|Written By Lara Wadsworth|
When living in northern climates, we can often forget that vegetable growing and edible landscapes don’t have to be left to those with longer growing seasons than us. But, that couldn’t be more wrong. In pre-colonial times, most of North and South America were food forests! The native populations knew how to farm the land in a way that was sustainable and meant feeding not only themselves, but generations after them. Here is a list of just a few common edible plants that can survive perennially in northern gardens!
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
If you’re looking for a cut flower that is good for pollinators, has edible foliage, and is a cold hardy perennial down to zone 3, Echinacea is the answer! This outstandingly hardy plant is nearly disease and pest free and provides wonderful purple cone flowers. Once established, Echinacea (also known as Purple Coneflower) can persist for years while providing leaves that make delicious teas and tinctures that are said to boost the immune system.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
A delightful vegetable that can be purchased at many grocery stores, there is nothing like some fresh asparagus from your garden. The fact that it is hardy down to zone 2 is icing on the cake. Nearly anyone in North America can find a variety of asparagus that will be right for them and their garden. Although it is slow to establish, it is persistent and will reward your hard work for years to come.
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Are you a fan of pickles? That is just the tip of the iceberg on the usefulness of this cold-hardy herb. From pickling, to cut flowers, or seasoning chicken and other meats, dill is perfect for the perennial kitchen garden. It thrives in pots as well as beds and will persistently return each year. Another performer down to zone 2. Dill is sure to thrive in most chilly gardens!
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
This world-renowned plant is known mostly for its fragrance. Although it is not quite as cold hardy as some others on this list, some varieties are tolerant down to zone 3. Not only can these blooms be used for their fragrance, but also for teas, garnishes, and flavoring other drinks and baked goods. Everything from hot lavender drinks to lavender lemonade to lavender cookies, this practical and beautiful plant won’t disappoint.
Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)
This beautiful leafy green is useful in ways not always expected. Although the red stalks of this vegetable are fibrous and slightly sour, they are most commonly used in sweet baked goods. Rhubarb strawberry pie, rhubarb cream pie, rhubarb muffins, and more can all be baked with this interesting vegetable. The stalks can even be chopped, blanched, frozen, and then used throughout the year for all your desires! Remember to only consume the stalks as the leaves are not edible. Cold hardy down to zone 3, this outstanding perennial is a no-brainer!
Mint (Mentha piperita)
Mint hardly needs a description of its own. However, not everyone knows that mint can be grown as a perennial down to zone 3! Use mint leaves for margaritas, Asian dishes, pesto, soups, and more. Dry the leaves in their prime and use them all year for seasonings and garnishes. The leaves are best harvested before the flowers come on. Be sure not to harvest too much of the plant at once to give it time to recover!
Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)
Strawberries also need little encouragement. The new information here is about Alpine Strawberries. These berries grow specifically in cooler climates than traditional strawberries do. The berries are also a bit smaller than those you might buy at the grocery store, but boy, are they packed with a sweet flavor. Use them in all the same ways you would any other strawberry! We highly recommend pairing these fresh fruits with a few sprigs of mint for some refreshing flavored water. Below we have mentioned some beneficial companion plants for alpine strawberries
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Perennial chives are cold hardy down to zone 3 and will come up year after year! Use them like you would green onions or scallions! The white parts can be cooked and the greens are delicious fresh garnishes. You can even dry them for using all winter long as a flavorful herb for soups and pasta dishes.
Raspberries (Rubus idaeus)
Another delicious fruit that requires little persuasion! Raspberries grow quite prolifically in northern climates down to zone 3 easily, and even colder with some added protection. The delicate fruits are a favorite of birds but also of humans. They are perfect for fresh eating, baking, jam-making, and more! We even have two universal jam recipes perfect for using up any spare berries. There is nothing quite like fresh berries from your garden in the middle of summer! Below you will also find some good comapnion plant ideas.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Bee Balm is most commonly known as an ornamental native flower. However, the leaves can be dried and used as a spice similar to thyme or oregano. The flowers are also highly attractive to pollinators, hence the name. The blooms are edible for humans as well! They are said to have a minty flavor when used as a garnish or in salads. This cold hardy ornamental perennial can thrive down to zone 3 and provide beauty and utility all summer long.
As stated before, this list is just the beginning of the many beautiful and useful plants that can thrive in cold climates. With protection or light coverings, a plethora of other plants can also be tended and made to grow in snowy areas. Growing your own food is one of the best things you can do to benefit your health, your family, and your environment! Don’t let cold weather stop you.
|Lara Wadsworth, True Leaf Market Writer|
I am a native of Southwestern Michigan, where I also reside, and I love all things plants! I got a Bachelor's Degree in Horticulture and found the first work-from-home job I could get. Now, I spend my days writing for TLM, playing with my dog, eating delicious food with my husband, and plotting my next landscape or gardening move. I believe everyone should get down and dirty in the soil now and then. Happy Gardening!
About the Author
I'm Ashleigh Smith, a native to Northern Utah. I first gained a love of gardening with my grandmother as I helped her each summer. I decided to make a career of it and have recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. My studies have focused on plant production while I also have experience in Nursery & Garden Center Operations.
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