Let’s look at the 11 perennial vegetables covered in this post and then I want to share a tip about how to find more regardless of your climate.
Here are 11 Cold-Hardy Perennial Vegetables
I broke the blog post into 2 groups of cold-hardy perennial vegetables: greens and root crops.
Here are the greens: 1. Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale 2. Scorzonera / Black Salsify – Scorzonera hispanica 3. Linden / Lime Tree / Basswood - Tilia spp. 4. English Sorrel aka Garden Sorrel - Rumex acetosa 5. Turkish Rocket - Bunias orientalis 6. Lovage - Levisticum officinale 7. Ramps aka Wild Leeks - Allium tricoccum – Note about ramps: some sources say hardy down to zone 4 some say only down to zone 5.
Here are the root crops: 8. Arrowhead - Sagittaria latifolia 9. Common Camas - Camassia quamash 10. Sunchokes - Helianthus tuberosus 11. Egyptian Walking Onions - Allium x proliferum
All these perennial vegetables are at least hardy down to zone 4 (see the note for ramps) and some are hardy down to zone 3.
Are you growing any of these? Let me know in the comments!
Finding More Perennial Vegetables
Finding perennial vegetables for your climate can be hard but there is one great way. That is to learn more about the native perennial vegetables growing wild in your area.
These plants are adapted to your climate and you can even salvage some or collect seeds/cuttings to get started on your own land.
Check out books and look for groups about foraging in your area. You can also look for resources discussing ethonobotony of your area (plants and their relationship with humans). Doing a little research on which plants are great for foraging will help you learn which plants might be good to grow on your own land.
I’ve done this in my area and I learned about checkermallows and Pacific waterleaf plus some others. These plants are quickly becoming a core part of the greens I harvest.
Have you ever done this? Is there a plant you forage for that you could grow as a perennial vegetable on your own land? And do you have any cold-hardy perennial vegetables to add to the list?
Check out the blog post for more information on all of this including details about each of these 11 cold-hardy perennial vegetables.
Horseradish is a nice addition to your list, the leaves and flowers can also be eaten not just the root. Angelica (down to 4) is eaten as a vegetable in some places with not many other choices, a bit strong for my tastes but hey I'm sure one can get used to it.
Do you know if arrowhead has any heat requirements? I don't think I have ever seen it here but it sounds interesting.
I'm always looking for ways to expand my winter gardening. Some of these I already grow; for the others I'll have to research whether they'd survive our hot, sometimes dry (sometimes wet, too wet) summers. Perennials are always a good way to go.
In my yard I have sunchokes, horseradish, asparagus, Egyptian walking onions, chives, oregano, groundnut (indian potato), day lilies, raspberries, blueberries, alpine strawberries, an apple tree, a pear tree and a cherry tree. I suppose I have a have a huge pile of dandelions too, but I tend to feed those to my rabbits rather than eat them myself. I have only a 1/4 of an acre in town--but I've crammed in a lot. With the climate creeping up, the zone when I started gardening 25 years ago was more 4, but now is closer to 5. Now I get my kale over-wintering and becoming free-range. I'm always looking for more perennials to add in, but room is at a premium!
Jerusalem Artichoke - prolific, unkillable, good root calorie crop
Rhubarb - really needs some added sugar to make it palatable. Various ways to cook and use it. Productive all growing season with sufficient water.
Wild garlic - spreads readily by seeds, and bulbils can be easily transplanted. Seems to do well as an early season ground cover before the canopy leafs out.
Nettle - for those who like it. We pick the freshest greenest new leaves to eat raw. Roll them between your fingers to break the stingers. Flavour like nutty lettuce.
BlackBerry - the very young growing tips can be steamed like asparagus. I’ve eaten some raw. Ok, but not very interesting.
Chives, garlic chives, other clumping alliums.... do well for us, but need periodic dividing, and benefit from being cut back every now and again to build vigour.
Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.
Don't forget nettles! Besides the tamer and delicious asparagus, nettles are my favorite perennial veg and it's highly shade tolerant too. I have enough growing wild on the property but transplant some into my zone 2 for easy access and to keep an eye on maturity/harvestability.
I have grown Scorzonera / Black Salsify – Scorzonera hispanica, . Sunchokes - Helianthus tuberosus, Egyptian Walking Onions - Allium x proliferum. Moles & deer killed my sunchokes, but I have walking onions that are growing wild in the weeds outside of their bed.
Don't forget that the leaves of horseradish are a great vegetable. Huge leaves, much milder than the root. Kind of like collard greens, but easier to grow and with the root as an herb. I eat them all summer and fall. I just remove the fibrous rib in the middle of the larger leaves. I put them in many, many foods.
I have wild sorrel growing where it gets water . It dies dimown in winter but comes back.
Asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes, sunchokes, berries, wood sorrel, opuntia cactus, purslane, wild mustard. All perrenial on my 4 acres in SE az.
100 degrees in summer, down to 10 degrees in winter at night. I protect chard , kale, mizuna, by using tomato cages and throwing quilts over.
I don't know exactly the climate zone here (in general they say the Netherlands have zone 7, but I live a little to the North, so it might be 6). I have many perennial edibles, most of the ones mentioned here, plus some mediterranean herbs (not fit for the colder climates) and berry bushes. Also outside of my garden, in the 'wild' (weeds growing in the suburbs, I mean) some edibles are growing. The one I like most of them is Aegopodium podagraria, which has many different English names, like ground elder and goatweed. In early spring the young leaves are very nice in a salad, and later on I eat it like spinach. I don't know if it can grow in much colder climates.
"Also, just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them" (Luke 6:31)
Nasturtiums are quite hardy, leaves and flowers are edible with a nice peppery taste. Young seeds can be pickled to produce a caper substitute. There are some new red flowered varieties that brighten a salad up nicely. They die-off from frost and snows but germinate as soon as snow cover has melted.
Coriander and dill are other crops that survive in Uralskaya/Far Western Siberia. Strawberries are another hardy fruit that most people ignore, especially the wild forest or field strawberries. The fruit is only the size of a pea, but it is so flavoursome.
People also forget that onions and garlic can be sprouted in late winter for salad greens. It's very common in my daughters' part of Russia to sprout them for February 23 and March 8 celebrations. Windowsills are covered in jars of onion and garlic sprouts, and I have finally convinced the eldest daughter to sprout beans and seeds for salads.
We're zone 4a in Haliburton ON. To all the great perennial greens and root plants already listed above I would add Lamb's Quarters (Pigweed), Good King Henry, wild rice, cattails, American Ginseng, Trinkleroot (great alternative to horseradish), and morels and as well as quasi-perennial mushrooms like shiitake, lion's mane and grey oyster grown in logs for 4-8 years. Further along this fungus line but not something that you eat, but rather drink is Chaga.
To add to the list of other perennials edibles that can be grown in our area are: Arctic Kiwi, Pine nuts, Acorns, Beechnuts, Elderberries, Gooseberries, Red current, Black Currents, Chokecherries, Blackcherries, Crabapples, Hops, Wintergreen, Blueberries, Plum, Chums, Seabuckthorn, Mulberries, Pears, Grapes, Wild raspberries, Wild blackberries, Cranberries, Then there are also the syrups: Maple and Birch.
Skandi – Great addition to the list! Thank you for sharing! I don’t think arrowhead has any heat requirements. It grows fine here and we don’t have very hot summers at least compared to other parts of its range.
Leigh – Yeah, perennials are a great option and I think some of them could. What zone are you? If your zone 7 or higher Kosmic kale and tree collards might be a good option for you. They might need some protection from summer heat but I know of people growing them in southern California. I really enjoy them as winter greens though you can harvest them all year. They’re just a bit sweeter in the winter.
Erika – Great to hear all the ones you’re growing! Thank you for sharing!
Michael – Nice! That’s a great list—thanks for sharing!
Kirk – Nettles are a great option and I’ve left them off my lists because they’re on most other lists 😊 They really are great and my property doesn’t have any at the moment but I plan to add them as soon as I get a good area ready for them. Thanks for adding it to the list!
Janet – Me too! 😊
Joe – Scorzonera is on my list of new perennial veggies to grow next year. I’m excited to try them out. Did you grow yours by direct seeding?
John – Thanks for sharing! Great to know how to use them. I’ve actually never grown it.
Leila – Great list! Thank you for sharing!
Inge – That’s really great to hear about all the ones you got growing. Thank you for sharing!
Chris – Yeah, I stopped at zone 4 with a few zone 3 due to the challenge of finding a good number for colder zones. I would be curious about more native foods that might work as veggies. You mentioned some of the ones you gather. I wonder which ones could be cultivated? I’m growing a number of native veggies on my wild homestead—giving me a lot of good options that I don’t see very many people outside of the foraging community taking advantage of. And since some of them are rare they’re even rarely foraged. But I can grow them in abundance. Might be an option for really cold areas like yours. Thanks for sharing!
Any chance you could get build some micro-climates to push some small parts of your property to zone 3 or 4? Maybe with a nice snow cover too? I’ve never lived in an area as cold as the Yukon so I’ve got no clue if that is possible. Just thinking out loud…
Peter – Yeah, as a self-seeding annual nasturtiums are a great option. Not perennial but still great to have around. I planted hundreds of nasturtium seeds around my wild homestead this spring with the hope of having a wild population in the future. Thanks for sharing about the other veggies and herbs too! And welcome to permies! I hope to see more posts from you in the future!
Al – Yeah, lamb’s quarters is a great one. Grows here too! And the rest of your list is great too. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you all so much for sharing. It was great to see all the awesome perennial veggies you all are growing. I thought I would share too—here are the ones I’ve got growing on my own wild homestead. I've planted all of these except for the dandelions. The native ones weren't growing on my land when we moved here.
- 2 types of checkermallows (native)
- 2 types of miner’s lettuce (native)
- 2 types of wild onions (native)
- 3 types of sorrel
- Turkish rockets
- Sea Kale
- Early blue violet (native)
- Oregon stone crop (native)
- Pacific waterleaf (native)
- Purple tree collards
- Kosmic kale
And I’m currently trying to get Good King Henry, Caucasian mountain spinach, and deltoid balsomroot all established but since they’re all in their first year I’m not calling them a success yet.
Soon I hope to add arrowhead and perhaps watercress to the list plus scorzonera and some others especially perennial root crops like sunchokes.
And there are some other plants growing wild on my land like lawn plantain, docks, chickweed, self-heal, and purple dead nettles that I know I could eat but I just haven’t gotten in the habit of harvesting them yet.
So many great perennial veggies to eat! Thanks again all for commenting and sharing!
Cultivate abundance for people, plants and wildlife - Growing with Nature
Location: Zone 3b/4a Temperate Humid, rocky thin topsoil on Cdn Shield Haliburton, Ontario, Canada
Chris - I'd still encourage you to try various perennials. Haliburton can go to -40-45 in the winter and (typically) has a heavy snow load (as any truss builder would tell you) but with 'weather weirding', our winters are now yo-yoing & we have now even seen rain in January. From a grower's perspective, last frost day is in the beginning of June and first is in the beginning of Sept. So I am wondering whether our biggest difference would be light and when we have it. Haliburton sits on the 45th parallel. Currently sunrise is 5:30 and sunset is 9:00.
I'll try to be brief, I don't want to go too far afield from the subject of this thread; perennial vegetables.
But just because you guys are awesome and obviously thought about your responses, I'll elaborate.
Many of the species mentioned will grow here for a season, they won't perennialize though. At the 62nd parallel the Summer days are long, so I can get good growth for a season that's technically only 80 days long. We can definitely grow food, but I do very much want to plant as many successful perennials as I can.
The other surprising factor up here, is that it's arid. We get very little rain and very little snow. Whitehorse (about an hour to the South) is the driest climate city in Canada.
The other factor is a lack of worms. We don't have worms! This make everything from no-till to Ruth Stout a slightly different ball game.
So maybe that suggests a more portable container system where plants can be brought into a slightly warmer environment for the Winter?
I am transplanting some wild species onto my property cause I know they've evolved to live here. Not all of them put up with transplanting, but I'll try different ways of doing it until it works!
In the meanwhile, I'm loving the challenge of figuring out Northern permaculture, some things work, somethings do not (Huglekultur turns into a permanent ice cube! ask me how I know.)
Thanks for starting a thread specifically for cold climate issues!
Currently coaxing tomatoes and basil out of my greenhouse... is there a more iconic sandwich duo?
Bunching onions have the advantage of growing from seed, so you don't have to find or buy starts like potato onions. "Evergreen" also known as "Nebuka" is hardy to zone 4.
Caucasus Mountain Spinach Vine (Hablitzia) is super hardy, grown in Russia and Sweden.
Available from Quail Seeds in California, which makes a specialty of perennial veg, including leeks and celery that have perennial tendencies.
I'd love to get some more hardy perennials going here but it seems like the slow conversion of sand to buried wood beds topped with compost has to continue first. I've tried just loading big spaces with whatever organic matter I can get my hands on (no way to haul much, like many folks I've read posts from) but it seems like most of the nutrients last only a season and then it's just a sad depression where plants go to die. My whole 1 acre property is various sizes and consistencies of sand, occasionally topped by an inch or so of mostly pine-based "soil". It's a rough place to grow much, but overwintering anything edible has been a real test of my spirit. The occasional successes will often meet disaster when the 3-4 foot snow loads push down fencing enough that the deer can make snacks of the fruit trees, or the little furries will tunnel through the snow to girdle the trees and berry bushes. I have managed to keep a couple beds of asparagus going, and some walking onions seem mostly left alone by the wildlife, but there's only so much of that you can eat. Black raspberries I salvaged from an old railway path are coming along nicely and not being picked on much, but the blueberries and honeyberries are barely growing where I have them protected by heavy wire fencing. I did start getting some kale to overwinter surprisingly. I only tried eating sunchokes a couple times and didn't find them very palatable, but I also have heard the deer are hard on them and that's a big problem here. I'm going to check out some of the other suggestions posted here, but it doesn't seem like there are many options for higher calorie foods in a zone 4 climate with poor soils. We did add chickens this year so I can turn some of the native plants into eggs, and maybe that's the best I can hope for until I can make enough soil to grow more edibles.
Transplanted gardener trying to start over in a strange new land - all advice gratefully accepted!
I would love to know if ramps can be grown 'domestically'. I think I'm too low in elevation where I'm at but have to research that a bit more.
If they can be tamed, does anyone know how long they take to establish?
I grew turkish rocket from seed this spring and has grown very well. Will start harvesting it next spring. Apparently, even if you dig it up and move it, it will regrow from the tiny root fragments that are always left behind, much like comfrey will regrow. I figure this could be an easy way to expand my patch.
One of my favorite perennial veggies is the immature seed pods of milkweed, either regular milkweed or swamp milkweed. The pods must be picked young, before the milkweed fluff develops inside them , sort of like okra , good when young, but tough if left on the plant too long.
I prepare them like green beans and they have a similar flavor to those. This is a traditional Anishabek food here in Ontario. They also used to collect the milkweed flowers and boil them down to make a sweet syrup, sort of like how maple sryup is made. I have never tried to do this myself, but it is on my bucket list.🙂
I also include various flower petals in my perennial vegetable list. I use hollyhock, daylily, dandelion, calendula, elderberry, valerian and many other flwers in salads and stir fries.
Cattails provide high protein pollen that can be added to baked goods, yummy ( when peeled) stalks and starchy roots that can be roasted like potatoes.
These are just a few of my favorites
Mary Yett, Manitoulin Island zone 4
PS, btw, wild leeks do grow well in zone 4. There are lots of wild ones around me here.
Location: Zone 3b/4a Temperate Humid, rocky thin topsoil on Cdn Shield Haliburton, Ontario, Canada
Just like the annuals, our perennials have the to follow our gardens' basic rule - to be as "no work" as possible. We topcover everything with a deep layer of woodchips as mulching avoids the need to weed and water and nourishes the soil as the chips breakdwon
Attached is a photo taken last night of 1 such garden.
Lovage was roughly transplanted in right beside the woodshed last year. We had wondered about that location as frost would be able to penetrate deeply from the shed side - we get -40 winters, Evidently lovage is happy there as parts of it are 8"+ this year. We'll divide it next spring so it doesn't crowd out as far.
Out further into the bed is a trench of Asparagus we started from crowns this year. We placed the trench right under the dripline of the shed so we wouldn't have to water the asparagus at all to get them established - so far so good
On the left of the picture you can see potatoes - we had thought of doing the Paul Gautschi method of harvesting and replanting for the next year at the same (thus making the potatoes quasi-perennial) but we got potato bugs in this bed for the first time this year. So we will probably plant garlic in this part of the bed this fall to try to break the potato bug cycle.
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