Edible leaves of plants add flavors from spicy to bitter, plus they are rich in vitamins and minerals. Many of these edible leafy plants are common, while others are classified as rare or alternative. Most plants have specific growing conditions and are not always easy to cultivate, but almost any plant can be purchased through gardening websites and nurseries.
The Anatomy of an Edible Leaf
An edible leaf has three morphological regions: lamina, petiole and base. The lamina is a broad, flat region used to collect light for photosynthesis. The petiole is a stalk-like region that holds the lamina away from the stem. The base is found at the lower end of the petiole.
Common Plants with Edible Leaves
People eat the leaves of many plants on a regular basis. The most common plants are spinach, celery and artichokes. When eating spinach, most people consume the flavorful laminas, and with celery, the petiole is typically eaten. Artichokes are found at the ends of the stems near the flowers. These oval leaves do not have a distinct lamina, petiole, or base regions. Instead, each artichoke leaf consists of an enlarged leaf base.
Rare Plants with Edible Leaves
Fuki is rare herb native to Japan with edible laminas and petioles. It's also called bog rhubarb and giant butterbur. It grows up to 4 feet tall in dense colonies and prefers moist to wet soil with full shade. Good King Henry is a another edible leafy plant. It contains more nutrients than spinach, and produces lamina's that can be consumed raw or cooked. The plant grows up to 2 feet tall and prefers rich soil. Yacon is another herb with edible leaves and roots. It is native to southern Europe and prefers well-drained soil with partial shade. The plant has yellow flower heads and yields long, carrot-like roots.
Online Databases of Edible Leaves
Plants for a Future is an online database with research and information on edible and useful plants suitable for growing outdoors in a temperate climate. It has a specific list of alternative edible leaves (see Resources). Meanwhile, Leaf for Live is an online database of various vegetables and plants. It has a comprehensive list of every plant species, with leaves, that has been safely eaten by people (see Resources).