What’s the Lady Farmer cure for the winter doldrums? Planning the next season’s garden, of course! There’s a jumble of seed catalogs and plant guides that I keep fireside and peruse while visions of veggies dance in my head. This year I’m especially excited to be expanding my selection of perennial vegetables.
Our Five Favorite Perennial Vegetables
Imagine having an established food supply from your garden that comes back every year on its own! There are a few perennial veggies that are good to start with. Download our list of Five Favorite Perennial Vegetables to save for your next planting season.
Download Your Guide
Why cultivate perennial vegetables?
The tomatoes, squash, peas, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers and the like that we consider standard home-grown produce are easy enough to grow, and even the inexperienced gardener can expect a good yield.
Perennial herbs and vegetables, on the other hand, are harder to find and usually take longer to establish, so it might be a year or even longer before you get food from a plant. Despite these drawbacks, the benefits of growing perennial vegetables are many. For starters, they are a lot less work! You plant them once and then you can neglect them. Once these edible perennials have taken hold they will be repeat performers year after year and establish mature root systems that not only enrich the soil and crowd out the weeds, but increase the plant’s resistance to drought and pests as well.
Perennials help hold water and nutrients in the soil and create habitat for a wide variety of microorganisms that make a garden fertile and healthy. Also, because the soil around the plant doesn’t have to be disturbed every year, it’s able to capture carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it, an important process in the reversal of global warming. And if that isn’t enough, perennial vegetables are often harvested earlier or later in the year, thereby extending the season. They’re also useful in creating a permanent edible landscape.
We partner with Botanical Interests for quality seeds every season. You can find perennial seeds here!
Perennial Vegetables To Plant in Your Garden
Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichoke)
Plant these tubers in the ground and enjoy beautiful sunflower-type blooms on top of a dense cluster of 6-8 ft stalks in late summer. At the end of the season, you can dig up the tubers and eat them like potatoes — cooked in soups, mashed, baked or fried.
Ramps (Wild Leeks)
Shade-loving,clumping and spreading leafy vegetable used as a green in salads or as a flavoring such as a leek or scallion. The bulbs can be used like garlic and onions. (Also in the old fairy tale, it was Rapunzel’s mother who was craving ramps and sent her husband to steal them from the witch’s garden.)
Also called warty cabbage, this leafy green resembles arugula but produces a small broccoli-like flower. It grows in clumps and has a slightly bitter, peppery flavor. It’s a great addition to mixed cooked greens or eaten raw.
This leafy shrub grows to about 3 ft tall and wide. The leaves can be used like collards or mustard greens while the new spring shoots are harvested and prepared in much the same way as asparagus. The flower is similar to broccoli.
Can be used like spinach, cooked or raw, though when eaten fresh, the strong lemony flavor serves well in a mix with other milder leafy greens. It grows easily from seed and catches on quickly in the garden, improving the soil around it season after season.
Want to learn more?
The Good Dirt
Listen to The Good Dirt episodes that dig deeper into regenerative agriculture, perennial vegetables, and best practices for a successful garden.
Grow Your Own Food with Nicky and Dave Schauder of Permaculture Gardens
Gardening for Everyone with Julia Watkins, author of Simply Living Well
The Forest Garden with Lincoln Smith, founder of Forested.
Online Seed Orders, find seeds here at Botanical Interests.
Eric Toensmeier’s book Perennial Vegetables (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007) was a great resource for this article.