Monday, June 1, 2009

Woody Food Plants

I've just acquired some new food plants that I plan to grow in containers on the back deck. I am so excited by the possibilities they offer...once they have gotten big enough to provide a harvest. Here is a small tour of my burgeoning collection, for your inspiration:

Tea Camellia

As you may know, tea leaves come from the plant camellia sinensis (herbal teas, or infusions, are a different thing altogether.) Black, green and white teas all come from different ways of harvesting the young leaves of this plant. I'll need to wait for this little camellia to get bigger before I start harvesting leaves, but in a couple of years I could be making my own tea. This plant is supposed to be hardy to zone 8, but I may bring it inside this year, since I experienced a few deaths this winter of 'hardy' plants I had in containers. Plants this size are available from Edible Landscaping, out in Afton, VA. Shipping is available but expensive, so I recommend heading out there on a weekend and visiting some wineries on the way (White Hall and Barboursville are always excellent choices).

Bay Laurel

Otherwise known as laurus nobilis, the bay laurel is the source of culinary bay leaves. this is also a small specimen, meaning I won't be harvesting leaves for a while. When it's big enough, I'll be able to go to this plant and pick a leaf of any size and throw it right into my soups and sauces. Bay laurels are evergreen and can grow up to 40 feet tall! Mine will not ever get that tall because I'm growing it in a container. A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields carries bay laurels if you'd like one of your own.

Kaffir Lime

This is such a beautiful plant. Glossy green hourglass-shaped leaves, compact and carrying the thorns typical to most citrus plants, it is an intriguing part of my back-deck display. Kaffir lime leaves are used just like bay laurel leaves, tossed whole into a dish and removed before consumption. Instead of richly flavored Italian style sauces and soups, the kaffir lime is a common flavor in Thai and other southwest asian dishes -- particularly curries. The rind of the small fruit can used as well, though the intense astringency of the juice makes it suitable only for use in medicine (particularly Indonesian medicine) or insect repellents. My plant is already big enough for me to use leaves, though I love it so much I am afraid to damage the plant, and I haven't had a chance to cook curry at home yet. I also got this plant at A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields.


  1. Awesome. The kaffir lime especially.

  2. I've been interested in growing tea but haven't yet pulled it off. How much sun do they need? Love the blog.