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Published on March 26th, 2012 | by Dylan Linet

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Ten Tasty & Easy to Grow Perennial Vegetables

 

My favorite vegetables in the garden are the ones that require very little work. This handpicked selection of tasty perennial vegetables showcases plants that will consistently come back year after year, whether you give them much care and attention or not.

Perennial vegetables are also a great way to encourage healthy environments to thrive in your soil. Because they don’t need to be replanted, there’s no need to till the soil where these plants are growing — just put them into the earth, water, mulch as you can, and you will be rewarded with a sumptuous harvest.

1) Land Cress (Barbarea verna)

 

This tasty relative of watercress grows happily on land (preferably near water, but will do ok anywhere). It has a strong peppery taste that is absolutely delicious to some, and heinous to others. Once of my favorite greens in existence, I think it tastes like massaged kale salad with a great spicy dressing already on it.

Although technically a biennial, landcress comes back year after year as it readily self seeds. Just allow it to flower now and then and your supply will be plentifully refreshed the coming year.

 

2) Groundnut (Apios americana)

 

Originally considered a staple food crop by the Native Americans, the humble groundnut has fallen into near obscurity. These tubers are higher in protein and lower in starch than potato and boast a mild hazelnut flavor.

3) Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)

 

Looking suspiciously like blades of grass, garlic chives can be identified by their thicker leaves and waxy surface. These guys are almost completely unstoppable. Trying to kill a patch to make way for some tomatoes last year, I chopped them up with a shovel and turned them under the soil. A week later: no tomatoes, but hundreds of clumps of happily sprouting Garlic Chives. These flavorful alliums can be used any way normal chives can.

4) Bamboo Shoots (Arundinaria gigantea)

 

You’ve probably seen them canned in Asian grocery stores. Bamboo shoots are an interesting addition to oriential dishes, and fusion stir-fries. As long as you have somewhat mild winters, you will have more trouble controlling your bamboo patch than caring for it. The shoots are best harvested when very young, otherwise they quickly become tough and fibrous.

5) Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

 

The famous and delicious asparagus is easier to grow at home than many may suspect. The major mistake first time asparagus growers make is trying to harvest their first or second year. To achieve a truly hardy and long lasting asparagus patch, only begin harvesting your third year, and only harvest stalks thumb size or thicker.

6) Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

 

Often found growing wild in disturbed forested areas, stinging nettle is most commonly known for it’s itchy and painful sting. What isn’t commonly known is that nettle is an extremely nutrient dense superfood. Harvested with gloves and long clothes to avoid the sting, nettles make a delicious and nutritious soup.

7) Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosa)

 

Sunchokes are not only nutty and delicious tubers, they are also beautiful sunflower-like ornamentals. I grow them every year in my garden (or rather, they grow themselves) and very much enjoy the brilliant yellow autumnal display. Just remember to leave a few tubers in the ground when digging them up and they will return year after year.

 

8) Skirret (Sium sisarum)

 

The only vegetable on this list I have not personally grown many times, I have included Skirret hoping some of you can tell me more about it. A bushy white flowered plant, the roots of Skirret are said to be reminiscent of small, white sweet potatoes. Have you grown Skirret in your garden?

9) Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)

 

An unusual plant very popular hundreds of years ago in Europe, Sea Kale chugs on as a “cult favorite” in some admirers gardens. Similar to traditional kale, this unrelated species has waxy collard-like leaves and a fresh green taste. Happy growing near saline waters, this perennial is a great choice for those living near beaches.

10) Rhubarb (Rheum rubarbarum)

 

And as the final perennial of the day, I have saved the best for last. A classic favorite in many households, rhubarb evokes sweet memories of grandma’s strawberry rhubarb pie. The tart and flavorful stem is considered an excellent pie ingredient, or a mouth puckering raw treat. Just don’t eat the leaves! They are high in oxalic acid and can be poisonous.

 

Have I missed your favorite perennial veggie? Please let us know what your favorite is in the comments below. For more perennial goodness, check out my article on Perennial Berries

 

Images courtesy of Wikipedia.org, Made-In-China.com, galleryget.com

 





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14 Responses to Ten Tasty & Easy to Grow Perennial Vegetables

  1. I grow quite a few of these myself. Are “sun chokes” the same as jerusalem artichokes? The pic and the description sound very similar.

    • They are exactly the same, both names are often used for the plant. They also have dozens of beautiful yellow flowers in the late summer/early fall.

      • Thanks Rhonda. I thought they looked the same, and the yellow flowers are gorgeous. I just dug up a bunch this weekend. They make a great potato substitute, or one of my favorite ways is to slice them very thin and eat them raw with a little soy sauce. Yum!
        And they’re so prolific! I started with about 15 tubers two years ago. Now I have a row 15 feet long and it’s packed! I’ve got so many I’ve started giving them away.

        • We use sunchokes just like potatoes too — they are most delicious, and so easy to grow. I am all about low maintenance lazy gardening. Bees and other beneficial insects really love the plants as well.

  2. Many of these plants grow wild in my area (Asheville, NC). We can harvest ground nuts, Cress, Nettles, Garlic chives and bamboo shoots. Nothing like a wild foods party.

  3. Sea Kale looks amazing, Where can you get seeds? Is it a Cruciferous vegetable?

  4. Sea Kale is not in the Cruciferae family. The beautiful plants are somewhat rare, but you can purchase organic heirloom seeds from Bountiful Gardens in Willits, California:
    http://www.bountifulgardens.org/products.asp?dept=66

  5. Julia says:

    Perennial purple tree collards are my favorite. They have beautiful and sweet purple-green leaves that are super nutritious. I love them in green smoothies! They are grown only from cuttings, but are relatively easy to find in the SF bay area.

  6. cal says:

    Malabar spinach. Easy to grow. Loves the heat, and is very nutritious. Is somewhat related to spinach.

  7. Don’t forget Horseradish

  8. Great list! Unfortunately both sunchokes and horseradish are hard to digest. A friend calls them “fartichokes”. Also delicious: Sorrel, related to the weed but bigger and milder. Those top setting green onions. Some Red Russian kale will overwinter here in the Kootenays in South East B.C. and self-seeds happily. It can almost be considered a perennial. I am pleased to see nettles included in the list. Dandelion may be considered a weed but it gives us our first vegs in spring. What is the zone requirement for ground nuts?

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