Common Name Siberian pea shrub
Moisture dry to mesic
Edible beans, fodder
Caragana arborescens is a perennial shrub legume. It grows to heights of 2–6 metres (6 ft 7 in–19 ft 8 in). It has a moderate to fast growth rate, and is often used as a windbreak plant. The plant is native to Siberia and parts of China (Heilongjiang, Xinjiang ) and neighboring Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It is commonly grown throughout the northern hemisphere as a landscaping plant and ornamental.
Caragana has pod fruits which contain many seeds. These ripen in July and if left, will fall off the shrub and the seeds will grow to become a new plant very near the parent shrub. The leaves of the caragana vary from light green to dark green and are alternate and compound with many small leaflets. Somewhat showy, small, fragrant, yellow flowers bloom in May or June.
The plant has a number of uses for humans. It was taken to the United States by settlers emigrating from the area of the world where the plant is native. The original settlers brought the caragana pods and shrubs as a food source while travelling west.
Seed is eaten cooked, and whilst small is produced in abundance, with 4 - 6 seeds per pod. A bland flavour, it is best used in spicy dishes. The raw seed has a mild pea-like flavour, though perhaps should not be eaten in quantity when raw. The seed contains 12.4% of a fatty oil and up to 36% protein, it has been recommended as an emergency food for humans. More than just an emergency food, this species has the potential to become a staple crop in areas with continental climates. Young pods can also be cooked and used as a vegetable.
For windbreaks the caragana is recommended for planting in the outer rows of multi-row plantings. It can be used to neutralize soil to prepare for further planting, as it fixes nitrogen. It is suitable for planting in single-row field windbreaks where a dense, short barrier is desired.
The caragans has an extensive root system that can be used to assist with erosion control. Besides this it is a good bee plant and nesting site for various songbirds.