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