Zone 3 Edible Plant List (Sorted By Forest Garden Layers)

This list is focused on edible perennials (perennial vegetables) for zone 3 forest gardens. If you live in zone 3, everything from zone 2 will thrive for you too! So you’ll also need to reference the Full Edible Plant List for Zone 2. I will not include plants that tolerate zone 2 temperatures in this post! This list is for plants that grow in zone 3 and above.

The plants you’ll have the most success with in general are native to the cold northern climates. They’ve adapted to tolerate the harsh conditions which make them the easiest to grow. Alongside these zone 3 edible perennials; I suggest doing a search for local native plants that thrive in your area. Identify them, make use of them, and intentionally include them to strengthen your food forest.

Canopy layer: zone 3 edible plant list

The canopy is your protective layer. When selecting hardy trees; keep in mind that this layer will be the most exposed. You’ll want a good mix of zone 3 and zone 2 canopy plants to ensure they survive through any unexpected temperature dips.

If you plan on harvesting wood for use in the coming decades; consider a mix of not only fast-growing trees for quick wood source but a generous number of nitrogen fixers. Nitrogen-fixing plants release their N-filled nodules into the soil upon termination. While you let them grow extensive root systems, propagate and plant new trees from the ones you have. This way, as the decades pass, you can continue to generously feed your soil by terminating the N-fixing trees while also getting a lumber harvest. Win-win!

Propagated canopy trees can be planted near areas where you want to expand your fruit trees. They’ll make great pioneers for protecting and feeding a young understory when you’re ready to expand.

NameCommon namePrimary Purpose – Wildlife habitat, leaf mulch, & timber
Acer saccharumSugar mapleEdible sap, wood source, shelter belt: 2nd & 3rd row in
Celtis occidentalisHackberryEdible nutritious fruit
Gleditsia triacanthosHoney LocustNitrogen fixer, edible
Juglans cinereaButternutEndangered, edible nuts, medicinal uses: more info
Morus albaWhite mulberryEdible fruit and leaves
Morus nigraBlack mulberryEdible fruit and leaves
Pinus flexilisLimber PineEdible nuts
Prunus aviumSweet cherry or wild cherryEdible fruit
Quercus macrocarpaBurr oak / Bur-gambel / BurenglishGreat wood, shelter belt: 3rd row in, edible: more info, medicinal uses: more info
Robinia pseudoacacisBlack LocustNitrogen fixer, edible flowers, firewood source,
Gleditsia triacanthosHoney LocustEdible fruit, fixes nitrogen, living fence
Tilia americanaAmerican BasswoodSap, twine-making, edible leaves when young, flowers for tea
Sorbopyrus auricularisBollwiller Pear, ShipovaEdible fruit
Tilia cordataSmall Leaved LimeSap, edible young leaves, flowers for tea
Betula lentaCherry Birch/Black BirchWintergreen flavor tea from twigs/bark/sap/young leaves
Sorbus aucupariaEuropean Mountain AshEdible berries, bitter, nutritious, loved by birds
Ginkgo bilobaGinkgo bilobaEdible and medicinal nuts
Zone 3 Canopy Layer Edible Perennial Plant List: Mature heights are between 30-100ft

TreeSeedMan sells a lot of these trees at his Etsy shop—if you can’t find the ones you want locally, or if you want to learn how to grow things from seed.

Understory layer: zone 3 edible plant list

Don’t forget to check the zone 2 list of the understory layer! Pawpaws are said to be for zone 5, but I found one that is hardy to zone 2! So there are some unique fruits and nut trees you might want to grow that you won’t see below.

Incorporating different heights of canopy trees, understory trees, and shrubs into your forest garden will encourage a variety of birds. Various birds nest at different heights! The more you invite with a welcoming environment, the more pest control will be off your shoulders.

NameCommon namePrimary Purpose – edible fruit and flowers
Nyssa sylvaticaTupeloSour but edible fruit
Prunus americanaAmerican PlumEdible fruit, large flowers, birds love
Prunus cerasusSour cherryEdible fruit, medicinal
Prunus mandscburica Manchurian apricot, some apricot varietiesEdible fruit, medicinal, soap
Prunus maritima beach plum, many varietiesEdible fruit, erosion control
Prunus pumila eastern dwarf cherry, many varietiesEdible fruit, bees and birds
Malus domesticaApples, many varietiesEdible fruit
Elaeagnus umbellataAutumn olivesEdible fruit, medicinal, nitrogen fixer
Malus ‘Prairifire’Prairiflower Flowering CrabappleEdible fruit, great for jam!
Crataegus spp.HawthornEdible fruit, medicinal berries & leaves
PyrusPear trees, many varietiesEdible fruit
Corylus americana x Corylus avellanaHazelbertEdible nuts
Zone 3 Understory Layer Edible Perennial Plant List: Mature heights are between 8-30ft

Shrub layer: zone 3 edible plant list

The most unheard-of fruits are from shrubs that grow in our cold climates! These mysterious fruits are highly nutritious thimbles of joy that don’t make the cut for transport to stores!

A thimbleberry! They are subtly sweet. But smoosh easily. Their “micro” seeds pop as the pink berry feels like melting velvet. Don’t get me started on jam.

Lucky you, the opportunity to discover and include a mix of highly-nutritious fruit is available!

The fruit you won’t find available anywhere other than your own surroundings. Scour the zone 2 shrub list too!

NameCommon namePrimary Purpose
Amelanchier lamarckiiApple Serviceberry LamarkiiEdible fruit, pollinators
Aronia melanocarpaBlack ChokeberryEdible fruit, extremely nutritious
Empetrum nigrumCrowberry, BlackEdible fruit, medicinal
Hippophae rhamnoidesSea BuckthornEdible fruit, tea (leaves), highly nutritious, medicinal
Lonicera caerulea var. edulisHaskapEdible fruit
Prunus serotinaBlack CherryEdible fruit, medicinal bark, hardwood
Shepherdia argentiaSilver BuffaloberryEdible fruit, nitrogen fixer
Vaccinium corymbosumHigh Bush BlueberryEdible fruit
Vaccinium myrtillusBilberry, WhortleberryEdible fruit, medicinal fruit and leaves
Viburnum prunifoliumStagberry, Black HawEdible fruit, medicinal
Ribes uva-crispaGooseberryEdible fruit
RibesCurrants Edible fruit
Ribes americanum American black currantEdible berries, fast-growing wood, medicinal
Rhus integrifoliaLemonade berryEdible fruit, birds
Rhus typhinaStaghorn sumacEdible berries, fast growing wood, medicinal
Ribes x culvemellii jostaberryEdible fruit
Rubus allegheniensisAllegheny blackberryEdible berries, medicinal uses
Rubus chemaemorus cloudberryEdible berries, leaves for herbal tea
Rubus ideeus RaspberryEdible berries, leaves for medicinal tea
Rubus ideeus var. strigosusAmerican red raspberryEdible berries, leaves for medicinal tea
Rubus odoratusThimbleberryEdible berries, boil bark for making soap
Rubus x steltercticus NagoonberryEdible berries, teas
Sambucus canadensisBlack ElderberryEdible fruit, medicinal, nesting habitat
Prunus pumila var. besseyi Sand cherryWindbreak, erosion control, edible fruit
Zone 3 Shrub Edible Perennial Plant List

Herbaceous layer: zone 3 edible plant list

Herbs for zone 2 and up.

As you fill the bases of trees and shrubs with scent confusers and pollinator-attracting flowers; balance grows.

Zone 3 offers a variety of medicinal and edible herbs that enhance cooking, and make wonderful teas that don’t taste like paper bags!

Along with forage mushrooms; daylilies, ostrich ferns, asparagus, and hosta shoots will be your sustaining spring vegetables.

We harvest black, grey, then finally blonde morel mushrooms alongside the early spring flush of vegetables.

The herbs for infusions I am sure to collect over the early mornings of summer are mostly from herb leaves and flowers, but also certain shrub leaves and ground cover flowers.

NameCommon namePrimary Purpose
Agastache foeniculumAnise-HyssopLeaves for tea, pollinators
Allium canadenseCanadian Garlic or wild garlicEdible
Allium cenmm nodding wild onionEdible
Allium × proliferumEgyptian walking onionEdible
Althaea officinalisMarsh MallowEdible shoots, roots not recommended to eat due to scarcity.
Amorpha canescens leadplantMedicinal, fixes nitrogen, insectary, windbreak
Amorpha Iruticosafalse indigoWindbreak, fixes nitrogen, insectary
Asclepias tuberosaPleurisy rootEdible flower, leaf, medicinal uses
Hablitzia tamnoidesCaucasian Mountain SpinachEdible leaf
Echinacea purpureaEchinacea, Eastern purple coneflowerFlowers for tea, medicinal
Eleutherococcus senticosusSiberian GinsengLeaves, buds for tea
Glycyrrhiza lepidotaAmerican licoriceHighly medicinal, seasoning
Hemerocallis fulvaDay lilyEdible flowers, shoots, roots
Hesperis matronalisSweet RocketEdible leaf, seed
Hypericum perforatumSt John’s WortMedicinal
Laportaea canadensis wood nettleEdible leaf, highly nutritious, shade tolerant, medicinal
Latbyrus japonicus beach peanitrogen-fixing, medicinal, edible seed
Ligusticum canbyl oshaEdible young leaves, shoots, and stems
Malva moschataMusk MallowEdible leaves
Matteuccia struthiopterls ostrich fern Edible “fiddleheads”
Medeola virginiana Indian Cucumber RootEdible shoots, roots are not recommended to eat due to scarcity.
Menyanthes trifoliataBogbean, Buckbean, Marsh TrefoilMedicinal
Mertensia maritima oyster plantEdible
Podophyllum peltatum var.MayappleMedicinal
Polygonatum biflorum, var. CommutatumGiant Solomon’s seal, Solomon’s sealEdible, medicinal
Rheum rhabarbarumRhubarbEdible stalk, nutrient accumulator, mulch
Rumex acetosaGarden SorrelEdible leaf, dynamic accumulator, good fruit tree companion
Symphytum officinale var.Comfrey – bocking 4 and bocking 14 cultivarsMedicinal, nutrient accumulator
Typha angustifolia / Typha latifoliaCattailEdible root, leaf, shoot, flower
Viola labradorica Labrador violetedible leaf
Asparagus officinalisAsparagusEdible shoot
MonardaBee BalmMedicinal, edible leaves for tea, pollinator
Levisticum officinaleLovageEdible leaves/stalk
TaraxacumdandelionEdible, reseeds
Zone 3 Herbaceous Layer Edible Perennial Plant List

Root layer: zone 3 edible plant list

Look here for zone 2 tubers you can grow.

NameCommon namePrimary Purpose
Acorus calamusSweet flagEdible leaf, root
Camassia quamashCamasEdible root (sweet and delicious, nutritious)
Geum malewater avensEdible root
Psoralea esculenta prairie turnipEdible root
Armoracia rusticanaHorseradishEdible root, medinical
Zone 3 Root (tuber) Layer Edible Perennial Plant List

Vining layer: zone 3 edible plant list

Climbing edible plants for zone 2 here.

With a large number of climbing edible perennials, you’ll be able to make the most of your space by including vertical growers.

NameCommon namePrimary Purpose
Lycium barbarumGoji BerryEdible super fruit
Actinidia kolomiktaKiwi, ArcticEdible fruit, high in vitamins
Vitis riparia Grape, RiverbankEdible fruit
Vitis aestivalis var. bicolorSummer grapeEdible fruit
Wisteria macrostachyaKentucky wisteriaEdible flowers
Zone 3 Vining Layer Edible Perennial Plant List

Ground cover layer: zone 3 edible plant list

Edible ground cover crops for zone 2 here.

NameCommon namePrimary Purpose
Apios americana groundnutEdible nut and root, fixes nitrogen
Claytonia sibiricaPink purslaneEdible leaf
Mentha × piperitaPeppermintEdible leaves, tea
Mentha spicataSpearmintEdible leaves, tea
Gaultheria procumbensWintergreenEdible
Zone 3 Ground Cover Layer Edible Perennial Plant List

Although I have included all the edible plants I know of that grow down to zone 3, don’t feel limited to edible-only plants for your forest garden! Many ecosystem benefits come from inedible plants too. Save this post as a reference if it might help you remember which plants you have that are edible or medicinal versus others you might include that are not.

This article was originally published on If it is now published on any other site, it was done without permission from the copyright owner.

No liability exists against Food Forest Living or any member of Food Forest Living, nor can they be held responsible for any allergy, illness, or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of the information in this catalog or through using any of the plants mentioned by Food Forest Living. Do your own research and due diligence when deciding to consume any edible plants.


While Rachelle's hands are clean for the keyboard, she enjoys writing and designing creative content and resources. You will most likely find her outside planting a cabbage, foraging berries for breakfast, and collecting herbs for year-round tea or making food.

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