I've been working on collecting various different perennial vegetables, and am now at the point of trying to get them to function as polycultures/guilds.
The perennial veg that I see having the most potential for actually fulfilling primary dietary (ie. macronutrient) needs (as opposed to medicinal and culinary needs) are things like seakale, turkish rocket, skirret, and scorzonera. I can see chinese mountain yam being very useful too. What are some other root veg and 'substantial' vegetables that people have found useful (especially hardy ones)? How have people found these, and other plants, working best together in their experience?
(And I know I'm missing things like asparagus and rhubarb, and many others, above. Tell me what's missing that you see as a big part of your diet, now or in the future!)
I tried my first little taste of raw skirret the other day, and found it good, though the texture was not that of a fine carrot. I think a little breeding, or possibly time of year harvested could address this. What have others experiences with skirret?
This looks and sounds like a great book! Thanks for all of your hard work and records. I quit landscaping a decade ago as was so tired of people requesting the same ol' ornamentals. When I suggest useful plants the reply is so often, "oh, well fruittrees are too messy" You mean they produce food.... what do you eat? Hopefully we will soon see widespread acceptance of perennial food plants. Thanks for doing your part.
Bob Day: Oh yeah, foraged greens are so important too, but I feel they are a bit easier, because there are so many common weeds to choose from. I suppose the same could be said for wild carrots and salsify too, though when you're talking about one of your main crops to put away for the winter, larger roots are important.
Speaking of self-seeding - I was proud when our cherry tomatoes won first place in the local fall fair. I chalk this one up as nature's prize - since they were volunteer tomatoes with no care at all from me. My wife just picked a bunch of them because the kids were entering some other categories at the fair, and these descendants of Matt's Wild Cherry that had self-seeded, and survived with no weeding or fertilizing at all, were the first prize winners...
i tried to do that intensive greens and peas thing that ianto evans does this year and all i got was a couple kale plants because i let the lambs quarters get ahead of me
by fall it was over my head producing lots of clumps of seeds which are probably highly nutritious more in the grains category, i just don't know how to harvest or use these things yet
like plantain, my plantain was wonderful, but it is so prolific and i can only make so much ointment, and unless i have a specific need for poultices it mostly just cycles back to the soil
same with comfrey
So next year i'm going to "weed" my greens patch and get a little more variety (although i did eat a lot of lambs quarters this year,) and it will be difficult because i have such great admiration for plants like your cherry tomatoes that come by themselves and provide great nutrition with almost no effort ( i guess you do have to pick them off the vines and eat them
maybe the real focus might be how to create conditions for good growth and then easy methods for selecting those things we want to let grow, rather than working so hard trying to get things to grow
sort of a grammatical nuance, but really a quantum shift for me in my approach to gardening, and maybe the essence of permaculture --i still buy already started plants, and work to try and protect them and keep them alive, then i look at the burdock that volunteers and imagine a whole garden like that, rampant crops, a real garden of eden
very interested in this too. Also, what would be good market crops. One of my challenges is to figure out irrigation around perennials mixed with annuals. I.e. seeds which need more frequent watering. I am in so. California where I need to irrigate for most everything if I want to get a crop.
Skirret and scorzonera have both proven reliable and undemanding plants for me to grow. I am trying to increase my stock of both because they are so useful. Over time they have been growing alongside greens like kales and wild rocket, herbs such as wild marjoram and lemon balm. I haven’t done so, but would happily plant peas and field beans or broad beans with them. I don’t plant them with the bigger root vegetable plants as they are relatively small plants and could get swamped.
Onion family plants such as garlic, chives, leeks, shallots are easy as well. Garlic and shallots can be divided up at harvest time and replanted (or perhaps in the case of shallots, kept out of the garden until spring if you have damp climate). Leeks will often produce a clump of baby leeks if you just cut them off at ground level rather than dig them up. Onion family plants don’t go well beside big plants such as perennial roots and sturdy kales and I have been putting them with flowers and herbs recently in a sunny spot.
You could also try adding more perennial roots such as oca, Jerusalem artichoke, mashua, yacon. They are all very easy to grow. All manner of kales can be tried. If you leave them in place you will probably find as I have that lots of them can last for more than one year. Some will go on for years like the Red Russian kale – I have had it so long that I have lost count of its age.
I'm eager to grow some of those other root crops - but have yet to find anyone else pushing the limits with those in southern Canada. If anyone has yacon, mashua, or oca they would send me, or knows of nurseries in Canada who supply these - please private message me.
I tried Oca last year, and it did okay - I don't think my season is quite long enough. I was going to try them again this year, but my young son inadvertently destroyed the tubers.