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What perennial plants could you not live without?  RSS feed

 
Vida Norris
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Location: Ontario Canada, Zone 5b
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Hi Stephen!

I am curious to know, if you were to start from scratch, what perennial plants would you make sure you put in your garden (or look for?) first before any others. Would love to know your must haves!
 
Stephen Barstow
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Location: Malvik, Norway
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A difficult question, there are at least 80.....

Here are some at the top of the list, all leafy greens which the book concentrates on:

Aralia cordata (Udo) from Japan
Allium victorialis (a wide distribution from western Europe to Japan and the Aleutian Islands)
Allium cernuum (North America)
Allium wallichii (Himalayas)
Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasus)
Hosta sieboldiana (Japan, Korea)
Malva moschata (Mallow; Europe, naturalised in North America)
Urtica species (Nettles)
Taraxacum species (Dandelions)
Armoracia (Horseradish)
Asparagus
Perennial Kales like Daubenton (Brassica oleracea)
Campanula latifolia and other large species (Bellflowers)
Crambe cordifolia (Caucasus)
Diplotaxis (Perennial rocket)
Heracleu species (Hogweeds)
Hydrophyllum species (Waterleafs)
Levisticum officinale (Lovage) from Afghanistan
Rumex acetosa "Non-flowering"
Scorzonera hispanica

However, it's far from sure that the best ones here are the best ones there

It would be very interesting to start from scratch again with the knowledge and experience...but I doubt if I will...couldn't bring myself to get rid of so many of the plants that would be necessary...
However, last year I was asked to provide a list of plants for a new Forest copse at my favourite forest gardens in Scandinavia, Holma (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=138 )



 
Jan Cooper
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Live in California, the one plant I wouldn't be without is artichokes. I get about 5-7 chokes per plant and have 3 plants. For a family of 5, that's plenty for us. I have them on a slope because they need
good drainage, and we have clay. I put a 12" plus pile of leaves plus compost every year and water as if for roses.
 
Richard Huffmon
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Vida Norris wrote:Hi Stephen!

I am curious to know, if you were to start from scratch, what perennial plants would you make sure you put in your garden (or look for?) first before any others. Would love to know your must haves!


Speaking for myself, I would start with asparagus, plus lots of berries, nuts, assorted fruits, herbs. I would want to start with the asparagus, then trees, shrubs, etc. But that is what I like.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I love me my nettles. They grow wild on my property in one happy patch, and they were pretty much the only veggie I ate last year aside from sweet potatoes (nothing wanted to grow in my garden, and we didn't have much money for groceries). So I fried &/or baked nettle in duck fat &/or coconut oil every few days to make nettle chips. They are so delicious, and I cannot wait until my little nettle plants get bigger and I can start harvesting again!
 
Jennifer Smith
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Nicole, what nettle do you have? I know stinging nettle
 
Nicole Alderman
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Yes, it's stinging nettle. When it's cooked or dried out, it loses its sting. It's also a vitamin rich (according to wikipedia it "is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium"), 25% of it's dry weight is protein, it's an aquaretic (flushes water but not vitamins), and medicinal in many ways. It crisps up really easily when heated to make yummy chips. People also cook it like spinach, drink it as tea, and make soups and pesto out of it.
 
Vida Norris
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Thanks so much Stephen - I should have asked what perennial plants could you live without Probably would have a much shorter list huh?

The one major thing that gets me pondering about your book is how incredibly diverse and expansive the edible perennial plant landscape is. I have had moments when I've not been sure exactly what I should plant in terms of edible perennials, since so much of the focus is generally on growing annuals it seems like a lot of perennial plants have gotten lost in the mix aside from the usual suspects. I also think that it seems to me there needs to be a major shift in perspective when it comes to considering what to eat. Seems to me like we're really limited by being accustomed to what's in the produce aisle of the grocery store whereas your book gets me really pushing to think differently about food and planting- so thank you!

I also dig everyone's suggestions as well! Nicole I didn't know that about nettle. I just got to know it more intimately last year when I made the mistake of trying to weed a few things out of my daughter's garden. After my hand stopped stinging I realized two things: 1) Awesome!! I have nettle!! and 2) I am never weeding again.

 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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Thank you for your list of your most essential plants, Stephen. It helps me to not be overwhelmed by the abundance of possibilities.

When the Nettle stingers are bent, they lose their sting, which opens up to the careful harvester, or to the harvester wearing gloves, the possibility of eating them raw. Saliva or something seems to neutralize the sting, if you make a mistake and get stung inside your mouth. That sting will be gone in a few minutes.
 
Stephen Barstow
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Location: Malvik, Norway
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It's easy also to forget that many of our modern vegetables and grains are derived from wild perennial species; e.g, all the wide range of brassicas (cabbage family) and beetroots (including swiss chard, sugar beet, mangelwurzel etc) - you can read about this in the book.. Luckily a good selection of perennial kales have survived despite attempts to eradicate them (thanks to home gardeners who have always valued them)...
 
Stephen Barstow
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When we eat our nettles, we are part of a global movement of nettle eaters as almost all countries around the world have their own local nettle species - from African villages to the Maori in NZ to the Aborigines in Australia, Siberia, Russia and even Norway where most people at my talks have eaten nettle soup

I've often used stinging nettle in mixed salads , just making sure I crush and cut them up thoroughly first (there are also non-stinging varieties of Urtica dioica available - also in the book)
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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You say in your book that the young leaves of Hydrophyllum species (Waterleafs) can be eaten raw, but suggest cooking the mature leaves. Why should we not eat the mature leaves raw? Are they toxic somehow? Or are they bitter or fibrous? Smoothies can do a lot to make bitter fibrous leaves palatable. Thank you.
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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Are all Hosta species edible?

We have two that were growing in our yard when we moved here, and I have no idea what species they are. Would it be safe to eat them?

Thank you.
 
Fiona Martin
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My list would have to include rhubarb, currants, herbs - especially oregano. And definetly nettles. My favourite way to eat nettles is nettle pakoras -awesome!
 
Stephen Barstow
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Pamela, you're right again, I'm sure older leaves could be used in smoothies and fermented...yes, they are coarser...I'm still learning, in fact there seems to be more to learn the more I know...
I do tend to mainly use the young leaves (sometimes through cut and come again) as I suspect they are more nutritious and to allow the plants to recover for next season.
 
Vida Norris
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Fiona! Nettle pakoras?? Recipe please!!!

I'd also love to know about hosta's. I inherited a bunch of these when I bought my house as well. I didn't even think they would possibly be edible!
 
Stephen Barstow
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Yes, all Hostas are edible, but it's mainly the large leaved varieties / species which are used
 
Stephen Barstow
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Yes, Nettle pakoras does sound awesome! Must try next season.....don't know why I didn't thimk of it...
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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Thank you, Stephen. Great that these are edible.

Yes, I find that the more I know, the more I see to learn about...it is like the horizon or the end of the rainbow....it recedes in the distance and it is an ongoing journey.

Thank you for being transparent and not being arrogant and thinking you know it all I have noticed in life that the people who are honest about what they do not know are usually the ones who actually know the most. Something about the relationship of humility to open mindedness and educability? I do not know.

That is great that Hostas are edible. We knew when we moved here that we wanted to put in a Permaculture food forest, and I thought Hostas were not edible and was not too thrilled to see them, but of course I was not going to dig up a plant because it was not edible, so this is a pleasant surprise. They grow well in the shade, and we have lots of shade, so this is great.

I am learning so much from you. Thank you
 
Matu Collins
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Life without nettles would be hard to bear. I could live without sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes, but I suspect I'd be grateful for them if there was a disruption in the food system. I wouldn't starve but I'd get sick of sunchokes.

Berries! I love my blueberries and raspberries and wineberries.
 
Fiona Martin
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Nettle pakoras - not so much a recipe but a rough guideline!

Take a bunch of nettle leaves, wash and chop (a food processor is handy for this).
Add chopped garlic, chillies, pinch of salt, coriander and cumin seeds, ground turmeric.
Add spoonfuls of gram flour, and water as needed to make a paste.
You're aiming for a thick batter, which looks about a 50/50 mix of batter/nettle.

Deep fry spoonfuls of the mix - you can always make one batch and then adjust the seasoning to taste.

Apologies for the terrible instructions, I tend to make it up as I go along, I'm sure if you found a recipe for spinach pakoras and just substituted nettle for the spinach it would work well!

Edited to add: you also need a pinch of baking soda!
 
Jennifer Smith
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I will be planting hostas now. Any suggestions? They will mostly be goat food and decorative. We may try but we are still learning to beat better.
 
Pamela Melcher
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We have hostas that are growing in our yard, but they were here when we got here...I have no idea what type of hostas they are. I have not eaten them yet, as I only just recently learned that they are edible and they are still sleeping in the ground for winter.

I can tell you that they grow best in shade, not deep shade, but dappled shade. They were not happy in a less shady place. They are easy to divide.

Good luck!
 
Dylan Mulder
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I could not live without garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), or it would be more accurate to say that my system could not live without garlic chives.

Apart from being delicious, garlic chives are my most successful pest control plant. They draw a great myriad of wasps, in particular the blue winged wasp (Scolia dubia) which is a vigilant predator of the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica).

It also attracts the Pennsylvania leatherwing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) in great adundance, which predate a number of other insects such as aphids.

 
Stephen Barstow
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Dylan Mulder wrote:I could not live without garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), or it would be more accurate to say that my system could not live without garlic chives.

Apart from being delicious, garlic chives are my most successful pest control plant. They draw a great myriad of wasps, in particular the blue winged wasp (Scolia dubia) which is a vigilant predator of the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica).

It also attracts the Pennsylvania leatherwing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) in great adundance, which predate a number of other insects such as aphids.



Interesting, Dylan, I've also observed it being a great insect attractant along with many other Alliums! This is one of the 80 perennials featuring in my book! It is also a beautiful edimental..in the picture seen as a perennial edging of a herb garden in England. For those living in cold areas, the different varieties of Allium tuberosum vary widely in hardiness (there are many varieties developed in the Far East where it is second in importance to Allium fistulosum), some for the leaves, others for the edible flower stems.



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Dylan Mulder
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Stephen Barstow wrote:
Interesting, Dylan, I've also observed it being a great insect attractant along with many other Alliums! This is one of the 80 perennials featuring in my book! It is also a beautiful edimental..in the picture seen as a perennial edging of a herb garden in England. For those living in cold areas, the different varieties of Allium tuberosum vary widely in hardiness (there are many varieties developed in the Far East where it is second in importance to Allium fistulosum), some for the leaves, others for the edible flower stems.



Well, as a lover of all things garlic chive, now I absolutely have to get your book. I've been trying to get good information on different garlic chive varieties for some time now - is this also something discussed in the book?

I've suspected that there are multiple garlic chive varieties in circulation in the United States, but they are all simply referred to as 'garlic chive' by most vendors. As far as I can tell, I have two or three varieties that have marked physical differences, but I don't know the names of any of them. I've been breeding them for two or so years now, in an attempt to develop new regionally adapted varieties.
 
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