Every year you plant new crops in your vegetable garden. But what if there was a better way? There are actually a number of perennial plants that you can add to your vegetable garden so that you can have a much easier time.
What vegetables are perennials: For a vegetable to be considered a perennial, it needs to come back to life every year, without you needing to plant it. While most common vegetable crops are annuals, there are a few that are perennials. Asparagus is one of the most common perennials and while you need to wait two to three years before you can harvest it, the plant will grow for over 20 years. Chives are popular and easy to grow, as is rhubarb. Other less common perennial vegetables include arrowhead, in which you can eat the underground tubers, and sea kale which has a tender taste to it. There are also many plants that we forget are edible. You can eat the leaves of dandelions in a salad and make coffee out of the roots. Daylilies are a common flower but you can actually eat the flower pod like a green bean. The more perennial vegetables that you can grow, the more food you will have year-round.
What are perennial vegetables?
Perennial vegetables are crops that continue to grow year after year, without having to replant them. Just as there are perennial flowers, there are also perennial vegetables.
Advantages of Perennial Vegetables
Plants cost money and while the benefits are immense, it’s nice if there is a way to cut out some of the overhead. With perennial vegetables, you can save a lot of money.
You will have to pay more for a perennial vegetable at first, but when this is divided into the number of years the plant will live for, then you will definitely save money. You won’t have to buy seeds or plants every year and instead can watch with satisfaction as your crops pop up with no money spent.
Planting takes a lot of time and energy. First, you have to plan your garden and ensure you follow a strict planting schedule.
Then, you have to actually do the planting, and all that digging and transplanting can take quite a bit of effort.
While you will have to plant your perennial vegetables at first, after that you can simply let them grow. You get the satisfaction of growing vegetables with a lot less work.
Better soil structure
As perennial vegetables grow, their roots expand and this helps with the overall structure of your soil. You will still have to add nutrients to your soil but the rest of your garden will benefit from the natural plants.
Longer growing season
One part of gardening that is often overlooked in the planning stage. Certain crops need to be in the ground at the right time. Otherwise, they won’t grow and ripen in time.
With perennials, you don’t have to worry about this planning as they will naturally grow on their own schedule. This often results in earlier crops as well as later ones, allowing you to have fresh vegetables throughout the year.
20 Types of Perennial Plants and Vegetables
We mostly know horseradish as the condiment found in jars that pairs perfectly with roast beef but this root can be planted in your garden.
Plant the root in your garden and it will continue to grow each year. When you want a piece of it, locate the end of a root and cut off the end. It won’t destroy the plant and instead, the roots will keep on growing.
In some gardening circles, Jerusalem artichoke is considered an invasive species, while in others it is a hardy perennial that keeps on giving.
This plant grows tubers underground that you can dig up and eat. The rhizomes spread underground so be sure to have a large patch of soil for your plant to spread out. You can eat Jerusalem artichokes like potatoes and cook them, or you can even eat them raw.
The skirret plant produces roots that are incredibly sweet, similar to a sweet potato. However, they do not yield a lot, which is why there is the little commercial production of them.
You can definitely grow skirret in your garden. They are a cold-hardy plant and are ready for harvest in the fall.
Also known as ostrich ferns, fiddleheads have an adorable curled-up design to them. They are often used for ornamental purposes but they are actually edible.
Fiddleheads grow best in cool, shady areas and are ready for harvest in the early spring. You should cook them lightly so that they still retain their color and texture.
Native to North America, the arrowhead plant looks like long grass above ground but underneath there is a vast network of edible tubers. You can dig these tubers up each year and as long as you leave some behind the plant will continue to grow.
Arrowhead is best when the tubers are roasted. You can eat the skins but they can be off-putting and most people prefer to peel them first.
Perfect for stews, soups, salads, and even sauces, sorrel has a lovely lemon flavor to it, hidden behind the tartness of the leaves. Sorrel is a relative of the rhubarb plant and has lush green leaves.
It is best to harvest sorrel early in the spring as once it warms up the leaves become more bitter. This is a great plant to have in your garden as it wilts quickly after being picked, so it’s nice to have a fresh source.
What was once a popular plant has now become a forgotten weed. Dock grows quite plentiful and because of this was once a favorite in the lean Depression years.
Dock has a lemon flavor to it although the leaves can be a bit bitter. You can use the leaves in a salad or even quickly steam it and add to stir-fries.
If you enjoy the taste of potatoes and nuts, then you might want to experiment with growing groundnut. Native to the eastern parts of North America, this is a towering vine.
Groundnut is best when grown near a fence or a shrub in order for its vines to have support. You can eat the tubers that the plant grows as they are rich in protein.
A common perennial, you can eat the roots and the leaves of the chicory plant. The leaves are often used in salads and while they can have a slightly bitter taste, this does cook down a bit.
As for chicory roots, you can bake them and then actually use them as a substitute for coffee. It has an earthy, nutty flavor that many people prefer.
A forgotten herb, lovage has been in use for centuries and we think a renaissance is in order. Lovage has a strong celery taste to it and grows in rather large shrubs, sometimes up to 6 feet tall.
You can use lovage to season stews and soups. You can use it fresh or dry it easily for use all year long.
With its gorgeous gray-blue leaves, sea kale is often grown for ornamental purposes but it is indeed edible. This member of the kale family can grow to be 3 feet tall and has white flowers.
You can eat the leaves although if you want a more tender taste and texture to them, be sure to harvest when they are smaller. Similar to kale, the longer the leaves grow, the woodier the texture becomes.
Growing asparagus can take a bit of patience but if you’re willing to wait a few years, you will be well rewarded for your efforts. A healthy asparagus plant can produce for up to 20 years.
When you purchase asparagus, it is called a crown and there are multiple tendrils attached to it. Plant the tendrils facing up as these will start to grow the asparagus.
While asparagus may start to grow after a year, it will be small and inedible. You will have to wait for about three years before the asparagus takes hold and you can harvest it.
Garlic is often treated as an annual, as you dig it up in the summer and then plant it again in the fall. However, you can actually grow it as a perennial.
Whether you plan to or not, you can actually leave your garlic bulbs in the soil past harvesting time. These bulbs will multiply and the result will be many smaller bulbs.
While they won’t be large in size, they will still be edible. Plus, you can always harvest the edible garlic scapes to use in strews and even stir-fries.
Even though rhubarb will pop its stalks up the first year you plant it, it’s best to wait another year so that the roots have a chance to take hold. However, after this, you can harvest all you want.
Rhubarb is a prolific grower. It will grow every year and become bigger and bigger. It is also easy to divide, so you can gift all your neighbors part of your rhubarb plant.
In North America, daylilies are considered a flower, but in many parts of Asia, they are known as a vegetable. Before their flowers blossom, they have long green pods, which are eaten similar to green beans. The flowers can also be eaten and are included in salads.
Daylilies are prolific growers. You can basically plant them in the ground, forget about them, and they will still thrive.
We’ve been taught since childhood to avoid this plant as the tiny barbs along the leaves can cause massive skin irritation. However, stinging nettles do serve a purpose.
Although you will want to wear gloves while harvesting the leaves, you can use them for soups, stews, and even stir-fries. The leaves are great for tea and have tons of nutrients so you can use the stems in a smoothie.
Yes, we’ve come to view dandelions as weeds but they are actually entirely edible. Instead of cursing this plant, it’s time to embrace all it has to offer.
The leaves of dandelions can be used for a salad and while they are a tad bitter, this can be muted with a good dressing. As for the roots, you can actually make coffee out of them. Finally, dandelion flowers are also edible and make for a bold garnish to any dish.
Good King Henry
A European staple, Good King Henry is a green plant that has a cone-like profusion of flower buds. It is a relative of the spinach family, so you can expect similar flavors from it.
You can eat the leaves, flower buds, and shoots of the Good King Henry plant. It grows best in full sun and prefers moist but well-drained soil.
With its spinach-like leaves, the watercress provides a tangy peppery taste to your salads. It grows quite thick and you can harvest multiple batches in a season.
The one issue to be careful with watercress is that it does attract a lot of pests. Mites and whiteflies flock to watercress but there are natural methods to get rid of these insects.
An incredibly easy perennial vegetable to grow, once you have chives in your garden, it is hard to get rid of them. Chives are a very hardy plant and can withstand very cold winters.
The beauty of growing chives is that from one plant you can get quite a few sprouts and they will last you the whole summer. You can also harvest chive flowers as they make for a great edible garnish for salads.
Gardening takes a lot of time and effort, but what if there were a way to decrease all this? You only need to plant perennial vegetables once and then they will continue to grow so you can have a long, tasty harvest.