Low or No Care Local Food Plants
Here is a great thread from the austinperm listserve. It includes a list of useful or edible plants that grow well in Austin and require little or no care and feeding.
- oaks - acorns
- sunchokes/jerusalem artichokes
- pawpaws? - haven't tried but maybe they are easy
- carrots/queen anne's lace
- Lamb’s Quarter
- Prickly pear cactus
- Agarita (pain to harvest, but tasty little berries and new growth)
- Chile Pequin (a little goes a long way)
- Sumac (sour berries make nice lemonade, and sumac reduction seems popular on restaurant menus these days)
- Turks Cap (berries are usable for jelly--I'm not too fond of eating the young leaves, but I haven't tried cooking them)
You know, we have two Mexican restaurants around here (Cedar Park/ Leander), La Tapatia, that serves nopalitos...pickled slivers of cactus pad/hands. They are SO good, too. I order them on breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs and cheese. I assume that some restaurants in Austin serve them, but haven't seen any that do.
Huh, I didn't know you could eat the Turks Cap leaves. I'd heard about the fruit I just don't think I've seen it. I tried some of the dry sumac berries years ago by sucking on them. Relatively good.Mulberries are good too.
I'd add elderberry and poke to the list, as they grow wild with NO help at all and produce edible and medicinal parts. Wild onions give us green onions for a long season, and there are lots and lots of good wild greens around. For those of you with poultry, yellow dock can provide quite a good harvest of seeds for them, and the same seeds can be eaten by humans as well.
I'd also suggest checking out this site on edible wild plants in Houston, as many of these can be found in/around Austin as well. Just get 'em started on your place and you'll have low/no care food automagickally.
Some problem plants:
Pecans raised for high production require weekly water and lots of fertilizer and zinc spraying to get good yield, see:
I'm sure there are plenty of folks who will laugh at the requirements listed, but if I'm relying on them for food (as in self-sufficient)
, I want predictable, and that means care.
Oaks...less "production" care for acorns, but fairly serious processing to make them edible. And Oaks do not always produce acorns every year.
Peaches are the drama queens of the garden. There is a reason organic peaches are hard to find (or, if you wish to look at it differently, why peaches are almost always on the dirty dozen). They require a lot of pest control that is very difficult to do organically. Plus, plenty of non-bug pests that would require extra work. Though I guess you can argue squirrells are tasty.
Paw Paws don't do well here. There are some planted at the TreeFolks site, and i've seen them produce, but listing them as zone 8 is a reach, and you need two of them. Plus, if it is long term, we'll move out of zone 8 into 9 and the trees might not adapt.
Carrots are cool season. So, if you ignore summer plants (they WILL produce, but not like cool season nor as tasty), yes, they might work. Because of our soil, you would need to plant short varieties because the long ones hate clay/rocky soil.