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Vegetable Trees

 
Posts: 121
Location: Southern IL zone 6b/7
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I'd love to compile a list of vegetables, or vegetable like fruits which grow on trees. I'm particularly interested in those that grow in a temperate climate. Perhaps we can note those with a (T).

Avacados
Unripe Jackfruit
Linden Trees - the leaves (T)
Moringa oleifera - leaves and young seed pods

and I'm stuck.

 
pollinator
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Mulberry leaves.

You don't have to be a silkworm to eat them, they make good animal fodder and are similar to grape leaves in texture and cooking applications. With the help of Google, I was even able to find a recipe for Stuffed Mulberry Leaves with Chicken.
 
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Heart of palm, AKA "swamp cabbage"
 
pollinator
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various edible bamboo.. stretching the "tree" aspect slightly as it is the new shoots that you eat.

Some of the nut trees make great staples for carbohydrates and protein. Sweet chestnuts have been cultivated on a massive scale in Corsica since roman times and the nuts collected, dried, and stored for making all sorts (up to bread products).

A good book to look at for inspiration is "Tree Crops". Very old, but you can find pdf versions of it online.
 
pollinator
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Location: Andalucía, Spain
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Young Bech leaves are lovely
 
Michael Longfield
Posts: 121
Location: Southern IL zone 6b/7
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Thanks for the replies!!

I'm excluding nuts and seeds from the veggie category. I do love chestnuts though. I planted 125 this year.
 
Posts: 296
Location: Carbon Hill, AL
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Camillia sinensis Tea plant.

I've heard of people pickling the fruits of the tulip popular but have never done it myself.
You can drink the nectar from the tulip tree also. The same with the honey suckle.

Sweet birch bark can be harvested to make a wintergreen flavoring and a beer.

sourwood leaves are edible. But not particularly tasty.

Polk salad is pretty much a tree down here in the south... The new leaves shorter than your finger can be boiled in a few changes of water and taste just like cooked spinach.

Most nut tree mast I myself would consider to be a vegetable. It can be toasted and ground up and made into a flour or boiled into a mush.

Shagbark hickory bark can be boiled into a syrup.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1574
Location: northern California
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This is an important, and fairly short, list.
Rose-of-Sharon young leaves and tips are good. I have read that any Hibiscus is in fact edible, but that deserves some corroboration.
Multiple sources say that cassava leaves are edible cooked.....and this does reach small-tree size. Plants like this (including chaya and taro) are important in the tropics because they are toxic raw---and therefore ubiguitous livestock leave them alone, while still providing nutritious greens to people when cooked.
Flowers of several things, including black locust, wisteria, and the redbuds, are edible (the first two when cooked, and redbud either raw or cooked).
 
Dawn Hoff
pollinator
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Does Hibiscus tolerante frost?
 
Jay Grace
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Rose of Sharon handles zone 7-8 with no problem.
It's a pretty popular landscaping tree down here.
 
gardener
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I live in zone six,rose of Sharon grows like a weed,the flowers are edible, bland,and usually occupied by a bee,so be careful when you pick them. The prairie mimosa has edible seeds, my mimosa tree makes lots of seeds but is not documented as being edible except for its flowers,which are edible but not tasty.
 
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Yellowhorn has edible leaves, flowers, and nuts. Honey Locust produces high protein pods that might be eaten as a green vegetable when young. Black Locust also produces flowers that are edible, and the foliage can be used as animal fodder. I've read that sweet potato leaves make a good green vegetable, but haven't tried them yet.

One wild plant in my location is Miner's lettuce, which is dead-simple to identify, even by little children. I like to stir-fry it like spinach with anchovies and a little oyster sauce. Milkweed and nettle are also present in my area, but I havent't gotten around to trying those yet. Miner's lettuce is very, very high on my importance list, because I start seeing it in January near the base of the mountain on the southern sides, where as I can find it in June on the north slopes at higher elevation. That's the one green vegetable that is easy to find during the period of the year with the least number of fresh choices.
 
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Rose of Sharon is at least zone 5.  Weedy here.
       In the humid tropics, Ensette or Abyssinian banana is a staple starch.  The leaves can be used for wrapping like true bananas (Musa), but it is the pseudostem and corm that provide the calories.  Not technically a tree, but does get that high.
      Unripe papaya (another pseudotree).
      Toona/Cedrela sinensis (vegetable mahogany) for temperate areas to zone 5.  Young leaves are cooked, after being stripped from their midrib, bruised and salted, especially in pajeon (Korean "scallion pancakes," but with Toona rather than scallions).
     Baobab: leaves are edible (so is the fruit).  Portulacaria afra ("elephant food," Afrikaans name seems to translate as "lardbush"): leaves are edible, best in the afternoon (too tart in the morning).  The young cladodes/pads of all prickly pears (Opuntia section platyopuntia & Nopalea) are good cooked or pickled vegetables once you get the thorns & glochids off (flowers and fruit also edible, same warning); many of the tropical ones are aborescent.  These are tropical arid zone trees.
       Pereskia aculeata (great fruit, but the leaves are edible too) is really a rampant, thorny liana, but other Pereskia with more rigid stems can probably be used the same (fruit less famous, or maybe the plants simply less invasive).  Thornscrub (semiarid or seasonally dry tropics).

The trouble with eating trees is reaching the harvest.  In Ensette, the whole stem is taken down after about 4 years, then pounded or somesuch to extract the starch.  Hibiscus can be grown as a shrub.  Portulacaria is small as a houseplant.  But with true trees (other than sap crops like maple & birch), you pretty much have to espalier or coppice/pollard them to eat much.
 
gardener
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Chaya
 
pollinator
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toona sinensis
 
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Location: Zone 5b Ontario
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I believe both the leafs and flowers of the linden tree are edible.
 
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Redbud, I think Western and Eastern. Eastern is on eattheweeeds. Basically a sweetpea pod.

Remember mulberry and bamboo are poisonous without proper prep.
 
Sharon Chu
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I think mimosa is more of an herb, not a vegetable. I wouldn't eat it in large quantities. The pods were traditionally used as an anti-parasitic.
 
Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
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Hibiscus was mentioned, there are a large number of hibiscus with edible flowers, leaves and pods.
 
pollinator
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Beach, lime (Tilia) and hawthorn leaves are edible when young and quite good. Hawthorn flowers are also edible and taste nice and sweet, also elder flowers.
 
pollinator
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I have young Linden trees that I planted because I read that the leaves are edible.  They might be but they taste like exactly what they are, a tree leaf.  
 
William Bronson
gardener
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Sharon Chu wrote:I think mimosa is more of an herb, not a vegetable. I wouldn't eat it in large quantities. The pods were traditionally used as an anti-parasitic.



I've learned that the bark of prairie mimosa  is source of a hallucinogen.
I'm not going to try it.
 
master gardener
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Location: Maine, zone 5
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Michael Longfield wrote:I'd love to compile a list of vegetables, or vegetable like fruits which grow on trees.



Vines grow on trees.  Do those count ?  That would open things up.
 
Sharon Chu
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Siberian Elm, Chinese Elm,

Green flowers and young leaves are edible.

Is that true for other kinds of elms?
 
Greg Martin
master gardener
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Greg Martin wrote:Vines grow on trees.  Do those count ?  That would open things up.



This brings up another question for me....which trees make the best scaffold trees for vine crops.  I've read that Vikings used alders to grow hops on.  I can imagine that coppicing nitrogen fixing trees like alder would help to release nitrogen from the root system as well as from the branches that you can use to mulch the ground.  Are there other trees people would recommend to grow vine crops on?  I think I'd like to grow corn field beans and squash in shrubs like this....maybe some air potatoes.
 
pollinator
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There are loads of edible tree leaves out there, as this post demonstrates. But most of them don't taste good, so what's the point? The only ones I know if that you might actually want to see on your plate on a regular basis are:

Chaya - tastes like spinach
Moringa
Elderberry - blossoms are fantastic deep fried.

I hear mulberry isn't bad but I haven't tried.

 
Sharon Chu
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Young Elm leaves are supposed to taste like a mild spinach, and the blossoms are supposed to be delicious. I have one in my yard, but I didn't know that, so I'll have to try it in a month or two. I did notice the our chickens and rabbits sure like them though. .

redbud sounds delicious too, but I haven't tried it.
 
pollinator
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Greg Martin wrote: Are there other trees people would recommend to grow vine crops on?



The tree would ideally have to be: something low growing/pruneable(so you can access/harvest the vines), with a smaller leaf load/smaller leaves(to let sunlight through/not be smothered by the vine leaves), and not too soft/brittle of wood(to support the extra weight of the vines/fruits).

Palo Verde and Pomegranate comes to mind, in my climate, maybe even larger bushes like Scrub Oak and Ceanothus(N-Fixer)- not sure for more temperate regions.  

Could even be a tree you want to remove - smother it with annual vines for a few seasons, then chop.
 
Jondo Almondo
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Given the exhaustive nature of this list, can I suggest an addendum to the title for easier searching (Vegetable trees - trees with edible leaves).

I've just read that young leaves of breadfruit trees are traditionally eaten by Tahitians - as if breadfruit wasn't versatile enough as a fruit.
 
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Toon tree leaves have a good strong onion type smell and tastes good when young leaves are used , i chop them up for in a stir fry ---grows okay here in ireland ---bit slower than in its tropics or sub tropics origins , seeds have a very strong onion type smell--almost liked cooked onion smell to me---haven t tried eating them yet
 
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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breadfruit is a super vegetable tree.  I use young fruits to make mock potato salad that is really terrific.

Noni leaves are edible. I've tried the young leaves and they're ok. I can't stand the fruits though.
 
Michael Longfield
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4 years later and I'm still lovin' on the idea of incorporating more vegetables in our diet that grow on trees.   Here is a video of an obscure one Kalopanax sciadophylloides...  
 
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Will Meginley wrote:Heart of palm, AKA "swamp cabbage"


Will, would you share a recipe?

Brian
-
 
pioneer
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I did not see staghorn sumac in my quick scan of this thread. The sprouts or even new growth on the tips of branches can be snapped off, peeled, then eaten (cooked or raw). There are uses for the 'berries' as well. Check out samuel Thayer's book the forager's harvest for a detailed description and instructions.
 
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