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Edible gardens for people and pollinators

Sign that says Edible gardens for people and pollinators in front of a raised bed garden that’s part of a larger raised bed garden
“Edible gardens for people and pollinators” demonstration garden at Lake Minnetonka Shores, Spring Park, MN

Most gardeners want to use their garden spaces as efficiently as possible. There is also a lot of interest in growing plants we can eat, plants for color flavor and fragrance, and plants that support pollinators. 

I have the great pleasure of working with the resident gardeners at Lake Minnetonka Shores in Spring Park, Minn., in a program we call "Garden Time." Lake Minnetonka Shores (LMS) is a senior living community with levels of care and assistance as well as many services and amenities for the residents including a massive, raised bed garden on the landscaped grounds. 

I became acquainted with LMS when my mother-in-law lived there. Her friends quickly found out I was a horticulture educator and would bring me their houseplants to diagnose. Eventually, I started having houseplant clinics twice a year and, over time, added educational presentations, an annual seed-starting lab, and garden time in the raised bed garden. This year, Extension Master Gardener intern, Ruth Bauer, joined me. 

This is the second year of “Edible plants for people and pollinators” where we show a selection of plants that offer nutritional and delicious options for both people and pollinators. As in 2021, we tried to introduce new plants that people may not think of as edible. For example, we planted yarrow (Achillea), a hardy perennial with leaves that can be used for flavoring, and lemon bee balm (Monarda citriodora) that can be used for tea. We even added a climbing rose that has flavorful petals and rose hips that are high in vitamin C.

When you look for plants for your garden, containers, and window boxes, consider choosing edibles that feed your taste buds and pollinators as well.

 Tall narrow silvery leaves and pale purple flowers on tall stems in a garden with other plants around.
Fragrant lavender flowers and leaves for baked goods, tea, butter and marinades
Small gold-green plants with tall leafy blue-green plant.
Scented geranium leaves flavor sweets, wine, vinegar and honey. They can have lemon, rose, orange, peppermint or lime scented leaves.
Silvery-green tall narrow plant with yellow clusters of tiny flowers backed by a leafy green plant with buds.
Drought-tolerant yarrow has a bitter flavor while daylily buds are crisp and refreshing treats.

2022 Edible plants for people and pollinators

Common name Scientific name Edible parts
Lunch Box Mix Pepper Capsicum 'Lunch Box Mix' Bite-sized sweet peppers.
Lemon Bee Balm Monarda citrodora Leaves used raw or cooked for flavoring in salads, cooked foods, and for tea.
Stevia Stevia rebaudiana Leaves are used as a sweetener.
Lavender Lavandula x heterophylla Fragrant flowers and leaves are used for tea, flavoring pastries, sugar, butter and marinades.
Sassy Summer Lemon Yarrow Achillea 'Sassy Summer Lemon' Leaves and flowers used for a fever-reducing tea, and as a bitter flavoring.
Alaska nasturtium Tropaeolum 'Alaska' Flowers and leaves are tossed fresh in salads for a pepper addition.
Cy's Sunburst scented geranium Pelargonium 'Cy's Sunburst' Leaves are used to flavor wine, sugar, custards and puddings, jelly, vinegar, honey and syrups
Roman Beauty rosemary Rosmarinus 'Roman Beauty' Leaves are used for flavoring other vegetables, breads, butters and oils, vinegars and meats.
Above and Beyond Rose Rosa 'ZLEEltonStrack' Rose hips are high in vitamin C and used in jelly, tea, sauces. Flower petals are used to flavor sugar, pastries,
Happy Returns daylily Hemerocallis 'Happy Returns' Buds taste like a cross between green peas and asparagus.
Alpine strawberry Fragaria vesca Sweet fruit is harvested through the summer. Leaves can be used for tea.
Tuscan kale Brassica 'Toscano' Meaty, crunchy leaves harvested throughout the summer and into fall. Let some plants flower for the bees.
Delicata squash Cucurbita pepo 'Delicata' Small oblong fruits. Flowers can be stuffed and fried.
Clary sage Salvia sclarea Essential oil is used in aromatherapy and alternative medicine. Consult your doctor before using any plant for medicinal purposes.

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension horticulture educator

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