Edible Plants

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Ornamental Edibles is the new exhibit at the U.S. National Arboretum.
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Tangerine Dream, a sweet, edible, ornamental pepper, may be one way to add color and fresh produce to your garden.

A new exhibit that will tickle visitors’ taste buds has been added this year at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

The new Ornamental Edibles exhibit in the arboretum’s National Herb Garden will demonstrate ways that home gardeners can incorporate delicious vegetable plants into their landscape gardens. Visitors to the herb garden are encouraged to experience plants through sight, smell, touch and taste. It is the largest designed herb garden in the nation that includes annual, perennial and woody herbal plants.

The exhibit is being used to promote healthy eating and contribute to the USDA initiative encouraging Americans to eat locally produced food. The exhibit is managed by arboretum horticulturist Chrissy Moore and technician Jeanette Proudfoot. The arboretum is administered by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency. 

Many vegetables make lovely landscape plants. According to Scott Aker, who leads the arboretum’s Gardens Unit, ornamental edible plants have attractive foliage, texture and color that give them curb appeal while they are producing food. Even small areas and container gardens can be used to grow attractive vegetables and fruits for home use.

The arboretum’s exhibit will feature vegetables appropriate for the current season while also highlighting ARS research. For example, visitors to the arboretum this summer can see ARS-developed, nematode-resistant peppers arranged with tomatoes, eggplants, gourds and beans in an attractive – and tasty – landscape garden.

Visitors are encouraged to sample the plants in the exhibit. And should one want to know more about the garden, a quick call to the arboretum’s “Cell Phone Tour” phone number displayed on a small sign will tell visitors more about it.

For more on the arboretum, visit The U.S. National Arboretum on the Internet.