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Perennial Greens You've Grown

 
Posts: 112
Location: Western Kentucky - Zone 7
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I've seen a few, but honestly cannot think of many very good options except like sorrel and such. And I am mostly talking season long greens, not early season leafy greens like dandelions and such. I eat Rose of Sharon early leaves, but I am looking into leafy greens that are season long available and perennial. Even if they're not cultivated/or wild, but common and don't need to be boiled like pokeweed. What are some perennial greens you've grown or wild harvested?
 
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I'm pretty excited about Good King Henry. I have never had any yet but we did order a root and plant it this spring so you'll have to ask me again this fall how I liked it. They say it's the first thing up in the spring. It does get pretty sad and wilty in the heat of the summer, but it bounces back to be a cool fall weather green until late in the year.

Another plant that isn't really a perennial but only has to be planted once in the spring to make greens all summer is Swiss Chard. If you live in a milder climate and have a warmish area like a cold frame they will continue making greens in the winter too!
 
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Just ordered and received tree collard cuttings to try, personally. And as the person above mentioned, Swiss chard lasts through most weather here, until we get some truly cold weather (zone 7b, SW Oklahoma, so not till Jan/Feb here). While not perennial, I find lambs' quarters in abundance here this time of year and we use those as we would spinach for eating. Last year, the kale I planted in early spring produced well into winter, and probably would have kept going had we not been ready to remove it.
 
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We have been growing Chaya, (tree spinach) for several years.  Very good tasty green, very healthy. ( must be cooked)... It dies back when we get freezes but pops right back up and gets over 6 ft. tall by late summer.
The longevity spinach is another one we love. It grows very large vines and taste great right off the vine. Both propagate very easily so we have all we can eat of each.
The Malibar spinach is not as tasty but good for throwing into a pot with other stuff. Great for thickening up soups and stews. Not a perennial for us in 8b but pops up everywhere each spring from the loads of seeds it produces.
 
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So many true whole season perennial greens are pretty much tropical plants.  I was able to keep one lacinito (dinosaur) kale alive and producing for three years once.   I think our winters were so mild they just thought it was one very long summer.  There are several varieties of perennial kale that are fairly readily available from seeds to already rooted cuttings.   That's probably what I'd think of first in your climate.  I think there's also a variety swiss chard called perennial spinach.

Of course I am thinking of late summer as the hardest gap to fill.  Maybe it's another time in your garden.
 
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I'm fond of purslane. It works well as a lemon substitute in a lot of dishes.
 
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My perennial kale is literally pickable even through the winter here in small amounts. It gets a bit tatty in late winter though.
One that is good through the growing season for me is Caucasian spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides) from first sprouts in early spring through to mid autumn the leaves are mild and pleasant tasting.
Hablitzia-Tanmoides-caucasian-spinach-perennial-vegetable
My Happy Hablitzia bed

Seabeet is another that is a short lived perennial here - may not stand colder winters though and doesn't tend to live very long.
I think Scorzonera ('black salsify') might be an underappreciated green veg. I've just tried the leaves of mine for the first time - very nice tasting cooked OK raw for the smaller leaves - and they are available for much of the year too. I haven't tried them later in the season, so they may get tough or bitter as the year goes on.
 
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I agree with Cathy about lamb’s quarters and also other amaranth varieties. Not “perennial” per se but self-seeding and come up every year like a weed.  Purslane, mentioned by others, does the same.

Apios Americana (hopniss, groundnut) is a perennial with edible leaves also.

don’t forget all the allium family, garlic chives and the like.
 
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it’s not the whole growing season, but we eat sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata) from early april through about midsummer. started as foraging but i’ve encouraged it enough that there’s lots of it in the garden, in the yard, in that patch right across the creek, etc, and it probably doesn’t count as foraging anymore. we eat it every few days the entire season long, and i’ve never thought to measure but we must consume a truly huge volume of this plant annually, including cooking some down and freezing for later in the year.
 
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Hello,
Currently in the garden :
- Sorrel
- Wood sorrel
- Goutweed (lots of it, weekly harvest)
- Daubenton's collard
- Wild fennel
- Sweet cicely
- Nettles.

Have a nice evening
Oliver
 
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My list is a lot like Olivers!

The Sorrels:

- French Sorrel
- Sheep Sorrel
- Redwood sorrel (this one is seriously sweet and tasty!)
- Blood sorrel (rather tough)
 

The "Weeds"/Native Plants:

- Lambsquarters (a lot like spinach!)
- Dandelion
- Kale (it's a biannual, but it self-seeds so well on my property that I've no longer need to plant it.)
- Miner's lettuce (I have the siberian miner's lettuce, and it tastes like dirt. The normal miners lettuce is tastier, and I'm trying to grow it)
- Nettles! (So good!)
- Chickweed
- Pansy leaves (these are almost sweet)


Alliums:

- Chives
- Garlic chives
- Elephant Garlic/leeks (my son eats the leaves straight from the garden)
- Garlic leaves
- Potato Onion green stalks


Others:

- Sweet cicily (licorice-y flavor, and my kids love the seed pods)
- Lovage (strong celery/soup flavor)
- Salad Burnett (rather tough...)
- Mints
- Hostas (cook up kind of like lettucy-asparagus)

 
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I pick rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum), mint and the leaves of society garlic from spring to autumn and chop them finely and chuck them in a lentil salad. They’re great perennials in my Mediterranean climate.
 
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Tell me if any of these are perennials:
Good old Henry-yes
Vineland Hardy Prickly Pears-yes
Purple Shiso /Perilla?
Red Fire Orach?
Ruby Red Swiss Chard?
I am planting in zone 8a, I have seeds, thanks.
 
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wild lettuce
 
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One I've found good that I don't think I've seen anyone post yet is Sylvetta arugula, a wild arugula, though you can buy the seeds at various seed dealers.  I live in the southern part of Michigan and it's almost perennial here outdoors.  By this I mean when I have plants outside some years they do manage to survive the winter and take off producing fresh greens again in spring.  Other years they all died.  If I had been more proactive and heavily mulched in late fall they probably would have done better.  Perhaps selecting a micro climate just a touch more protected and warmer would have done it too.  Instead, after I built an unheated greenhouse I planted them there and now have an abundance of arugula most of the year.  They still do die back at some point in the winter, but I've been able to harvest more for a couple weeks now already this year.

I understand young mulberry leaves are edible too.  I've got a few mulberry trees going now and plan to explore this more this year.

sylvetta-arugula.JPG
The arugula starting to take off in the greenhouse. Soon it will be taking over this bed because I can't eat it fast enough!
The arugula starting to take off in the greenhouse. Soon it will be taking over this bed because I can't eat it fast enough!
 
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My list looks similar to Nicole's, plus ox eye daisy leaves, wild corn salad, golden glow (so yummy!), Cress, wild mustards. Highly encourage picking up a field guide and learning the native edibles, for they are vast and generous and eating them connects us to the place.  
 
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Well, except that most of these are available for short seasons, here are perennials I have harvested of their greens.

Hawthorne, beech, birch, mulberry, moringa, linden and maple trees all have species and varieties with edible leaves.  Tenderest when young.  Some need to be cooked.

Bamboo shoots are great.  But they aren’t leafy, I don’t know about the foliage.

When Siberian Elm tree seeds are bright green , they are quite tasty and nutritious.

We were taught that milkweed is poisonous and bitter, but I read in an edible weed book that it’s not.  I have eaten a fair amount.  The shoot is like asparagus.  I have eaten it late into summer.  I just snap off where the shoot is tender enough.  Eat raw or steamed.

Speaking of….. asparagus is pretty tasty.

I saw on line that at least one person promotes eating the leaves off the goji berry.  And English walnut leaves.
 
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Artichokes
Cardoons
Asparagus
Watercress (my favourite)
Perennial leeks
Daubenton cabbage
Wild rocket
Perpetual spinach (more of a chard than a spinach really)
Wild garlic
Chives and perennial onions
Wild fennel (more of a herb than veggie)
Lovage (in moderation)
Turkish Rocket
Cinnamon vine (Dioscorea Batatas)
Buckhorn plantain
Nine star perennial broccoli
Cultivated dandelion
Nettles
I also have sorrel and Good King Henry but I don't eat them very often due to their high oxalic acid content.

Of course there are all the perennial flowers but really, I don't think I'll get great sustenance out of them - pretty and useful to bulk up a salad though.

I have a Tila cordata and beech trees and all sorts of trees with edible flowers and leaves but quite frankly, for my taste, I'll keep that as a famine food, along with the Siberian pea shrub.  Horses for courses of course!

 
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Joe Grand wrote:Tell me if any of these are perennials:
Good old Henry-yes
Vineland Hardy Prickly Pears-yes
Purple Shiso /Perilla?
Red Fire Orach?
Ruby Red Swiss Chard?
I am planting in zone 8a, I have seeds, thanks.



Purple Shiso /Perilla-no
Red Fire Orach-no
Ruby Red Swiss Chard-no but I've had mine bolt and reseed

 
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Do you mean real perennial plants that give you edible greens during several months? There are not many of those. I think of perennial kale. But of all other perennials I know the leaves are only nice to eat for a short time and then the leaves become tough or the taste becomes too bitter (Good King Henry for example). And other ones I know you can pick and eat for several months they are annuals, they die at the end of the year (New Zealand Spinach for example).
 
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How do you prepare it at different points in the season?  New to sochan and looking forward to it.

greg mosser wrote:it’s not the whole growing season, but we eat sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata) from early april through about midsummer. started as foraging but i’ve encouraged it enough that there’s lots of it in the garden, in the yard, in that patch right across the creek, etc, and it probably doesn’t count as foraging anymore. we eat it every few days the entire season long, and i’ve never thought to measure but we must consume a truly huge volume of this plant annually, including cooking some down and freezing for later in the year.

 
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I'm going to try eating curly dock this year. I have lots and lots of violet and both the flowers. Young leaves from raspberries and blackberries are tasty too!
 
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Has anyone played with Perennial Tree Collards? They are year around greens in my zone in San Diego. They are amazing. To propagate you simply break off a branch and stick it in the grown. It's the succulent of greens.

This picture is only about 1/3 the amount that is growing in this area. That was produced from 1 branch.

They taste great, are high quality and produce year round. They even have built in antifreeze so they don't get effected by chill here(28f).

They thrive more with some shade in full summer as it gets hot here (we've hit 119f in the shade before.) so we started companion planting under jujube trees so that they get the shade in summer and full sun in winter. In one zone that is filled with these I planted a mulberry to do the same to help protect them in the summer.

All and all I love these. I eat them a lot, use them as trade and hand out branches for others to grow.
Screen-Shot-2022-04-30-at-10.23.25-AM.png
[Thumbnail for Screen-Shot-2022-04-30-at-10.23.25-AM.png]
 
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I’m in zone 9b, so my toughest time for greens is summer. I’ve found three things (that are perennial in my area) which fill the heat gap for me and we actually enjoy eating: moringa, Chaya (my favorite) and sweet potato leaves. I have purple sweet potatoes planted as well as the ornamental bright green sweet potato vines. We sauté and eat both varieties. Turk’s cap, Malabar spinach and longevity spinach all grow well here in the heat too, but I can’t take the mucilage, so I keep those around just to look at (and my kids eat loads of Turk’s cap flowers).
 
Thekla McDaniels
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My salad burnet, also called small burnet has tolerated hot summers.  The new growth is tenderest, and adequate moisture seems to keep it growing.

Here in cold winter territory, I gather and freeze greens when they are plentiful.

Wash them or not, then put whole leaves on cookie sheet in freezer.  When they are frozen solid, I crunch them up with my hands and put in a freezer container.  I store the stem separate from the leaves and use them for other things.

My refrigerator freezes cucumbers and celery, (thanks fridge).  Though I don’t enjoy rubbery defrosted cucumbers, the celery is fine sautéed, or chopped in salad, just not that great as celery sticks!😊
 
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I agree I enjoy purple tree kale/collard I've heard it called both any way it produced ball winter long, and I really enjoy the taste.  Okinawa spinach.  It's a perennial, but sensitive to frost.  I covered mine and it came back.  Its a pretty plant, and very easy to propagate. I plan to start some in pots so I can bring it in as a house plant I can eat through the winter.  You can eat it raw, but it's a little bitter for me, but I enjoy it cooked a lot.  
 
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Leeks( much bigger leaves than other alliums), horseradish (huge leaves), earth chestnut, nipplewort, young oregon grape leaves, young bay leaves, curly mallow (or any other mallow), salsify, scorzonera, shotweed, purple dead nettle, oregano, grape leaves, little leaf linden, dandelion, false dandelion, sweet cicely, plantain/plantago, henbit, green onions.

John S
PDX OR
 
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:I'm fond of purslane. It works well as a lemon substitute in a lot of dishes.



I love purslane, but is it perennial in your climate?  I would find that very surprising, as it dies in winter here, and my winters are much milder.  Or do you count on it self seeding?  I don't yet have enough experience with purslane to know how well it self seeds for me.  It didn't last year, but that was also my first year ever growing it.
 
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I have three favorites for the best-tasting and highest-yielding perennial greens with the longest harvest window:
1)Perpetual Spinach, a form of chard that is more heat and cold resistant than the typical Swiss Chard type. I believe this gives me more meals per square foot than anything in the garden, due to its long growing season and continued palatability. https://www.quailseeds.com/store/p9/Perpetual_Spinach_%28Leafbeet%29_Chard.html  Fedco sometimes has it as well. To zone 5 with good drainage and mulch, lives several years in my garden.
2) Purple Tree Collards, which is a standout for flavor and texture even against the best annual kales and collards. To zone 7 or 8 with good drainage and mulch. We lose these about one year out of 10, so taking cuttings before winter is advisable. They can't stand the ground freezing.
3 Erba Stella  Not so high-yielding but very good flavor and crunchy texture. Like most things you need to keep it picked for continued tenderness and mild flavor. To zone 4, little to no protection. Available from several suppliers, including Adaptive Seeds, Quail Seeds, even from Johnny's sometimes.

Two companies that used to carry tree collards, Bountiful Gardens and Sundial Seeds, are both out of business.  

Quail Seeds has tree collard cuttings grown by the same guy, who has been stewarding them for over 30 years. They also carry seeds for a long list of perennial vegetables including those above. https://www.quailseeds.com/store/c103/Perennial_Vegetables.html  
 
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Just a quick addition to already mentioned: horseradish (leaves when young, root all year round if you can dig through snow), parsley (will stay green above ground if covered with clear "something" (dome, cake toper, jar, etc.) and root if growing root parsley.
 
Matthew Nistico
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Jamie Chevalier wrote:Two companies that used to carry tree collards, Bountiful Gardens and Sundial Seeds, are both out of business.  

Quail Seeds has tree collard cuttings grown by the same guy, who has been stewarding them for over 30 years. They also carry seeds for a long list of perennial vegetables including those above. https://www.quailseeds.com/store/c103/Perennial_Vegetables.html



Perennial brassicas are indeed a very promising vegetable!  Whether you call them tree collards or tree kales.  My own experience is limited, but I'm eager to experiment with them.

Regular annual brassicas thrive in moderate temperatures, but can survive cold winters while remaining high quality.  Perennial brassicas turn this on its head, somewhat.  They also thrive in moderate temperatures, but can survive hot summers while remaining (mostly) high quality; it is cold winters that threaten them.  In general, most are okay into the 20's (Fahrenheit), and possibly into the teens as well.  Which happens to perfectly describe my own climate: every winter it dips into the 20's, and occasionally into the teens.  Tree collards are very easy to propagate via cuttings, so I plan to take a few cuttings and root them every fall, just in case my host plants don't survive the winter.  And if they do, I can give away the potted babies.

I wanted to list another good source for mail-order perennial brassicas.  A lady out in California has made it her mission to become a perennial brassica evangelist.  Her site is https://www.projecttreecollard.org.  There is tons of good info on her site.  If you Google her, you will also find that she's published many high quality YouTube videos as well!

Her cuttings are a bit pricier than at quailseeds.com, but she has several cultivars to choose from.  I recently purchased 3 cuttings of the cultivar Big Blue.  Not more than 1.5 weeks since I potted them, and all are clearly taking root!  In another few weeks they should be ready to transplant.



 
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two good ones unmentioned as of yet: elm samarras and gingko leaves.

The inner pith of quack grass root runners is edible, and so far from the few times I've tried it it's pretty good as far as grass-flavored starchy pastes go.
 
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Growing in a tropical region, many greens that are seasonal in colder zones are perennial here, or else last for a few years before giving up if they are not thought of as perennials.

Looking about my own farm I see….malabar spinach, okinawan spinach, cholesterol spinach, sweet potato, chaya, kale, collard, some varieties of bok choy and other Asian greens, chard, New Zealand spinach, pipinola (chayote).
 
Nancy Reading
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Jamie Chevalier wrote:
3 Erba Stella Not so high-yielding but very good flavor and crunchy texture. Like most things you need to keep it picked for continued tenderness and mild flavor. To zone 4, little to no protection.



Thanks for this suggestion Jamie. I had to look up erba stella - I know it as buckshorn plantain.

a quick duck duck go search finds Uprising seeds who say

(Plantago coronopus) ...... Native to Europe’s rocky coastline, it is a seaside plant that thrives in cool wet weather (sound familiar?) and even saline soils. It is a survivor to the extreme ....... AKA “Minutina” and “Buckshorn Plantain”.

.

Erba Stella from Uprising seeds

Now my climate takes cool, wet, maritime weather to the extreme, so survivors are definitely on my list! I've tried other plantains and not been impressed - we have greater plantain (plantago major) and narrowleaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata) growing natively here, but they are always pretty bitter when I've tried them. I used to see buckshorn plantain growing along roadsides in Solihull - it tolerates the spray from road salt well, but I've never tried it....maybe next year.
 
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Nopale paddles can be harvested in the spring for a vegetable harvest and can be grown in many parts of the country. Look for varieties that have no thorns for easier handling. You’ll also get a long fruit harvest in the fall and winter.
 
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Perennial greens in my garden:

Hardy kale - don't know the variety, I just planted a mix of kales and left them alone. A few flowered and resprouted in the spring. IME if a kale resprouts after setting seed, they'll live on for a few years. The original species of wild kale is a short lived perennial on the west coast of Europe. You just need to try a mix (a hardy grex is best) and leave them alone to find one that will resprout. Although it will tolerate some frost, kale may not be able to perennialize in climates that are too cold. I'm in zone 8. Even in the best of conditions don't expect them to live more than 4-6 years. They're not true perennials.

Various alliums - I have all the cultivated species plus some native species. All plants in the Allium genus are edible and all are entirely perennial. Cultivated species are harvested their first year, but if left alone they will keep growing for many years.

Sea beet - another short lived perennial that reseeds like crazy
Good King Henry - I found this to be tricky to get established
Sorrels - I have all the varieties! Garden, Shield, woodsorrel
Lovage
Salad Burnet - reseeds
Fennel - reseeds profusely
Calendula - short lived perennial that reseeds
Dandelion - makes a killer tart and pesto
Sedum - a bit bitter but juicy
Sweet cicely - reseeds
Lemon balm - reseeds
Various Campanulas - the species with more tender leaves
Sweet Violet
Sylvatica arugula - spicier than regular Arugula and reseeds

Annuals that reseed:
Nasturtium
Shungiku
Dill
Cilantro
Parsley
Purslane
Chickweed
Bittercress
Dead nettle
Miners lettuce
Lettuce
Lambs quarters

Spring sprouting perennials:
Ostrich Fern
Lady Fern
Hosta
Sea kale
Asparagus
Oregon grape

Probably more that I'm forgetting...
 
greg mosser
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Dian Hong wrote:How do you prepare it at different points in the season?  New to sochan and looking forward to it.

greg mosser wrote:it’s not the whole growing season, but we eat sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata) from early april through about midsummer. started as foraging but i’ve encouraged it enough that there’s lots of it in the garden, in the yard, in that patch right across the creek, etc, and it probably doesn’t count as foraging anymore. we eat it every few days the entire season long, and i’ve never thought to measure but we must consume a truly huge volume of this plant annually, including cooking some down and freezing for later in the year.



aside from some particular favorites like really loading up pasta sauce with the chopped greens or cooking chicken on a bed of the chopped greens (i.e. cooking the chopped greens in chicken fat and drippings), we mostly just chop it and add to whatever one-pot meal we have going. this time of year when the plants are sending up stems but they’re still tender, we’ll either just chop it all up together or sometimes pull the leaves off and use elsewhere and chop the stems alone to use as their own vegetable in stir-fries, etc. by mid may, the stems are getting harder and stringier, and we’ll usually cut the whole plants back good and low at least once to reset them for a few more weeks. we’ve found that if we let them grow unmolested from late june on, they still flower at about the normal time and have enough time to store energy for the following year…as i mentioned, my patches are expanding, so they seem happy enough with this treatment.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
pollinator
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Location: South-central Wisconsin
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Matthew Nistico wrote:

Ellendra Nauriel wrote:I'm fond of purslane. It works well as a lemon substitute in a lot of dishes.



I love purslane, but is it perennial in your climate?  I would find that very surprising, as it dies in winter here, and my winters are much milder.  Or do you count on it self seeding?  I don't yet have enough experience with purslane to know how well it self seeds for me.  It didn't last year, but that was also my first year ever growing it.



I know it comes back every year, no matter what anyone does to it. Some of the plants in the spring are too big and hearty compared to the ones starting from seed, so I assume those are regrowing from dormant roots. I haven't pulled any up to really study, though.
 
Jamie Chevalier
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I've watched purslane pretty closely, and use it as an early-summer cover on my beds and nectar crop for beneficials. It seems to be a true annual, senescing and dying after it has seeded, long before summer is over. It does self-sow thickly.
 
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