When beginning to think about permanent edible landscape design and forest gardening, taking in the general concepts of Permaculture can help tremendously. 

An edible forest can feature a number of natural layers. Fruit and nut bearing trees can create a canopy, dwarf trees shrubs and vines can create a natural under layer and be followed by low growing plants and ground cover. Plants that enjoy similar conditions and/or have a symbiotic relationship with one another are often arranged near one another in guilds. Careful consideration to conditions such as soil and exposure to sun as well as guild mates is wise given the significant investment and permanence involved in planting new trees, bushes and perennial flowers.  

Following is a list of edible perennials to consider when Edible Permascaping in a colder weather climate, zones 3-5. Do you know of a hardy edible perennial that isn't on this list? Please let us know in the comments!

Fruit and nut bearing trees:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Quince
  • Crab Apple
  • Persimmon (Wild American)
  • Cherry
  • Plum
  • Serviceberry
  • Chestnut
  • Filberts
  • Walnuts
  • Red Mulberry
Growing Vegetables in the Shade

Bushes, shrubs, canes and vines:

  • Aronia
  • Blueberry
  • Serviceberry 
  • Raspberry
  • Black raspberry
  • Blackberry
  • Gooseberry
  • Salmonberry
  • Thimbleberry
  • Lingonberry
  • Blue Honeyberry
  • Goji berry
  • Elderberry
  • Currants
  • Strawberry
  • Kiwi (Hardy)
  • Grapes
  • Hops
© Écohabitation

Vegetables and flowers:

  • Rhubarb
  • Asparagus
  • Jeruselem artichoke - roots (Sunchokes)
  • Fiddleheads - young shoots (Ostrich Fern)
  • Cattails - spring shoots
  • Tiger lilly - flowers
  • Violet - flowers
  • Forget-me-not - flowers
Edible Perennials Rhubarb


  • Shitake
  • Oyster


  • Wild Leeks (Ramps)
  • Sorrel
  • Nettle
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Bee balm (Oswego)
  • Mint
  • Garlic grass
  • Chives
Edible Perennials Ramps

Growing Vegetables in the Shade

Read more about urban farming, growing food in small spaces, hydroponic bottle gardens and all about sustainable landscaping in the Ecohome green building guide pages.