Today I thought I would share with you some of my favourite plants which can produce food in shade that is more than just light, dappled shade below fruit trees.
The first example is one I have in my own forest garden: mahonia. Also known as Oregon Grape, I realise that this may not be the best choice for every area. However, I do find it useful as it produces lots of berries even where it is – positioned against an east north east facing wall, behind mature apple trees.
Next to my mahonia is another fruit producing shrub – Chaenomeles, or flowering quince. This is another shrub which can tolerate even rather pronounced shade.
A little further along the same border of the forest garden area is an extremely large barberry, or Berberis. These are not palatable raw but can be used in mixed jellies etc. This is also a shrub that produces food in moderately deep shade.
Elder is one other common food producing plant with edible berries. We have several in a different part of the garden and use the flowers and the berries. While it can also thrive in full sun, the elder does not mind shade when its other environmental requirements are met.
Rubus ssp. which are used as groundcover can also cope with a surprising amount of shade and still fruit successfully. And you may be able to get away with alpine strawberries too. Of all the common berry bushes, gooseberries are, I find, most tolerant of shade.
In terms of herbs, one of the herbs which grows best in shade is wild garlic or ramsons. This is a great choice where not invasive. Mint can also grow vigorously even in a gloomier spot. Hostas also thrive in shade and are a great vegetable – not just an ornamental plant.
Of course, there are many other leafy greens and common crops which can cope with some shade. But the options above can be good choices for even more shaded spots, and for the darkest corners of a forest garden.