Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) with sloes. Photo: Getty Images.

Best plants for an edible hedge

Use these plants to transform your hedge so it's bursting with berries, nuts and fruits.

Plenty of hedging plants produce edible berries and nuts, adding interest and purpose to your boundary. There’s no need to grow just one species, by growing a mixture of different plants you can reap the rewards of cobnuts, sloes, wild plums and crab apples in autumn.

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Edible hedges offer huge value to wildlife. As well as offering shelter, they bear flowers for pollinators, leaves for caterpillars and windfall fruit and nuts for birds and small mammals. What’s more, by growing the widest range of plants possible, you will attract the widest range of insects.

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Browse our list of the best plants for an edible hedge, below.


Blackthorn

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) with sloes. Photo: Getty Images.
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) with sloes. Photo: Getty Images.

Fruiting in autumn, blackthorn produces delicious sloes that have a very sharp flavour when fresh, and becomes sweeter if frozen after picking or left on the tree until after the first frosts. There are lots of ways to use sloes, from including them in chutneys and jams to making sloe gin or vodka. Blackthorn is fantastic for wildlife, too. Discover delicious sloe recipes from our friends at Olive Magazine.


Crab apples

Malus 'Evereste'
Malus ‘Evereste’

Crab apples aren’t usually eaten raw as the flavour tends to be sour, but you can use them to make crab apple jelly, eaten as you would currant or cranberry jelly.


Dog roses

Dog rose (Rosa canina) hips. Photo: Getty Images.
Dog rose (Rosa canina) hips. Photo: Getty Images.

Dog rose, Rosa canina, produce masses of rosehips in autumn that can be used in a number of ways. Try using them to impart a gentle rose flavour to jams, jellies, chutneys and teas.


Elderberries

Elderflowers
Elderflowers

After flowering in late spring, elderberries produce panicles of small, glossy black berries. They have a rather tart flavour when raw, but when cooked they can be used in fruit crumbles, pies, chutneys, sorbets, syrups and liqueurs. The flowers themselves can be steeped and used to make a refreshing cordial.


Hazel

Hazelnut (Corylus avellana)
Hazelnut (Corylus avellana)

Whether you grow hazels (Corylus avellana) or filberts (Corylus maxima), both can be used the same way. The nuts can be eaten green or can be left to mature on the tree and used in sweet and savoury recipes. Discover delicious hazelnut recipes from our friends at Olive Magazine.


Damsons

Damsons
Damsons

While similar in appearance to plums, damsons have an astringent flavour, and found their way into hedgerows through being planted as robust windbreaks on agricultural land. Once cooked, the tangy fruits can be used in the same way as plums. Discover tasty damson recipes from Olive Magazine.


Wild pear

Wild pear (Pyrus pyraster). Photo: Getty Images.
Wild pear (Pyrus pyraster). Photo: Getty Images.

The fruits of wild pears, Pyrus pyraster, are closer in appearance to crab apples than domestic pears, though unlike crab apples they have a sweet flavour when fully ripe and ready to fall from the tree. There are lots of ways to use the fruits – discover some of the best recipes using pears from our friends at Olive Magazine.


Cherry plum

Prunus cerasifera
Prunus cerasifera

Cherry plums, Prunus cerasifera, are often grown as ornamental trees, particularly the variety ‘Nigra’ for it’s deep purple foliage and lovely spring blossom. Depending on the variety, the fruits can be sweet or sour and can be eaten fresh or used to make jams, sauces and in other recipes.


Blackberries

Thornless blackberry 'Adrienne'
Thornless blackberry ‘Adrienne’
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Once your hedge is established, you can think about adding climbing plants. Don’t be put off by the thuggish nature of wild blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) – you can grow thornless, well-behaved varieties like ‘Adrienne’ and ‘Loch Ness’. Discover delicious recipes using blackberries from our friends at Olive Magazine.