Deer resistant vegetables can be classified in several groups:
- Smelly and strong tasting plants : Onions, garlic, leeks, chives, dill, mint, and fennel are not preferred by deer. As a rule herbs and spices are somewhat deer resistant, but deer love basil and parsley.
- Fuzzy, prickly plants : This group of deer resistant vegetables is less appealing to deer. It includes cucumbers, squash, and pumpkin. Deer don't like melon plants, but deer and lots of other animals like the melons.
- Root vegetables : Because digging is required to get to the tubers, root vegetables are somewhat deer resistant and are often passed over by deer as long as other palatable things are available. Often the tops of root vegetables such as potatoes are less palatable to deer, but deer love sweet potato plants, beet tops, and radish tops. When they are hungry deer have been known to dig for beets and other root vegetables. Deer love and will dig for carrots. (Some commercial deer attractants use carrot flavor.)
- Nightshade : Many nightshade family plants are poisonous to deer and other ruminants. Jimsonweed, a nightshade, is so toxic it often grows in cow lots untouched. Deer resistant vegetables in the nightshade family include tomatoes and tomatillos, potatoes, eggplant, and some peppers.
- Other plants toxic to deer : Rhubarb and cucumber leaf are toxic to deer. Many otherwise toxic plants do not harm deer because they are ruminants.
Plants of the cabbage family are not deer resistant, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
Deer avoid mature asparagus plants, but deer and many other animals love the new shoots.
Globe artichokes are often grown as deer barriers.