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With the weather as it is, in some places with more rain than is good for us and others with extensive droughts that create huge problems, it’s important to be aware of what grows best for where we are. For those places with a lack of rain, finding low-water plants to put in the garden is crucial.

And, since we are going through an effort to plant drought-tolerant flora, it seems only sensible to choose from a host of edible plants that fit the bill. Luckily, there are plenty to choose from, and the following collection can provide some quality flavor and utility with very little water or much maintenance.

Like with any garden, it helps to add some mulch to prevent evaporation and provide nutrients, but the following plants specialize in thriving in environments where water is at a premium. Growing them as opposed to thirsty plants will help those in arid climates to conserve their precious water.

Source: Christopher Nyerges

1. Agave

Known especially for the famous liquors made from them, tequila and mescal, agave plants have other, healthier edible qualities. Blue agave and green maguey, in particular are known for their edibility, especially the nectar used for sweetener. The flowers, leaves, stalks, and sap of the agave are useful in the kitchen.

2. Aloe 

Another succulent like agave, aloe vera, is perhaps one of the most well-known medicinal plants. It’s a must-have for topical skin treatment of sunburns or bug bites. Aloe vera grows readily in dry climates, and it will even multiply like a weed. It can also be put sparingly in smoothies or drinks for a cleansing, i.e., laxative effect.

3. Artichoke

A popular perennial vegetable, artichokes are native to arid climates a la the Mediterranean. It belongs to the same family as thistles and dandelions, and it is grown from its delicious flower buds. Artichokes are big plants, spreading out about four feet wide and growing up to four feet tall. They are also beautiful when left to bloom.

4. Echinacea

Also known as coneflower, echinacea is commonly found in herbal teas used for treating colds and/or boosting the immune systems. As a plant, echinacea is a resilient flowering perennial herb, related to daisies that provides lots of colors while not demanding much care from the gardener.

5. Lavender

Lavender thrives in dry climates, and it is a very useful plant to have in the garden. Not only do pollinators love it, but lavender’s aromatic qualities are legendary for relieving stress. It can also be put into tea for a sedative effect, or the leaves can be harvested and dried for use in different desserts.

Source: EdibleAcres/YouTube

6. Prickly Pear

A common cactus found in the Mediterranean and similar climates, the prickly pear has both edible fruits and edible paddles. Prickly pears like tropical and subtropical climates, but some species can grow well in climates as cold as USDA Zone 7. They are easy plants to grow, provide delicious food, and can be multiplied easily.

7. Sage

Sage is an undeniably delicious culinary herb that works wonderfully in scrambles, beans, gravy, stuffing, and more. The plants are also very aromatic, pest resistant, and desert-dwellers. It’s also a perennial plant, providing years of harvests, and it can tolerate fairly chilly temperatures. Sage is a must-have in herb gardens and arid landscapes.

8. Tarragon

A frequently overlooked culinary herb, tarragon is easy-growing and has a delicious sweet licorice flavor that works well in salad dressing or tea. It has common medicinal uses, and it is very hardy as a plant. Tarragon is a perennial and loves sandy, well-drained soil with little need for watering. Keep it out of the sun in hot climates.

9. Thyme

Thyme is another culinary herb that does well in dry climates. Adding to its positive qualities, thyme is a great groundcover that will slowly spread across an area, either replacing a water-reliant lawn or providing something that will grow around the larger plants in the garden. Thyme is good for cooking as well as medicine.

Source: Four Season Foraging/YouTube

10. Yarrow

Though it often grows like a weed, yarrow is definitely worth cultivating, and it performs very well in places like the Southwest. In addition to the aerial parts of the plant being edible, yarrow is most renowned for its natural medicinal qualities. It is great for stopping bleeding and helps with congestion.

While not everything will tolerate infrequent rainfall, there are lots of plants that will. Even better, many of these drought-resistant plants provide good stuff for the kitchen pantry. Why struggle to grow stuff that doesn’t belong when these plants will grow virtually trouble-free.

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