Edible Landscapes Blend Beauty with Practicality

Posted by D/P/S Continuum | September 14, 2018

D/P/S employees are lifelong learners driven by a desire to share information. Friday Focus, an informal, bi-weekly group discussion with morning coffee and treats, brings staff together to talk about design, ask questions, and share the things that inspire them. Past Friday Focus discussions have ranged from "Ask Me Anything" circle time with Bill Sabatini to dialogue about Facade and Enclosure design and trends in interior design. 

One Friday this summer, Drew Seavey, a Landscape Architect at D/P/S, shared a tray of prickly pear squares and his longstanding love of edible landscaping. 

“It’s a topic I’ve been interested in for quite a while. I think it stems back to when I was about five years old. My great grandma came to visit and pointed out some green apples growing in our front yard. We went into the kitchen and made applesauce. Being five at the time, I loved my sauce and it was incredible to make that connection; this stuff comes from a tree and we eat it!” 

Friday Focus: Edible Landscaping

Many plants growing in the built environment can be lumped into two categories: ornamentals and weeds. Valuable resources in the forms of water, materials and labor are allotted to either the upkeep of ornamentals or the eradication of weeds. This attitude towards landscape widely dismisses the harvest potential of various edible plants growing throughout the built environment. When incorporated as design features in a landscape, edible plants offer both aesthetic and consumptive value.

Buffalo Gourd: A Native Edible 

Revisiting what we plant in the semi-arid Southwest United States is becoming more important as weather-related, societal and ecological patterns shift to reveal ever new sets of conditions. Buffalo gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima) is just one example of a native, edible plant that grows almost anywhere, surviving on rain alone and storing water in a large taproot. 

A member of the cucumber family, this vine trails along the ground and produces baseball-sized gourds. Its starchy root has potential for ethanol production and its seeds can be used for edible oil. It is considered a food source among many Native American groups in the desert southwest.  Its seeds and fruit can be cooked until palatable and its blossoms can be battered and fried. 

Buffalo gourd can be established with very little water and can be grown as a perennial energy crop, producing seed oil. Its broad, leathery leaves help retain soil moisture and produce a microclimate for other plants by shading the soil. It can be harvested as an annual for its taproot, or as a perennial for its oily seeds. 

Edible Landscapes: Beauty + Practicality

Edible landscapes blend beauty with practicality and promote biodiversity through creation of habitat for birds and beneficial insects. Other advantages include an increase in eco-literacy and community building, improved tenant retention and production of food that can be distributed to urban food deserts.

Rethinking our planting strategies by favoring edible plants not only promotes local ecosystems but helps people connect with natural systems, and with each other.

Want to Learn More? 

Native Seeds/SEARCH. A non-profit that seeks to preserve biodiversity through promoting regional heirlooms.

NMSU Cooperative Extension. A staggering amount of research is available to the public. Try out the yard and garden section – some really good publications on growing food.

ABQ Herbalism. Look for classes and events around town.

Foraging Texas. A fantastic blog on wild/urban foraging. Lots of overlap with New Mex species.

Edible Schoolyard Project. A national edible education curriculum for pre-kindergarten through high school. Awesome!

ASLA article on gardens and permaculture