Plants for a Future, or PFAF, is a great online resource! A tool that they offer for free that is particularly useful is the database of medicinal and edible plants, found here. Using this research tool, you can search for plants specified by a wide variety of parameters. For example, you could search for a plant that has antibacterial properties and grows well in hardiness zone 4. Or you could search for a perennial edible plant that prefers sandy soils. Your search options are limitless, and you can find amazing results! It should be mentioned that the more specific your search, the less results are returned. It may be more beneficial to select a couple of parameters, such as soil type and medicinal/edible quality, and then do further research from there.
Here is an excerpt from their site:
The Plants for a Future Concept
“It is our belief that plants can provide people with the majority of their needs, in a way that cares for the planet’s health. A wide range of plants can be grown to produce all our food needs and many other commodities, whilst also providing a diversity of habitats for our native flora and fauna.
There are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world yet fewer than 20 species now provide 90% of our food. Large areas of land devoted to single crops increase dependence upon intervention of chemicals and intensive control methods with the added threat of chemical resistant insects and new diseases. The changing world climate greatly affecting cultivation indicates a greater diversity is needed.
When comparing a large cultivated field to natural woodland the woodland receives no intervention but produces lush growth and diversity of plants and animals. Yet the cultivated land supports very few species. The quality and depth of soil in a woodland is maintained and improved yearly whilst erosion and loss of soil structure plague the cultivated field.
Our emphasis is on growing perennial plants with some self-seeding annuals, a large part of the reason for this is the difference in the amount of time and energy it takes to cultivate and harvest crops. Annuals means the cultivation of the ground every year, sowing the seeds, controlling the weeds, adding fertilizers and attempting to control pests and diseases. It all seems so much extra work compared to planting a perennial and waiting to harvest its yield. Especially when you consider that even with all the effort put into growing carrots their yield for the same area of ground will be less than that of a fruit tree and will only last the one season.”