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Mediterranean Perennial Vegetables

 
pollinator
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Although most vegetables are annual, many wonderful vegetable plants are perennial.

I'd love to learn from you... What perennial vegetables do you grow?

Those are a few of the mediterranean perennial vegetables we grow successfully and easily in our forest garden:



Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
We harvest the artichokes in spring, with a second peak in fall.
We harvest the flower buds when the stalk has fully extended but the bud has not opened. From experience, it’s better to err on the side of harvest too early rather than too late.



Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla)
Typically Swiss chard is a cool-season crop but we found that although its growth slows down in summer, it’s a great salad green to grow when it gets too hot out for the others.
Chard is a superfood, high in vitamins A, C, and K and it doesn’t have that bitter taste that a lot of other greens have.
Normally Swiss chard is a biennial, which means that it will go to seed the second year and then die. But since in our mediterranean climate we never experience frost, our Swiss chard behaves like a perennial vegetable, living for 3-5 years.



Peppers (Capsicum)
Most people grow peppers of all types as annuals: sown, grown, picked, then added to the compost heap at the end of the season. However, we treat these plants as perennial vegetables and they happily live for 5-7 years.
We prune the peppers at the end of the season, which gives us a head start on the new growing season, shortening the time until we get production, extending the harvest period and producing each year more peppers.
We pick the peppers in different stages – depending on the flavor we want (although the more ripe they are – the more taste and nutritional value they develop).



Aubergine (Solanum melongena)
Just like peppers (same Solanaceae family) aubergine (or eggplants) are mostly treated as annuals, but in a hot, dry mediterranean climate they can easily live for a few years, producing more and more each year.
What we do is prune the branches, at the end of the season, to the lowest new growth.
We harvest our eggplants when they’re young (best taste) in mid- to late summer, and use them extensively roasted and cooked.



Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)
We only eat the stalks of the rhubarb plant. These have a rich, tart flavor. The leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous, so don’t eat them. If you, like us, don’t consume sugar – there are plenty of great “rhubarb without sugar recipes” online.
Rhubarb grows easily here, for already 4 or 5 years – but it needs a cool weather to thrive (we planted it in a shaded corner just outside the house).



Pepino or Pear Melon (Solanum muricatum)
The pear melon is another perennial plant from the nightshade family (like the peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and potatoes).
We got our first plant as a gift when we moved in, as a tiny seedling. Since then it keeps growing like crazy and we use it as much as a ground cover as a vegetable (or actually fruit).
The unusual, round fruits have a cream color with purple streaks. The deliciously sweet and juicy flesh has a taste and aroma similar to melon, and we usually eat it while working in the garden.



Aloe Vera  (Aloe barbadensis miller)
Although not a vegetable, Aloe Vera is a perennial we wouldn’t want to live without in our mediterranean food forest.
Aloe Vera might be the best-known medicinal plant – dating back to ancient Egypt where it was called “the plant of immortality” and was used medicinally as early as 5,000 years ago for health, beauty and skin care benefits.
Although you can use the entire leaf of the plant to produce Aloe Vera juice – we prefer to use that much more purified (and potent) Aloe Vera gel by only using the inside of the leaf for external care and in smoothies.


I’d love to learn from you…

What perennial vegetables do you grow in your own mediterranean garden or food forest?
 
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Beautiful pictures and a well-written thread.

I did not know eggplant was a perennial.  I grew it one year with success though I did not like the fact that all the fruit came about the same time.  One plant would have been more than I needed.  I found out that I did not like eggplant as much as I thought I did.

I've grown the annuals, bell peppers and tomatoes much like a perennial as we live where we sometimes can have tomatoes in December.
 
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my location isn’t mediterranean, but a couple of the plants that i grow were from there to start with.

turkish rocket - Bunias orientalis - in the same family as kale, broccoli, etc, but spend most of its time looking like a big fuzzy dandelion rosette. established plants send up numerous tender stems with little broccle-ettes on the end. a little strong flavored for fresh eating, but nice cooked. in season, i mulch up my scrambled eggs with them daily

kings spear - yellow asphodel- Asphodeline lutea - spikes of yellow flowers (edible!) and thin grass-like leaves. the roots are edible and they make a lot of them, making this a more functionally perennial vegetable than some other perennial root crops. mild flavor.
 
N. Neta
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Anne Miller wrote:
I did not know eggplant was a perennial.  I grew it one year with success though I did not like the fact that all the fruit came about the same time.  One plant would have been more than I needed.  I found out that I did not like eggplant as much as I thought I did.


Yes - eggplant would grow 3-4 years easily if pruned to the lowest new growth.

For us - it's one of our favorite vegetables.
My favorites: Baba ghanoush (Lebanese), Moussaka (Greek), Parmigiana di melanzane (Italian), Ratatouille (French) and Sabich (Israeli).
All delicious mediterranean eggplant dishes.

And by the way, if you can grow bell peppers and tomatoes as perennials - then eggplant would be just the same.

Make it a great day.
 
N. Neta
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greg mosser wrote:turkish rocket - Bunias orientalis - in the same family as kale, broccoli, etc, but spend most of its time looking like a big fuzzy dandelion rosette. established plants send up numerous tender stems with little broccle-ettes on the end. a little strong flavored for fresh eating, but nice cooked. in season, i mulch up my scrambled eggs with them daily.


I’ve heard about this one before, but it seems that it prefers moist soil (which we absolutely don’t have most of the year)... or do you have another experience

greg mosser wrote:kings spear - yellow asphodel- Asphodeline lutea - spikes of yellow flowers (edible!) and thin grass-like leaves. the roots are edible and they make a lot of them, making this a more functionally perennial vegetable than some other perennial root crops. mild flavor.


I’ve never heard of this one, Greg... will definitely look into it... see if I can get some seeds on the island...

Thank you and make it a great day.
 
greg mosser
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i will admit to living in an area where too much soil moisture is a more common issue than too little.
 
N. Neta
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greg mosser wrote:king's spear - yellow asphodel- Asphodeline lutea - spikes of yellow flowers (edible!) and thin grass-like leaves. the roots are edible and they make a lot of them, making this a more functionally perennial vegetable than some other perennial root crops. mild flavor.


An update, Greg...
Found seeds on the island... Ordered them... can't wait to get them started.
Just wanted to say "thank you" for introducing this plant to me.
Make it a great day...
 
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You are forgetting the vines, most of them are perennial:
grapes, berries and the likes. Although, they should count as fruit, I guess.
 
N. Neta
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Abraham Palma wrote:You are forgetting the vines, most of them are perennial:
grapes, berries and the likes. Although, they should count as fruit, I guess.


True, Abraham...
But yes... in this thread I wanted to focus on perennial vegetables as those are fewer and rarer than fruits (or berries).
What perennial vegetables do you grow in the South of Spain?
Greetings from the Canary Islands...
 
Abraham Palma
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I don't think we grow any perennial vegetable other than artichokes. My father in law has tomatillos, but these are not mediterranean actually. I have planted and eaten portulacaria afra, but it's not mediterranean either. And not very tasty, to be honest.
I have tried Aloe, and it's quite the effort to make it edible, not to say tasty. Does chumb fig count? It's a fruit, but from a cactus.

Oh, I know, palm heart (chamaerops humilis). Also, sugar cane. Well, you must kill a plant to take the produce, but you can let it live too and take a later harvest, I guess.
Maybe if you want to count flowers as vegetables, most roses are edible, rosemary too. But they are to be used as spices, not really filling the dish.
A few perennial bushes can be used for drinks, like sage

In the end, there are not many perennial vegetables in the region, so maybe we would have more luck with self-seeding especies. It hard to be a lazy gardener!
 
N. Neta
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[quote=Abraham Palma]In the end, there are not many perennial vegetables in the region, so maybe we would have more luck with self-seeding especies. It hard to be a lazy gardener![/quote]
Thank you for your contribution, Abraham...
I don’t really care if the perennial vegetables are originally Mediterranean...
I just want more that can grow in our Mediterranean climate.
 
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Hola! This link might be useful for you. Eric Toensmeier wrote a book on perennial vegetables, and he made a relation of vegetables really to thrive here:

Perennial vegetables

My experience with perennials: artichoke, asparagus, rumex , dandelion, chicory...

I want to dive on this subjet and plant as many as possible around here ☺️
 
N. Neta
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Antonio Hache wrote:Hola! This link might be useful for you. Eric Toensmeier wrote a book on perennial vegetables, and he made a relation of vegetables really to thrive here:

Perennial vegetables



Thanks a million, Antonio, for the link.
Much appreciated.
 
Antonio Hache
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N. Neta wrote:

Antonio Hache wrote:Hola! This link might be useful for you. Eric Toensmeier wrote a book on perennial vegetables, and he made a relation of vegetables really to thrive here:

Perennial vegetables



Thanks a million, Antonio, for the link.
Much appreciated.



Share with us if you experiment with it. I will do the same. I am going to focus most of my vegetable production in perennials, keeping only some loved annuals.
 
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Incredible thread, and a wealth of information. Thank you all for sharing this kind of information, I am about to make the jump to start a homestead in the South of Spain and trying to suck up as much information as I can before hand and this has been an amazing resource for all.
 
Antonio Hache
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Things that are working so far: Cucurbita Ficifola, Sweet Potato, Jerusalem Artichoke, Taro, Asparagus, Swiss Chard, Sea Kale, Artichoke, Wild Rocket, Chicory, Lovage, NZ Spinach, Cabbage, and herbs like mint, oregano, mejorana... maybe I am missing something

I got a bunch of seeds of the recomended mediterranean species on both Toensmeier and Martin Crawford books, got as much as I could, mixed seeds (except Jerusalem, Taro and sweet potato) and threw all in the beds. Maybe this was not the best way (cucurbita ficifolia takes lots of room) but it was good to see what thrived
 
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So far I have:
- artichokes,
- chard - definitely can grow 3-5 years here, and I think that I got some crossings with the wild one - B.vulgaris maritima, it's native here and I've seen it around the island
- wild asparagus - mostly Asparagus acutifolius, native species here and grows by itself all over my place; we just do a regular trimming of bushes because then it has more young shoots
- local variety of collard - it can grow several years but you have to remove flowering tips when they start popping up in the second year to keep the plant in a vegetative state,
- shallots - I tend to use them instead onions for cooked meals
- capers - simply love them; buds can be preserved either in vinegar or in salt
- wild rocket - I like that I've never had to seed it - it came in my garden by itself and is self-seeding from the start as well as being perennial, such a lovely gift from nature
- hot peppers (chilli) - two years so far but I believe it will be ok for at least one more year

This year I'm starting to experiment with aubergines, tomatos and peppers (sweet) to see how long they can keep up in my locality - I think biennial for sure, maybe even perennial, we'll see what happens

One thing I noticed with the parsley this year - seeded last (early) fall, harvested leaves through the winter, spring and early summer and than it went to flowers and seeds. I trimmed the stalks in late September7early October, some time after the first rains and I noticed new growth at the base of the stalk on some plants! Such a nice surprise, maybe it can behave like chard does. Anyone had similar experience?

I've tried chives this year, but had really low germination rate and few seedlings that managed to pop out were eaten by garden wildlife. I'll have to try some more

Off course, a lot of herbs and aromatic plants are perennials too - used for both cooking and medicine; most popular in the area are sage, rosemary, laurel, thyme, oregano, winter savory...
 
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