Perennial Vegetables

For lazy gardeners such as ourselves nothing beats perennial vegetables. Plant ‘em once and you’ve got food for years. For novice gardeners, perennials are plants that, unlike say broccoli (an “annual”), don’t need to be replanted every spring. The best known perennial vegetable in the west is probably asparagus which, given the right conditions, will produce fresh stalks for years. But there are many thousands more perennials little known to North American gardeners that are a lot easier to grow than fussy asparagus.

Unfortunately, there used to be a lack of information about edible perennials until the publication of Eric Toensmeier’s excellent book, Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles. We’ve got a few of the species Toensmeier mentions: artichoke, prickly pear cactus, stinging nettles, crosnes (more on those in another post) and goji berries. Edible Perennials contains growing information for each species offering something for every climate in North America.

Up to now many of these plants were hard to find, but growing interest in edible perennials and the power of the internet has brought many of these species into our backyards. See the Mother Earth News Seed Search Engine on the right side of this page to hunt down some of the more rare items.

Now, time to fertilize those goji berries and ponder the controversial air potato.

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12 Comments

  1. How do you like the goji berries. That is on my short list to add but I’ve only ever had dried ones. Stinging nettles I’m starting this year. The spring tonice from them is just priceless!

  2. Sally,

    You boil them–this disarms the stingers. They can be eaten like spinach (very tasty and nutritious) or dried to make tea (also very good). In some places in the world, such as Italy, nettles are cultivated.

  3. Michael,

    I used fish emulsion–but my gojis were just planted so I can’t report much in the way of results, other than that they seem to be doing fine.

    I’m curious where do you live and how big your gojis are. Have you been able to harvest many berries?

  4. Austin Texas and no berries yet.

    1 plant has done well and is @ 3 feet tall. Other not so much and is @ 1 foot. Both started new growth last week.

    I’m hoping for at least one berry this year, but have heard 3rd year is when to really start expecting.

    Thanks for the fertilizer info!

  5. Austin Texas and no berries yet.

    1 plant has done well and is @ 3 feet tall. Other not so much and is @ 1 foot. Both started new growth last week.

    I’m hoping for at least one berry this year, but have heard 3rd year is when to really start expecting.

    Thanks for the fertilizer info!

  6. Isn’t it a little ironic using fish emulsion, when you’re trying to go sustainable? I mean, the way we treat the oceans is probably worst of any sphere, mostly since we don’t really come in close contact with it much.

  7. Interesting! You know, I’ve thought about this quite a bit as I’m a huge fan of perennials as far as flowers/plants, but I haven’t really done much in the edibles garden. One perennial that I do have is rhubarb, planted near my strawberries (which, I suppose, is also a perennial now that I think about it!). I have horseradish, too, which is pretty much an perennial, I just take off a bit of root and replant the rest. I have lots of herbs as perennials – culinary thyme, chives, rosemary, Italian parsley, etc.

    I guess I do have more than I realize! I would love to check out the book – thanks.

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