What Perennial Vegetables Should I Grow?

edible forest
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What this article will cover

  • Why Choose Perennial Plants?
  • What Are Perennial Vegetables?
  • 10 Perennial Vegetables For Foodscaping

Perennial vegetables are edible plants that return year after year with minimal assistance from the gardener. They reseed themselves above ground or produce underground tubers/rhizomes/or roots that create new plants every year.

Perennials are planted once and enjoyed for years, making them very easy to grow and ideal for planting in an edible forest. An edible forest is a sustainable, eco-friendly food garden that works in harmony with nature providing food and beauty while improving the structure of the soil.

Why Choose Perennial Plants?

Perennial plants are a once-and-done type of garden plant. They are reliable and you can always have edible plants growing in your food forest if you plant a diverse crop. After planting, the soil doesn’t have to be disturbed and the decaying plant matter at the end of the garden season nourishes the soil so it can support plant growth the following season.

These are edible plants that come back every year and maintaining them is very easy. Thinning excess perennial plants in the spring and harvesting produce is about all the maintenance work needed for plants in an edible forest.

What Are Perennial Vegetables?

There are only two true perennial vegetables – asparagus and rhubarb. By ‘true’ we mean these two perennial vegetables are reliable to return at the same time every year, produce the same amount every year, and remain true to their parent plant. They will produce true offspring for about 20 years.

Many other perennial vegetable plants that may return for a few years then disappear, others may return every second or third year. None are as reliable as asparagus and rhubarb that’s why diversity is key to a productive food forest.

10 Perennial Vegetables For Foodscaping

An edible forest and foodscaping vary somewhat in their layout but the results are the same -fresh, organic produce.

An edible forest is somewhat unplanned and unstructured. After the initial planting, the plants are left alone to reseed and reproduce wherever they want to within the forest perimeter. Foodscaping is planned and brings food plants, herbs, and flowers together to create unconventional, edible beauty in the landscape.

In addition to asparagus and rhubarb, plant some of these 10 perennial vegetables so you will always edible plants available in your foodscape.

1. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are cousins of onions and show in early spring. Harvest the green tops to add mild onion flavor to any recipe.

2. Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) this zesty root vegetable is related to broccoli and cabbage but is much hardier. Grated horseradish is used in many recipes to add a touch of spicey heat.

3. Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is a drought-tolerant perennial vegetable that will return during the heat of summer.

4. Kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica) is a cool-season perennial vegetable that reseeds itself and produces two crops every year – one in the spring and one in the fall. 

5. Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) this fern is pretty and tasty. Also called Fiddle Head ferns, the fronds make a great addition to salad or stir fry.

6. Ramps (Allium ursinum) is the first edible plant to show up in the spring. All parts of the ramp are edible and the flavor is like very strong garlic.

7. Radicchio (Cichorium intybus) looks like a small red cabbage and has a somewhat bitter flavor. This cool-season perennial vegetable is frost-tolerant and will produce two crops each year.

8. Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) produces large green leaves from early spring until early summer. The large green leaves have a tangy lemony flavor and are rich in nutrients.

9. Three cornered leek (Allium triquetrum) will produce lovely white blooms in spring and plants remain green all summer until time to harvest the onion-flavored leaves in fall.10. Watercress(Nasturtium officinale) has peppery leaves that are rich in vitamins A and C, iron niacin, and thiamine. Watercress can be harvested year-round.

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