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I love the "idea" of perennial vegetables...

 
pioneer
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Location: Oregon 8b
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Mark Reed wrote:I'm also a little dubious of eating just anything because someone says it's OK and I know there are a variety of daylily species. The ones I have most commonly seen as being eaten are the wild orange ones and they are the ones in abundance here. It's worth a shot to try digging some up to see if I can find any variations in root size, although it might just as likely be due to environmental conditions rather than genetic. Still I could bring more of that type back closer to home.

Just occurred to me that if I wanted to harvest cattails, at least the tops rather than roots in would be most convenient to utilize my kayak, eliminate all the fuss and muss and maybe catch a fish too. Wonder how "cattail on the cob" would be with a nice mess of pan fried bluegills.



Yeah. I have a certain willingness to eat things if I know the genus and am sure nothing in the genus is toxic. I don't have that kind of confidence with daylilies, so I'll leave that to people who are more adventurous than me and just stick with the ones I know are edible. Honestly, there might be more information in Chinese or from other parts of asia if people have the ability to search for and translate the available literature. This is part of the reason I wish it was easier to collaborate with people who speak other languages.

Canoes were definitely the preferred way to harvest things like wild rice. Just shake the stalks into the canoe. Definitely a good option for the parts of cattails that can be harvested above water.
 
pollinator
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Location: SE Indiana
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I have a little pond, more of a glorified mud puddle in my estimation. It was built, I'm guessing a long time ago by who ever lived in the log homestead, now just a pile of chimney rocks at the edge of my yard. I speculate that there was more water in the ground back then as the pond collects little to no surface water, it is just a depression that at one time must have contained a spring. It often fills up pretty good in winter but most summers goes completely dry. I think I'll try to transplant cattails into it but I don't know if they can tolerate a wet/dry cycle. If not then they won't be on my actual list of foods as I want to establish food production that is entirely within easy walking distance of my house.

I already have the hostas and daylilies and can easily increase them so will do so. I've worked on the pecans and grapes for years so they are pretty well established and self maintaining.

A lot of the things I read about are certainly interesting and no reason not to explore but can't lose focus on the real goal and the necessity to drive miles somewhere to harvest isn't part of that goal.  
 
pollinator
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Mark Reed wrote:I think I'll try to transplant cattails into it but I don't know if they can tolerate a wet/dry cycle. If not then they won't be on my actual list of foods as I want to establish food production that is entirely within easy walking distance of my house.

Try it. I had a cattail by my lawn (from a neighbor's pond). It took me a while to figure out what it was. It got regular water, but it certainly wasn't wet!
 
master pollinator
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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I've seen cattails growing in a roadside ditch that appeared to get really dry in our seasonal drought. I never stopped to verify how dry it was to the touch, but at 25 mph, visually, it matched hard concrete clay. During the rainy seasons, there were a couple of inches of standing water.
 
pollinator
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Mathew Trotter wrote:
Thanks, Karl. I got some "sea kale" seeds last year that I finally got around to starting this year, and they ended up being bogus. They were shipped without pericarp, so I had a feeling that they weren't really sea kale. It's still on my list, but I'd honestly love the larger florets... which I'm obviously not going to get with the sea kale.

Have you tried eating the roots? I think I heard that one of the related crambe species had slightly better roots for eating, but I've always been curious what people think about the flavor and eating quality.



Hi Mathew,

Sorry it took me so long to see your response! That sucks about your bogus seeds. Removal of the pericarp is very helpful for germination, but the inner seeds are fragile and may get bumped around in the mail. When I send seeds, I usually send instructions about removing the pericarp. I have also experienced a relatively low germination rate with my own seeds, so that may have contributed to your issues.

Yes, I have tried eating sea kale roots. Last spring I had too many volunteer plants and decided to dig a few roots up to share and to eat. If you like turnips, you'll probably like sea kale roots - which makes sense, because they are both in the brassica family. Personally, I wouldn't bother growing them for the roots. I am not a huge fan of turnips, and harvesting the roots can be problematic. It leads to lots of volunteer plants and requires aggressive digging in my "no-dig" beds.

I'd be happy to gift you some root segments and seeds if you'd like to try planting them again. I also have leftover year-old seeds and a limited number of seeds from this summer. I can send some of each. Like I say, germ rate isn't great, and may be worse for year-old seeds, but I expect the root segments will do pretty well if they don't get eaten by varmints this winter. The only downside to using my root segments is that there will be very little genetic diversity. My older plants are all clones of each other and I have only recently begun introducing more genetic diversity. The seeds will be more genetically diverse but harder to start.

You can contact me through this link to my website.

Cheers!
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:Aimee, thanks for that.  It had some things that I will definitely try.  I do grow sunchokes, I just forgot to add them to the list.  I like them, but we haven't figured out a great way to prepare them yet.  Currently we roast them, but mine are kind of small and it's tedious trying to get the skin off them



Trace, my wife and I have grown and played with 'chokes for years. I had three varieties. One I'm getting rid of, it's totally obnoxiously strong and nasty flavored. The other two are good. We just scrub them, we don't try to skin them. One variety has reddish skin. It has loads of antioxidants in that red skin so we don't toss them.
Roasting, as you said is good. We also boil or steam them and mash like potatoes. One of my favorites is a 50:50 mix of mashed potatoes and mashed 'chokes with some brine pickled field garlic and butter. We also can them as pickles and relishes. I like them better than cukes. Their raw texture is like water chestnuts so into stir-fries they go. I've tossed thick chips onto pizzas. I've even dried chips, ground them into flour in a food processor and added the flour to bread and pizza dough. It's a heavy flour, so best mixed with other flours. They're good as hash browns, but if you freeze the hash browns, squeeze as much moisture out of them as you can before freezing. I tried fermenting them like cabbage into sauerkraut but because of their added moisture my brine wasn't strong enough and they got a bit musty flavored. We've fried them like home fries, tossed them into stews and soups, shaved them into salads ... I forget what all. There are recipes for pureed 'chokes and a few others we haven't tried. A restaurant chef downtown made humus several years ago which wasn't bad at all and I forget what he put in it. I've made wine out of both tuber and flower broth. The flower wine has a nice earthy tone by itself and it blends very well with fruit wines. I went a bit strong with the tuber wine, but it makes a good cooking wine. The French make a liqueur out of the tubers called Topinambur.
 
Posts: 49
Location: Kentucky, USA
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A lot of folks are trying to find perennial greens that taste decent when eaten raw or roasted.

Personally, I'm sensitive to the 'bitter' taste of most greens, and I'm rather particular about textures in general.  
Even spinach can be too bitter to eat raw if the leaf is on the mature side, and that's a very well-established 'sweet' leafy green.  Kale especially just tastes like bitter 'leaf' to me - I don't really understand people's love of it, aside from accepting that some people just enjoy the taste of leaves.
Mushrooms also - While I love the flavor, I can't stand the texture of most mushrooms.

Solution? Boiling & Blending

I make a lot of smoothies & soups with my perennial greens.
Instead of adding a bunch of sugar to sweeten & overpower the bitter, I use complimentary savory/creamy/acidic flavors so that the bitter flavor is at a level that is ok/acceptable.

Creamy Tomato, Basil & Greens soup
Creamy Squash & greens soup
Creamy Potato & greens soup
Chicken & greens soup
Chicken, Corn & Dandelion Root Soup - (When Dandelion roots are minced finely, I really enjoy the texture & flavor)

The key to adding greens to many soups is blending it or mincing it up very finely, so you never have to chew through a whole mouthful of super-bitter leaves.
Basil especially can go REALLY far in disguising the bitter flavor of other leaves.

I have personally eaten very young dandelion greens, Hosta baby leaves, and plantain baby sprouts - they all share a very mild 'asparagus-salad' flavor that I could easily eat with a balsamic vinegarette, but would not enjoy eating raw, on its own.
Making sure you're actually harvesting YOUNG leaves, before the plant has gone to seed, goes a long way in ensuring it's actually palatable.

You can also pack greens into an otherwise fruity smoothie. The fruit's natural sugars and acids mute the bitterness.

I've also packed a bunch of edible greens into a soup pot along with with some oil, boiled it thoroughly, and then removed the solid leaves, using the broth left behind as a base to make another soup. It's a lot less bitter than eating the solids, and both water and fat-soluble vitamins/minerals get leeched out into the water.
You don't get the fiber content of eating the whole leaves, but you're definitely adding nutrients to your diet when you otherwise wouldn't find the whole leaves palatable.

I just can't enjoy most bitter leaves - annual or perennial. But I know they're super good for me, so I work around that flavor to make it palatable.
 
Blaine Clark
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Toko Aakster wrote:Personally, I'm sensitive to the 'bitter' taste of most greens, and I'm rather particular about textures in general.  



OK, back to the Sunchokes. Every part of the plant is edible. The young sprouts, the leaves, even the flowers. I've simmered leaves. They don't taste all that great, not bad, but not great, however, the broth tastes exactly like squash. That might be worth taking a shot at for some of your broth projects.
 
pollinator
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Location: Western MA, zone 6b
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Sochan is DELICIOUS and abundant.  If you like parsley flavor and spinach you will like it.  I can't wait until spring again;  I just learned to can and I will be putting up TONS of it for use during the year.   It's also super early, before a lot of other things are ready to harvest.   You can pick it all spring and early summer and it doesn't mind.  You'll still be tons of beautiful 8 foot tall flowers and seed if you want it.  Makes a BIG patch if it's happy.   It is really really good.   But I also love rhubarb lol.   Mixed with Strawberries or raspberries, it doesn't need other sweetener for me!    
 
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5b
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I think that the "tastiness" test is the real challenge of perennials.

The majority of the perennials I enjoy are herbs or medicinal plants. I'm a little south of you (5b), but I like mint, oregano, thyme, chamomile, tarragon. I just planted some lovage, so not sure how much I'll like it yet. The majority of the "weedy" perennials growing on my site are used more for medicinal than food staples (dandelion comes to mind). And I have several things I've planted just for the medicinal value: echinacea, bee balm, stinging nettle.

That said, I have always loved rhubarb raw. I used to go out into the garden as a kid and just snack on it. I love asparagus, which I just planted.  I also planted garlic with the intention of "perennializing" it, or letting go a little wild.

Do you like sorrel? That should grow in zone 4.  

In your zone, I might concentrate on technically annual or biennial plants that will regrown in spring from seeds or tubers. Potatoes, though technically annual, can be semi-perennial if you intentionally or unintentionally leave some of the tubers in the ground.
 
Toko Aakster
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Blaine Clark wrote: Sunchokes (...)the broth tastes exactly like squash. That might be worth taking a shot at for some of your broth projects.



I love squash! I planted some sunchoke seeds this past spring, but they were from a collection that got left in the shed overwinter, so I wasn't surprised when none of them sprouted.  Ah well~ I'll have to get some fresher seeds for next year. Thank you for the tip!
 
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