by Sandy Swegel
Two of my personal goals this year are Less Labor and Eat More Vegetables. Perennial vegetables are a great way to meet both these goals. Plant them once and year after year you can just meander out to the yard to harvesting whenever you are hungry.
Here are my must-have Perennial Vegetables. They do best if you put them off somewhere in their own patch where they can spread. They also do well planted in a perennial flower garden where they are beautiful plants in their own right.
Asparagus. You know this one. Every Spring I wish I had planted more asparagus years ago. I could happily sit on the ground and just snap off all the tender growing tops and eat them raw. Asparagus is a gotta-have perennial vegetable.
Artichoke. Artichokes are such a winner. They are delicious and, if you let a few go to seed, they are beautiful. There are on the edge of perennial here in Zone 5 but a neighbor of mine throws a bag of leaves on hers in the Fall and they keep coming back.
Rhubarb. This is a standard in old-fashioned gardens. It’s very helpful if you also plant some strawberries so you can always have pie!
There are so many perennial greens: Some of my favorites that are best in the coolers seasons of Spring and Fall are:
Arugula: These I cut to the ground in Fall and they come up on their own fresh and tender in Spring.
Sorrel: Put it in an out-of-the-way spot where it gets good moisture. Some shade is OK. Sorrel is pretty lemony, so not for everyone but it’s a lively addition to salads and soups. The red sorrels are great foliage in the flower garden.
Nettle: What? Touch those stinging plants? Young nettle leaves carefully picked with gloves on, are incredible in so many dishes. My current favorite is a Nettle Pesto served over angel hair pasta. Yum.
Almost-perennial greens include kales and chards that will keep coming back if you give them just a bit of protection in Zone 5.
Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes. A perennial patch of sunchokes means you are never out of a potato substitute for dinner. You can harvest them all year round. If you are watching your carbs, sunchokes give you a vegetable with a substance that has a low glycemic index. Good for you if you have to watch your blood sugar. Sunchokes also grow into beautiful sunflowers! Food and flowers.
Want to know what perennial vegetables will do well no matter where you live in the world: This is an awesome “Global Inventory” of perennial vegetables created by permaculturist Eric Toensmeier
Photo credit artichoke: www.garden.org/plantguide/?q=show&id=3371
Photo credit sunchoke: www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/sunchokes-jerusalem-artichoke-tubers-zbcz1312.aspx