Edible Ornamentals - Sedum Autumn Joy

I have a very small front garden which I have stuffed full of beautiful edibles, with a few irresistible ornamentals and some medicinal herbs as well. Always room for more though. Today I added a tarragon plant, and contemplated what to replace the spent forget-me-nots with - there are now several square feet of earth all fed, watered, covered with a pea straw mulch and just waiting for a summer crop to fill the space. While I was pottering about the garden, weeding, feeding and pruning I contemplated one of my favourite ornamentals, the sedum Autumn Joy.

This perennial plant is a joy in all seasons. In Spring it pops up out of the ground, forming an elegant, tight green ball. Here it is, flanked by love-in-a-mist which is just about to bloom, with garlic chives in front, feverfew and giant artichokes behind and the apple tree in the background.

In summer it produces glorious pink flowers which are always covered in bees, and also beloved by our resident praying mantis family.

Image from finegardening.com

In winter its dead flower heads provide a beautiful sculptural structure in the midst of a rather bare perennial garden bed. It can be easily propagated by division, and just this spring I have discovered that it even self-seeds. So what's not to love? If only, I thought, it was edible or medicinal as well, that would just be the icing on the cake..

Well, as it turns out, sedums, or stonecrop, are all edible (click on 'stonecrop orpine'), with the leaves and the roots both apparently good cooked in stir fries, or used in stocks and soups (they are mucilaginous, so good thickeners). Some people use them in salads. I tried some, and to be honest, with a garden full of lettuces, I don't think the sedums will be my go-to salad ingredient.. I don't know, maybe very early spring is the best time to eat them. My sedum is about to burst into flower, so maybe it gets bitter then like lettuce does.

But, if I ever need a remedy for diarrhorea, piles, 'gnawing of the bowels' or quinsy (I didn't know what quinsy was, but keep coming across it in old novels so I looked it up and now wish I hadn't)... I will know exactly where to go.

Its other popular use is to stop mosquito or other bug bites itching. Peel off the sticky film (this is a little fiddly), and apply it to the bite. Now this is very useful to know when out in the garden.

I am so excited and surprised to discover that one of my favourite ornamentals is also useful. I suppose I shouldn't be, because every plant no doubt has some properties which make it of use to us, if only as a deadly poison. We have such demarcated gardens in the modern world. Fruit here, vegie gardens over there, medicine from the chemist, flowers out the front, but other times and cultures use everything they can get their hands on to keep themselves fed and healthy, and that is what I want my garden to be as well. Ravishingly beautiful, productive and useful.

PS: I will stir fry some leaves and report back on whether this is a good idea or not so much..

Updated to add:

Today's lunch: egg strips plus stir-fried broccoli, broccoli stems, broccoli leaves, SEDUM LEAVES, garlic chives and pickled ginger. Really very yummy. Couldn't taste the sedum leaves at all, as they fried down to nothing. BUT apparently they are very good for the liver and kidneys, like other bitter greens (dandelions etc), so maybe I will toss some into the lunchtime stir-fry occasionally, because, you know, health food.

Updated to add: 2019 - after more research I am not entirely confident that I can promote the edibility of Sedum Autumn Joy. However, the information is quite ambivalent. A commenter sent me a link which declares it is poisonous and also edible in the same article, and this is from the North Carolina State University..
So all I can say is.. I am still alive, although I eat it very rarely. My garden is full of much more delicious plants. Probably best do your own research before snacking on it. Its botanical name is sedum spectabile, let me know what you find out:)


narf7 said…
I WISH I had a suburban yard. I loved being able to manage the space that I had without wondering if it was going to invade the house or some numpty was going to throw a cigarette out of the window and set the whole lot ablaze. I am a great succulent fan and that sedum is gorgeous. I didn't know that they were edible but the sap bit makes sense. I guess they would be good on burns as well? Cheers for the excellent advice. I am going to try not to look out of the kitchen window at the jungle of chaos that needs dealing with today. If I hide under the bed it isn't really there...right?
Unknown said…
I've tried hiding Fran, it doesn't work, just gets worse.

Im with you Jo, there are a lot of things that are edible (weeds and the like) but why would you when there are so many lovely ones to eat. Just enjoy its beauty and the bees.
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Your place is looking beautiful and yes, the sedum are a very worthwhile plant. The love in a mist always makes me think of the sort of flower that you'd find on an far distant alien planet, but they are just so hardy and happily self seed. Have you eaten the choke on one your globe artichokes - they are really tasty.

Maybe your journey involves herbal lore? I grow a huge variety of medicinal and culinary herbs here and it is a truly fascinating and highly useful topic.

Incidentally you would be able to easily grow turmeric (if they allow it to be brought into your state) in your part of the world too.


Jo said…
Fran, the existential vegie garden. I love it! I feel hiding under the bed is always worth a try. Yes, sedum is mentioned as being good for minor burns and sunburn. It could actually be a Really Useful Plant.

Lynda, I think the sedum does work in stir fries, and hopefully it is doing me loads of good:)

Chris, thanks:) Love-in-a-mist has edible seeds too, and yes, I preserve artichoke hearts in oil to add to pizzas, or pop them in salads. Hmm, turmeric, saw some organic tubers the other day, but thought they were strictly tropical? May have to revisit them..
Meredith said…
Dear Jo, I have just discovered your blog, through "overwhelmed by housework" (!! :) and yours is now my new favourite... I love your perspective on life! So thank you for sharing it with strangers like me. Best wishes from not-so-far-away Melbourne, Meredith.
Jo said…
Meredith, how lovely to meet you:) Stay tuned, next post is all about my philosophy of housework (because, you know, it's so much more fun to talk about housework than actually do any) xx
So fun to read about your summer garden as mine is all done and gone (and was poorly tended while it was here, I'm ashamed to say). We still need to clean up and plant some lettuces.

In the meantime, thanks for the useful information about sedum. I shall eat some as soon as the spring comes around.


Jo said…
Frances, isn't it wonderful how the evidence of our garden neglect can be totally erased over the winter in order to start again with a clean slate in spring? The vegetable garden is marvellously gracious like that:)
gretchenjoanna said…
Autumn Joy is the new-to-me sedum that is going into my garden soon! You can see its leaves in one of the photos in my last post. :-) That makes me happy, to know that you and I will share a plant, the name of which I didn't even know until tonight. When I was reading this post of yours I thought, "I have seen that name somewhere..." Most succulents I don't seem to remember the name of; I'm glad they don't mind, and just keep on growing.
Anonymous said…
More beauty!!! As in aesthetically appealing and useful!

I love love in a mist. Had it in my garden for a few years but it has gone. Not sure why. But one day I will get back into gardening and resurrect some pretty delicate flowers. Perhaps with other uses beyond their prettiness.
akrabbe said…
Jo said…
akrabbe, thanks for your comment, and the link. I did a little more research today. Sedum autumn Joy is sedum spectabile, not sedum orpine as I mentioned in the post, and there seems to be much confusion over whether is is ok to eat or not. Even the link you posted says the plant is both poisonous and edible! Which?
So maybe not a good idea to eat very much of it.. or maybe a very carefully controlled herbal remedy.. anyway, not for daily use I suspect.

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