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Tri-color kiwi

Tri-color kiwi is pretty and also good to eat.

Did you know these landscape favorites were edible?

As of late, I have been examining the subject of edible flowers. From sunflower buds that taste like artichoke hearts to the lemony tart, but sweet, berry flavor of hibiscus tea to daylily buds that taste like green beans, I have sampled these ornamental treats. However, while further researching edibles in the landscape, I have discovered more landscape plants that I would like to evaluate.

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) dogwood is an early blooming landscape shrub with bright yellow showy flowers that cover the stems in March. Considered a large shrub growing 20 feet, it bears edible berries that may require competition with the birds. These fleshy cherry-red berries mature in mid-summer. Tasting sour plucked right off the plant, most of the time they are made into syrups or preserves. The cultivar ‘Redstone’ boasts a heavy fruit production.

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) was surprising for me but the ruby-red ornamental cone-shaped fruiting clusters are edible. These roadside bloomers grow in thickets and are most often noticed by passers-by when leaves turn yellow, red or orange. The berries have a tangy lemon flavor, which lends well to making a tea with the berries. Those in the Middle East and North Africa use the seeds as a spice tasting of lemons.

Cranberry viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) is an 8- to 12-foot shrub that blooms white lace cap flowers in April. In the fall, drooping clusters of red berries in vivid red appear against dark purple foliage. The fruits, reminiscent of sour cranberries, can be eaten raw but are usually cooked into sauces, preserves and jellies. The cultivar ‘Wentworth’ has an excellent flavor.

Hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) is a long-growing ornamental vine of 20 to 30 feet with fragrant blooms in May and edible fruits in October. It is dioecious, which means there are separate male and female plants. The fruits taste like a slightly sweeter kiwi. Former Horticulture Educator Jennifer Nelson-Schultz planted ‘Artic beauty’ for its striking pink and white variegated foliage and suggests Actinidia arguta ‘Issai’ because it is self-fertile. In her Midwest garden, it took five years to produce fruits.

Hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliate) boasts fragrant white spring flowers on an 8- to 20-foot shrub commonly used as hedge because of its thorns. It needs to be located in a protected location. Flowers concede to small oranges that turn yellow late in the season. Being acidic and a little seedy, they are usually used in marmalades or preserves.

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Kelly Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.


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