Edible Landscaping in Hawaii

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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