When it comes to growing vegetables, most people plant annuals, but there are perennials that you might want to consider. The advantage of growing perennial edibles is you will have them year after year and you do not have to keep planting them. Many of them will last several years and some for decades. There are even some annual vegetables that have perennial varieties like broccoli and spinach. Adding perennial edibles will save you time and money.
Some of the key things you need to be on top of is weeding, fertilizing, and pest control. Weeds compete with vegetable plants for water, space, and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating. Be sure to do your research on what plants will work best in your climate.
Here are five perennial edibles to consider:
Artichokes – Artichokes are short-lived perennials in warmer regions and annuals in the cooler parts of the country. They are extremely popular in the Mediterranean region of Europe. In the US, the only state that commercially grows this vegetable is California. The edible part of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flower comes into bloom. The edible artichoke head is a cluster of many budding small flowers. Once the buds bloom the plant changes and it is no longer edible. Peak growing season is from March to May. The plant can be grown from seed, but this can be challenging so it is better to get seedlings. Be prepared, Artichokes require a lot of room and have a long growing season. The plant will grow 4.5 feet to more than 6 feet tall. They grow in most soils, but nutrient-rich soil will promote a better harvest. Artichokes love water and need it to produce tender buds.
Asparagus – Asparagus is known for its spear-like shape and is a member of the Lily family. Only the young asparagus shoots are eaten. If the plant buds start to open the shoots will turn woody. Asparagus can be green, purple, or white. It is low in calories and is nutritious as it is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The great thing about asparagus is you only plant it one time and you could have the plant for 20-30 years. While you will get some crowns in the first year, the plant takes time to mature. Asparagus is most often grown from crowns and planted in the early spring. They prefer cool weather and go dormant in the winter. A good rule of thumb is 25 plants for a family of four. Since asparagus lasts so long you will need a separate area in the garden for the plants. The soil needs to be well-drained and in a sunny location.
Garlic – Garlic is a close relative of the onion and is a low-maintenance plant. It is known as a food flavoring and it also has medicinal purposes. China produces 80% of the world’s garlic. It is grown from a bulb and the bulb contains 10 to 20 cloves that are asymmetric in shape, except for those closest to the center. There are two types of garlic, softneck are the ones available in supermarkets and they are easier to grow in many climates. The other is hardneck garlic and it is larger and popular with chefs for its variety of complex flavors. You will find these in farmers’ markets or natural food stores. While garlic is more often planted in the fall you can plant it in April with your other early spring crops and harvest it at the end of July or August. Plant your clove in a location that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight in thawed, well-drained soil.
Radicchio – Radicchio is a red, leaf vegetable related to chicory. It is often used in Italian cuisine and is also known as Italian Chicory. Most often used in salads, it can also be sauteed. The plant has a bitter taste. There are several varieties of radicchio and they are named after regions in Italy. In the US you will most often find the Chioggia variety. It has a deep red coloring and a rounded head. The head ranges from the size of an orange to the size of a grapefruit. It is a cool weather plant best planted in spring or fall. You can grow it from seeds, and it performs best in rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Watering is key. If the plant does not get enough water and dries out it will become very bitter. It is a perennial in zones 8 or warmer and an annual in other zones. If the head is cut from the roots, in the fall, they will survive the winter and regrow in the spring. Radicchio can be grown in containers.
Rhubarb – Rhubarb is known for its red stalks and sour taste. Some people say it tastes like cranberries or sour green apples. It is great for pies, sauces, and jellies. The stalks are the only edible part of the plant. The leaves of the plants are toxic, so do not eat them. They have a wonderful flavor when cooked. Rhubarb can produce for five years or more. It is best to plant them in their own bed or area in the garden, so they are not disturbed. The plant is easy to grow but does need a dormant period to thrive. While it can be grown for seeds it will take a while to mature, instead use a rhubarb crown. Plant them in early spring or fall in full sun for best results. The soil needs to be well-draining and fertile. Good drainage is particularly important because the plant will rot if it is kept wet.
Let us know if you grow any of these perennial vegetables.