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80 Vegetables needing or tolerating shady or low-sun sites in Seattle

    Since I live in part shade, as do many other Seattleites, growing food means knowing what crops perform in less than full sun. My initial list of 80 such species is shared with you in this article. It is limited to brief annotations; many details could have been added. But enough names exist for you to do your own additional research to learn what you seek.
    Why grow more food? So far, I've been content with a garden full of edible or fragrant plants and in my garden, or for clients, growing dozens of kinds of familiar vegetable crops. Long ago, I was bored by straight rows of cabbages and carrots --and still am. But, to grow vegetable crops in unusual conditions is an interesting challenge, and the results will be not only more fresh produce to eat, but helpful experience to share with others. Traditional field crops in flat ground and full sun, is not the only way to grow. My garden has irregular beds, many containers, and many trees. The thirsty roots of a red cedar extend 50 feet away from its trunk! If you can grow only one vegetable crop in your Seattle garden, choose potato. It out-yields everything else and is easy.

Alexanders / Black Lovage (Smyrnium Olusatrum)
    Robust biennial; easy care; it reseeds. Tastes like bitter celery or parsley. Excellent winter-time greens. Seeds are spicy, black when mature.

Angelica (Angelica Archangelica)
    Monocarpic; thirsty; aromatic. Stems candied, or used as celery or parsley, and roots are also edible.

Arugula / Rocket (Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa)
    Annual. Reseeds easily. Piquant leaves and flowers.

Bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica) --and others
    Woody grasses requiring much space. Young shoots peeled and usually cooked (some okay raw).

Bean, Bush (Phaseolus vulgaris)
    Some pole beans can climb high to reach sunlight.

Bean, Fava or Broad (Vicia Faba)
    Cool-season annual. Leaves, flowers & beans edible.

Begonia (Begonia) spp.
    At least 69 species & hybrids reported with flowers, leaf stalks, leaves edible raw or cooked. Has oxalic acid.

Bok Choy / Pak Choi (Brassica Rapa var. chinensis)
    Related Asian greens can also grow in low sun levels.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea)
    Much better yield if lime and manure are abundant.

Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea)
    Much better yield if lime and manure are abundant.

Burdock / Gobo (Arctium Lappa)
    Monocarpic. Leaves are huge. Root is cooked.

Celeriac / Turnip-rooted Celery (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum)
    Easier to raise than celery, supplying more calories.

Vietnamese Celery / Korean Watercress / Seri セリ (Œnanthe javanica))
    Aquatic perennial. Young shoots edible.

Chard / Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla)
    A Beet variation grown for leaves. Much better yield if lime and manure are abundant.

Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius = C. Chayamansa)
    Subtropical perennial shrub; must be moved indoors during freezing weather. Leaves cooked.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)
    A common weed, nutritious and often eaten raw.

Chives (Allium Shœnoprasum)
    Familiar miniature onion cousin. Perennial; best if divided every few years. Leaves, flowers, eaten raw.

Chrysanthemum / Shungiku Chop-suey-green (Glebionis coronaria = Chrysanthemum coronarium)
    The prized east Asian chrysanthemum greens. Annual. Flowers eaten as well as leaves.

Corn Salad / Lamb Lettuce / Mâche (Valerianella olitoria)
    A very small spring annual. Sow seeds all over, and it will grow where it likes & reseed. Eat it raw.

Cress, Bitter (Cardamine) spp.
    Most are not bitter, but delicious. A perennial, thirsty and pretty one is C. pratensis (Cuckoo-flower).

Cress, Garden (Lepidium sativum)
    Easy annual; let it self sow. Sprouts, leaves, flowers, and seeds all eaten.

Cress, Water (Rorippa Nasturtium-aquaticum)
    Perennial. Ideally, it grows in running water.

Cress, Winter / Yellow Rocket (Barbarea vulgaris)
    European perennial. Some of its kin need more light.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
    Leaves and flowers are edible. Some strains bear less bitter, larger leaves.

Endive (Cichorium Endiva)
    Varied forms include curly endive (fraisé / frisée), escarole and endive proper. Related to Radicchio.

Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
    Deciduous fern. Likes moisture. Fiddleheads edible.

Garlic, Bear / Ramsons (Allium ursinum)
    Needs shade; a woodland garlic; lovely white flowers.

Garlic, Wild or Crow (Allium vineale)
    Weedy. Hates shade but grows in it without producing flowers or seeds therein --a good thing.

Japanese Ginger / Myoga ミョウ(Zingiber Mioga)
    Requires part shade and ample moisture. Roots and tender young shoots edible.

Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus)
    Perennial spinach relative. Much better yield with added lime and manure.

Gotu Kola / Asiatic Pennywort (Hydocotyle asiatica)
    Semi-aquatic, low growing perennial. Needs ample moisture and protection from freezing.

Greenbrier (Smilax glauca, S. herbacea, S. rotundifolia, etc.)
    Large scrambling shrubs from eastern North America or Asia. Hard to obtain. Young shoots eaten.

Ground Elder / Bishop's weed / Goutweed (Ægopodium Podagraria)
    Spreads weedily as a deciduous perennial groundcover. Often variegated. Recalls a robust parsley in flavor.

Herb Patience & Docks (Rumex) spp.
    One can usually forage wild Dock leaves readily, in season. Young tender leaves & roots eaten.

Horseradish / Red Cole (Armoracia rusticana)
    Leaves edible as well as the perennial roots, grated.

Jerusalem Artichoke / Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
    Only in light shade. Leaves also edible, but bland.

Kale (Brassica oleracea)
    Best winter greens for Seattle. Much better yield if lime and manure are abundant. Many diverse kinds.

Giant Kale / Heartleaf Crambe (Crambe cordifolia)
    Huge perennial. Leaves have harsh hairs, and are only eaten when young.

Kohlrabi / Cabbage or Stem Turnip (Brassica oleracea)
    Besides the swollen part, the leaves edible like Kale.

Wild Leek / Ramp (Allium tricoccum)
    E North America perennial woodlander like Bear Garlic.

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
    Annual. It would be ideal to learn what cultivars are best suited to low light. Sow several kinds.

Lettuce, Wall (Mycelis muralis = Lactuca muralis)
    Perennial, bitter, and weedy, but tolerates places in which regular lettuce has zero chance.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
    A tall perennial; site it carefully. Flavor recalls Celery.

Maca / Peruvian Ginseng (Lepidium Meyenii)
    From Peru. Tuber eaten. Difficult to grow in northern hemisphere --an interesting challenge.

Miner's Lettuce / Pink Purslane (Claytonia or Montia perfoliata and C. sibirica)
    Weedy native winter annuals of peculiar flavor.

Mint (most Mentha spp. & hybrids)
    Perennial. Make sure to choose a kind that appeals to you --mints are many, & diverse.

Mitsuba ミツバ / Japanese wild-parsley (Cryptotænia japonica)
    Perennial. Best in cool, moist, partly shady conditions.

Mushroom (e.g., oyster and shiitake シイタケ)
    If you love mushrooms, kits are available so you can grow your own in darkest shade.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
    Biennial. Garlic-flavored mustard greens. Weedy and "noxious," but it can be foraged in the wild.

Nasturtium / Indian Cress (Tropæolum majus --annual-- and T. tuberosum --perennial)
    Freezes, more than anything else, bother these.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)
    Perennial. Due to stinging hairs, young tender leaves must be cooked lightly before eaten.

Oca (Oka) / New Zealand Yam (Oxalis tuberosa)
    From the Andes. Grow it like potatoes, except that its sour-tasting leaves are also edible, sorrel-flavored.

Winter Onion (Allium x proliferum)
    Eaten for the greens mainly, its bulbs are tiny.

Orange-scented Herb (Houttuynia cordata)
    Perennial groundcover that dies down in freezes. A fish-scented variant also exists ("Fish Mint"). Leaves and roots are edible.

Parsley (Petroselinum sativum)
    Easy to grow. It will reseed. Flat-leaf rather than curly-leaf strains are most productive and flavorful.

Parsnip, Common (Pastinaca sativa))
    Biennial. Roots take longer to mature in less light.

Parsnip, Cow (Heracleum maximum = H. lanatum)
    A huge native perennial bearing white flowers. Young stems peeled, eaten like celery. Indians ate it.

Pea (Pisum sativum)
    Easy to grow. Prefers cool weather.

Pellitory of the Wall (Parietaria) spp.
    Perennial. Weedy; totally shade tolerant. Likes lime. Flavor bland. Related to nettles but no sting.

Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
    Best grown in containers that can be moved about, and make harvesting easier.

Primrose (Primula x polyantha)
    Perennial but often short-lived. Leaves & flowers edible.

Radicchio (Cichorium Intybus)
    Robust biennial; easy care; it reseeds.

Rampion (Campanula Rapunculus)
    Biennial. Edible roots. Creeping Bellflower, C. rapunculoides, is a weedy perennial cousin also with edible roots.

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)
    Huge perennial grown for edible leafstalks.

Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium or C. alternifolium)
    Small European plants that like the same conditions as Wasabi: cool, wet, and partly shady.

Scallions / Shallot ((Allium Cepa) Aggregatum group
    They will be leggy and weaker in less sunlight.

Scurvy-grass / Spoonwort (Cochlearia officinalis)
    Cold hardy, strong flavored greens recall watercress flavor. Best in rich, moist soil.

Sorrel, Common (Rumex Acetosa)
    Perennial. Large, upright leaves, of sour quality.

Sorrel, French or Buckler-leaved (Rumex scutatus)
    A floppy perennial with small, shield-shaped leaves.

Sorrel, Wood (Oxalis) spp.
    Perennial. Both groundcover and clumping kinds exist; clover-like, sour leaves. Flowers pink, yellow or white.

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)
    Annual. Best sown every few weeks for a succession of crops. Give it much nitrogen.

Moluccan or Cholesterol Spinach (Gynura procumbens)
    A tropical perennial. Protect against freezes.

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata & Osmorhiza) spp.
    Anise-scented perennials. Roots, and young green seeds eaten.

Cherry & Currant Tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum & S. pimpinellifolium)
    Tomatoes thrive in warmth. Warm shade is preferable to cool sunlight.

Cabbage Thistle (Cirsium oleraceum)
    A huge, rarely culticated, Euro-Siberian perennial, not too spiny --for a thistle. Likes moisture.

Milk or Mary's Thistle (Silybum Marianum)
    Annual or biennial Eurasian weed with lovely leaves. "Noxious." Much used in herbal medicine. Leaves & root edible.

Turnip (Brassica Rapa var. Rapa)
    Much better yield if lime and manure are abundant. Greens are delicious, too.

Udo ウド (Aralia cordata)
    Large, perennial Japanese vegetable; young blanched stalks eaten.

Wasabi ワサビ Japanese Horseradish (Wasabia japonica)
    A small perennial. Needs cool, very moist, shady site.


Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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