There will always be something to harvest when you invest in perennials. With the planting of perennials, you won’t need to roam all that far to harvest the nutritional benefits of perhaps new-to-you vegetables. Below, there are 15 perennials veggies that you can harvest for years.
4 Reasons to Plant Perennials in Your Vegetable Garden
Once you have made up your mind to expand your garden beyond the basics, the opportunities for a trustworthy harvest begin to extend in front of you.
Annuals hold a lot of value in today’s modern diet, though it is unwise to forget about all the perennials that got us this far.
Nettle has provided for us in times of need, both as a source of food and fiber.
With the planting of perennials, you won’t need to roam all that far to harvest the nutritional benefits of perhaps new-to-you vegetables.
1. Perennials Extend your Garden Harvest
Most annuals are harvested through summer and fall, but how would you feel about grabbing a basketful of early spring greens to start the season off right (think ramps!)?
Some perennials are ready to harvest, while your annuals are lightly springing into life. Others yet, with edible roots, can be harvested throughout the year when you are ready for them, not when they are ready for you.
Once perennial crops are established, they require little care from you.
They are deeper rooted than annuals, so they are harder in times of drought. It just so happens that perennials are often more resistant to pests, disease, and the pressure from other plants they share space with, too.
3. Perennials Help to Build Soil
Hardy perennials live in the no-dig zone. Once they are planted (or voluntarily emerged), they are there to stay (for the most part). Due to the lack of tilling, perennials offer the soil to stay intact.
Moreover, thanks to their deep-rootedness, they draw up and incorporate into their tissues, organs, so their entire precious bodies a lot more trace minerals than the better-known fleshy garden vegetable varieties.
This, in turn, promotes healthy soil structure and a teeming habitat for animals, worms, fungi, and bacteria alike.
With time marching on, the plants keep adding more and more organic matter to the soil as they lose their leaves. This builds topsoil and allows those same perennials, and much more, to thrive.
That being said, the perennial plant parts you are not eating, your topsoil will eagerly incorporate among its nutrient wealth, now having an even wider range of offerings.
4. Decoration in The Landscape
More than just a tasty treat, perennials can provide a beautiful backdrop to all other plants in the garden, as some of them can grow quite large. Often they are used as edging plants, at times they can be planted on slopes for erosion control.
Plus, the bees will be interested, even at times when no other pollen is available.
15 Perennials Veggies That You Should Plant
1. Rhubarb – Rheum Rhabarbarum
Though the temptation is hard to resist, you cannot harvest rhubarb in the first year, you must first wait for it to establish roots. You will have to wait and see how this plant will only get bigger and bigger as the season’s pass.
It is said that a single rhubarb plant can last 20 years, before needing to be replaced. In the meantime, enjoy all you can of the tart stalks, being careful to stay clear of the leaves which are poisonous.
Rhubarb pairs well with strawberries – which are also a perennial of the fruiting kind!
Make sure to plant enough of both, to ensure tasty jams, jellies, and sauces for years to come.
2. Sorrel – Rumex acetosa
One of the earliest greens to emerge from the soil each spring is sorrel. Call it tangy, zingy, or lemony, sorrel has a unique flavor that takes some getting used to. And yet it provides many essential nutrients just as we are coming out of winter.
Sorrel produces well until June, then it begins to flower. You’ll want to pick the leaves while they are young and tender for the finest sorrel sauce.
Being that sorrel is not sold as supermarket produce, find some seeds and plant your own.
3. Chives – Allium schoenoprasum
Chives are, however, sold at markets and stores. The question is: how fresh are they by the time they make it to your table?
Isn’t it ultimately better to step outside, harvest a small bunch, chop them up and add them to salads and dips – all in a matter of minutes?
You’ll be pleased to know that chives are very hardy. Such vigorous growers in fact, that they will need dividing every few years.
4. Asparagus – Asparagus officinalis
If you have extra space in your garden, asparagus will be happy to take it over. It grows both tall and wide, giving you a couple of decades’ worth of asparagus spears in exchange for your loving care.
But it can be choosy about where it resides. They love the sun and soil that drain well. Once they are planted, they are there to stay.
Growing asparagus is not exactly for beginners, though if you eat it a lot, learning to grow it will become second nature.
Asparagus can be grown from seed but it’s much easier to plant bare-root crowns directly into the ground.
5. Jerusalem artichoke – Helianthus tuberosus
Once upon a time, we had a patch of sunchokes, and they popped up reliably year after year. One summer we had three months without rain, and no water in the well to water our garden.
Sage and these artichokes. If you are looking for a drought-tolerant perennial, this is the one.
A note of caution: if you are new to growing and eating Jerusalem artichokes: don’t eat too many at once. They are not a substitute for potatoes.
6. Globe artichoke – Cynara scolymus
In terms of height, artichokes often come out on top – at about 5′ to be sure. It is beautiful from head to toe, and although it has a long growing season, the flavor is well worth the wait.
Artichokes can be grown either as an annual or a perennial. In the latter case, they must be protected during the winter months.
Before planting, find out what varieties grow best in your zone, then wait 2 years for the first harvest.
You may have started to notice that perennials share a common theme – you will have to wait sometime for the best bites.
7. Horseradish – Armoracia rusticana
If you are looking to add some warmth to your winter meals, a little bit of grated horseradish goes a long way. The best way to get to that root is to harvest it fresh, for as long as you can dig the soil.
It is in the same Cruciferae family as broccoli, cabbages and Brussels sprouts, yet it is hardier than all three combined.
Add some zesty root to your potato salad or serve up a spicy bloody Mary – depending on the time of day.
8. Watercress – Nasturtium officinale
If you love slightly peppery leaves, similar to that of arugula/rocket, then you are going to adore watercress from your own backyard.
It isn’t the simplest-to-care-for plant, as it is also attractive to many pests such as snails, whiteflies, and spider mites.
But, some of the best things in life take time and work. With the right set-up, you can harvest vitamins A and C from watercress year-round. Not only that, watercress is rich in niacin, thiamine, and iron, better than an ordinary leafy salad!
9. Garlic – Allium sativum
You already know the benefits of planting garlic in the fall, now you are about to find out that you can also keep it in the ground as a perennial.
Leave the bulbs in the soil for a couple of seasons (assuming that you are not digging up the garden!) and let them multiply on their own. You’ll end up with a bunch of small bulbs, not entire heads, but with loads of garlic scapes to use up.
And that is a wonderful thing! Here are 10+ Ways to Use Garlic Scapes @ Grow a Good Life – just to get you started thinking of the possibilities.
Now you can divide those individual bulbs, and plant them just as you would an individual clove, and keep the harvests coming.
10. Kale – Brassica oleracea
Kale is a hardy annual with a short time to harvest.
The real beauty lies in the fact that you can harvest leaves until the first frosts hit and the snowflakes fly.
Technically, kale is a biennial, yet it is treated like an annual. However, it can also be a perennial, depending on how you stretch your reality.
If you leave it in the garden over winter, covered with mulch, it will begin to regrow in early spring, sending up new shoots and leaves. Again, it takes a no-dig approach, so make sure to plan your garden accordingly.
11. Bunching onions – Egyptian onions
Walking onions produce bulbs at the top of each plant, all of which can be planted or eaten. They taste more similar to a shallot than an onion, and they are truly lovely vegetables!
As soon as the mature bulbs on top become heavy, they gracefully fall over and plant themselves where they land. It is all a matter of evolution.
They can travel 24 inches every year, making for some excitement and good nature in the garden.
12. Good King Henry – Chenopodium bonus-Henricus
It adapts well to a garden or food forest, as it will grow in both partial shade and full sun.
Like other plants in the Chenopodiaceae family, including the wild-harvested goosefoot, all plant parts will be high in oxalic acids (like spinach and sorrel), so you will want to enjoy it in moderation.
13. Lovage – Levisticum officinale
Lovage is a beloved herb that has been cultivated since the Middle Ages. But why is it that so few people seem to know it today?
It does have a much stronger flavor than celery, yet that is a trait to be admired!
Just a few plants in your garden will be enough for the entire family, seeing as how they grow 6-7 feet tall. If you haven’t tried it in your soups and stews, buy some seeds and get ready for spring planting.
If you cannot manage to eat it all fresh, the leaves can be hung and dried in large bunches, ready for use all winter long.
14. Ramps – Allium ursinum
Otherwise known as ramsons, bear garlic, or wild leeks, these leafy greens are among the first to pop up from the forest floor.
Seeing as how all parts are edible, including the leaves, stems, and flowers, they are a very useful perennial indeed.
Growing them from seed has proven to be difficult. Though they will flourish in the right environment, especially when the bulbs are transplanted and mulched over.
15. Radicchio – Cichorium intybus
Red chicory, or radicchio, which looks like a small red cabbage, is a distinctive vegetable commonly eaten in Italy. However, the further one gets from Europe, the less it is recognized.
Let’s give it the recognition it deserves, and say that it is not only frost tolerant, but it is also a superb addition to your diet, for it is the bitterness that makes it extremely healthy.
Radicchio can be planted in spring or summer/early fall and harvested twice a year