chime in, please.)

You might be able to start basil by putting a cutting into water and leaving it on the counter, changing the water daily.  That works for me sometimes, if the weather is cool.  More often, though, they will rot here.  If you're lucky, you'll get roots and can re-pot that.

If you can grow only one thing, I vote for herbs, because you don't need much, they change the flavor of your dishes tremendously, and they are generally quite easy to grow.  You can also drink iced or hot tea from them, too, and most have medicinal properties as well.  Plus you usually get fragrance, too, which can be very appreciated in a closed-up house with cold, bleak weather outside...I imagine, anyway!
 
Alina Green
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Flora Eerschay wrote:I had a few of these dark berries... but I tossed them all to compost. Maybe they will sprout, if frosts don't kill them?



They might.  I usually have a few seedlings come up from falling off the plants.
 
gardener
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Alina Green wrote:

If you can grow only one thing, I vote for herbs, because you don't need much, they change the flavor of your dishes tremendously, and they are generally quite easy to grow.  You can also drink iced or hot tea from them, too, and most have medicinal properties as well.  Plus you usually get fragrance, too, which can be very appreciated in a closed-up house with cold, bleak weather outside...I imagine, anyway!



I vote for basil too, and they come in many different flavors.  Another choice is stevia, only a few leaves will sweeten up your tea!
 
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If I was growing one indoor or doorstep perennial for food, it would probably be green onions. They don't cost much at the store, but if you regularly use them you consistently save about $1.50 a week, you don't have to worry about them getting slimy in your fridge, they are free to start (if you already cook with them), they can be harvested without digging (I just pull the side leaves), they are shallow rooted, and they are hard to kill. They also have really fun puffy flowers and produce tons of seeds to share.
 
Alina Green
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WARNING:  you will get so spoiled from being able to walk over and pick your own green onions or garlic chives or herbs, that when that plant dies or doesn't have enough to pick, you'll really miss it.

So don't start...I'm warning you...you will regret it!!!
 
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My big northeastern city apartment kitchen window gets a few hours at most of early afternoon light- I planted a swiss chard seedling (purchased from an enterprising youth at a local yard sale) in a exterior window box over the summer and it's February now and still chugging along after a few winter snow storms. Lettuces in general, especially dwarf/gem varieties could be good candidates for window sills with limited direct sunlight. Pretty and tasty and so cute too!
 
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