Edible Landscaping in Hawaiʻi

A friend asked me recent­ly about putting in edi­ble land­scap­ing on his place, and con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­ble gen­er­al inter­est in this top­ic, I am post­ing it here.

Most of what I would tell you about is from my own expe­ri­ence because I’ve found just read­ing about the plants is way dif­fer­ent from actu­al­ly grow­ing them. (go fig­ure!)

You got five cat­e­gories here: edi­ble ground cov­ers, peren­ni­al veg­eta­bles, fruit­ing vines, edi­ble trees and edi­ble shrubs. For me, to qual­i­fy as “edi­ble land­scap­ing” the plants have to be low-maintenance…otherwise, you’re farm­ing or some­thing. This is all stuff you can just let grow with per­haps a year­ly main­te­nance cycle—some prun­ing and the addi­tion of nutri­ents to the soil. They also have to be nutri­tious and some­thing you could con­ceiv­ably live on.

It’s impor­tant to note that most plants, and espe­cial­ly trees, require fair­ly inten­sive care at first to make sure they’ve estab­lished them­selves, so take that into account when you plan your edi­ble land­scape.

Now, right off the top, you know fruit trees are a good idea, but most fruit trees require main­te­nance, and this is espe­cial­ly true of many of the vari­eties you would find in a nurs­ery. On this list are all trees that will do OK even if you don’t keep them up. It’s impor­tant to note that for some of the plants here, “low-main­te­nance” also means “poten­tial to be weedy and inva­sive” so it’s all about choos­ing where you grow them.

I’m just going to give you the com­mon names if I don’t know the latin right off hand here, I’ll come back and fin­ish that lat­er.

Groundcovers

Sissu Spinach
Okinawan Sweet Potato
Jungle Peanut (Arachis hypogaea)
Pineapple (plant ’em tight!)

Perennial Vegetables

Kale (par­tic­u­lar­ly dinosaur, Ethiopian vari­eties)
Collards
Poha (physalis)
Tomatillo
Cherry Tomato
Taro (wet areas)
Niʻoi (bird pep­pers)

Vines

Lilikoʻi (pas­si­flo­ra give them a tree or some­thing that can han­dle a lot of weight to grow on)
Jamaican Lilikoʻi
String Beans, Lima Beans, Wing Bean (they die back and reseed them­selves)

Shrubs

Katuk (Sauropus androg­y­nus)
Chaya
Edible Hibiscus (hibis­cus mani­hot)
Pigeon Pea
Surinam Cherry
Noni
Cocona (solanum ses­sil­iflo­rum)
Coffee

Trees

Moringa (Ethiopian vari­ety is best)
Peach Palm
Citrus (not dwarf or oth­er del­i­cate vari­eties; too high-main­te­nance)
Avocado (best to go with a mar­ket-grade vari­ety, not a vol­un­teer; also mix sea­sons with your vari­eties)
Mango (not the com­mon man­go, which is way too big a tree)
Eggfruit
Breadfruit
Lychee
Papaya
Banana (not real­ly a tree; needs lots of mois­ture and fer­til­i­ty: don’t both­er if you don’t have a great spot for it)

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