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Looking for edible perennials

 
                  
Posts: 59
Location: NW Ontario
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Hi. First-time poster.
I live in the cold (though you wouldn't know it this summer) and rugged lands along the northwest edge of lake Superior Just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario (about 3 hours drive north of Duluth MN). Officially, this is zone 2b and is not quite a pure Boreal environment (we have some maple and elm and other species not entirely Boreal).
Anyway, I have a real interest in forest gardens. We have lots of forest but not a lot of edible perennials. Aside from the native berries and other small fruits and nuts the list is short: Asparagus, rhubarb, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)... and horse radish.
My question is: Does anyone know of any other edibles I could try growing as perennials? Our particular property has good potential to provide more protected micro-climates that might allow say zone 3ish growing conditions...
 
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Welcome to the forums.

This is just off the top of my head:

Perennial Kale aka Sea Kale

Sorrel

Horse Radish

Komatsuna Tendergreen (roots and leaves are edible, William Dam seeds has them)

Scarlet Runner Bean (I'm told this can be perennial but I've never tested that)

If you leave garlic in the ground it'll split off from itself and produce new plants, though don't expect giant heads. Shallots and multiplier onions work similarily.

Walking onion aka egyptian onion

Groundnut (apios americana is the scientific name)

 
master pollinator
Posts: 11289
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Hardy Yam - Dioscorea batatas
 
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Had no idea that komatsuna could be perennial. 
 
gardener
Posts: 1386
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Red Orach self seeds and is a prolific producer in my area for salad greens.
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pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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perennial kale and broccoli are only hardy to zone 6  so they won't work for you and likely the yam wouldn't either but i'm not sure of it's zone. I live in Michigan as well but much warmer than you and i still lose a lot of items to 30 below zero winters and some hardy thigns to snowless windy winter weather, even things that should have been perfectly hardy..so i'm aware of the difficulties that you are facing.

if you have not tried lambsquarters..you should try it, it is a selfseeding annual "weed" that is a wonderful spinach tasting vegetable that i use heavily here in the early summer and late spring.

you also might be able to get away with overwintering some cole typ crops under a mulch over the winter for some early spring greens while you are waiting for new things to sprout..i had swiss chard and a few cabages overwinter and there are others that might do well if they are mulched well or put under coldframes to protect them.

unfortunately you are in an amazingly difficult zone to grow perennials. but don't give up..

one thing to try is a fall garden, by planting cold weather crops in July and shading them or starting them in the house and transplanting them out into a shaded area for a fall garden..i'm doing that here..and it works well..you get a better growing of crops that sometimes our springs are just too cold to grow here.

some of these if mulched well will also overwinter and grow again in the early spring giving you a jump start on edibles for spring.

there are a lot of things that are looked on as only ornamentals that are perennial and that are edible and grow in your area..one of them is violets, they are every tasty in a salad and are perfectly perennial and will grow in early spring. Dame rocket has edible leaves in the spring and daylilies have edible roots and flowers and they are perfectly hardy. many herbals are also edibles that are very hardy and can be used as a food, salad, although stronger flavored than the greens. I would suggest that you find a copy of an edible wild plant book and go from there, as i find that the more hardy greens that are perennial as well as other foods in our area..are not necessarily considered a "cultivated" plant but are considered a wild plant, but that doesn't mean that you can't domesticate them into your garden..i have a list here that i might be able to go over and find the zones on some of them..

myt book is called  Edible wild plants, a north american field guid..and it would include your area..you might be able to still find it somewhere..

hope this was helpful
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Brenda Groth wrote:
perennial kale and broccoli are only hardy to zone 6  so they won't work for you and likely the yam wouldn't either but i'm not sure of it's zone.



If sepp holzer is doing the things he's doing in the austrian mountains, its likely that perennial kale and broccoli could work out in Old hammy's situation with the right tweaking of microclimate. I've been told that globe artichoke wouldn't overwinter in my area but I proved that wrong.  I could see the kale and broccoli working out if they were planted in raised beds next to a building, or brick/stone wall, and/or pond, and/or surrounded  with stones around the base of the plants. Failing that, there's always cold/hot frames.

 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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wow Travis that is great to know, as I wanted to try them here but figured with all the info i'd seen they wouldn't grow here..do you happen to have a source for the ones that you have tried that have grown well in your zone 5, my zones are 4/5 here and i'm sure that if you can get them to grow in zone 5b it would be worth a try in mine..can't hurt
 
Travis Philp
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Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Brenda Groth wrote:
wow Travis that is great to know, as I wanted to try them here but figured with all the info i'd seen they wouldn't grow here..do you happen to have a source for the ones that you have tried that have grown well in your zone 5, my zones are 4/5 here and i'm sure that if you can get them to grow in zone 5b it would be worth a try in mine..can't hurt



All I did to overwinter it was cut the leaves down to 1 inch above the soil level, and placed a bucket over the stem with a rock on top to keep the bucket in place. There was an inch or two of hay or straw mulch around the stems but not touching them.

The ground was fairly flat, and the bed was only raised about 2-3 inches above the existing soil level. The soil in the area is sandy.
 
                  
Posts: 59
Location: NW Ontario
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Thanks for all the replies. I will investigate further. Raised beds and cold frames are both in use already but are useless from mid-November to mid-April. It's just too dang cold... most years. Last winter was ridiculously mild... Seems weather extremes are becoming more the rule than the exception these days. Maybe I'll be able to grow some globe artichokes here too someday
 
                              
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Have you looked at the Plants for a future database? It is a database of over 7000 useful plants created single handedly by a brilliant man called Ken Fern. For each entry there is lots of data, including hardiness zone, cultivation details, and uses.  You can search the database by plant hardiness zone. I did so and got 192 hits for species hardy to zone 1 or 2, and 598 for species hardy to zones 1, 2 and 3.

I've listed a couple of perennial species below that jump to mind for your situation. I'm from the UK though, so i'm well out of my depth!

Siberian pea tree, zone 2: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Caragana+arborescens

Ostrich fern, zone 2: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Matteuccia+struthiopteris

American Ground nut, zone 3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Apios+americana

Chicory, zone3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Cichorium+intybus

Autumn Olive, zone 3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Elaeagnus+umbellata

Sea Buckthorn, zone 3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Hippophae+rhamnoides


 
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Im pretty sure Eric Toensmeier posts on this forum, but just incase he is above shameless self-promotion, please consider this excellent book and website:

http://perennialvegetables.org/

EDIT: watercress!!!
 
                  
Posts: 59
Location: NW Ontario
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Thanks for the references you guys. Most helpful.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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thanks for the great links to the pfaf database..although they are changing their sites I have asked my son to download the cdrom for me of that database (my computer connection just won't handle that type of download)..that will be really handy to have on hand even when i'm not online..

i'm just about getting to a maxed out planting on my land but i usually can fit in something new somewhere, squeeze and keep my plants on wheels and move them around..everytime i hear about a new food crop hardy in my zone that i think might work, if i can afford it, i buy it..i'm really bad shopaholic when it comes to plants and trees.
 
                    
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iamamonster wrote:
Im pretty sure Eric Toensmeier posts on this forum, but just incase he is above shameless self-promotion, please consider this excellent book and website:

http://perennialvegetables.org/



Yes, that's an excellent book. I checked it out from the library, renewed it, and realized that it was something I need to have on hand all the time so I ordered a copy. I would highly recommend it to any gardener that wants to move in a permaculture direction.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Just a note to Old Hammy and anyone interested in Eric Toensmeier's book Perennial Vegetables... It's a good book but most of the plants in it are only suited for warmer climates (eg. zone 6 and higher)

I counted approximately 35 plants in the book that are listed as a perennial to zone 4-5-ish. And only about 3 of them would be hardy enough to come back after a winter in zone 2 where Hammy is located. That being said, several of them are listed as being able to be grown as an annual in Hammy's zone, so with some microclimate tweaking, they very well could be 'perennialized'.
 
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Hi,
I am new to this forum and I realize this thread hasn't been updated in awhile but I thought I would add my two cents' worth. (After all I found it from google so others may be doing the same!) I'm in Edmonton, AB which is Zone 3a, so I almost feel your pain, although I imagine the difficulty I have in finding hardy perennials for z3 is probably multiplied many times for z2

I've only had my garden for a few years but I am in the process of trying to win a new section of it back from the weeds to develop an edible perennial garden. I also have lots of edible perennials growing elsewhere in my garden but I really want to focus on them for this new area (not as ambitious as it sounds - it's about 8 feet square)

I thought I might as well share my research, so here it is in a google doc if anyone is interested. I'm still working on it but the link will update automatically.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OozRn9EUAYyrKe7XMi5eKuPsvZJqf6tQBVIAFTWiuvE/edit?usp=sharing

If anyone has any other suggestions, I would be happy to hear them!
Take care
Jocelyn
 
Posts: 109
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JB We are Z5 and we grow a lot of the plants that you mentioned. Goumi's this is our 3rd year and we have lots of berries. Very easy to care for. Fruit is quite good and we will save seed this year. High bush cranberries: make very sure you get the right kind. One is horrible (we have) and the other is good. A lot of growers don't know the difference. Caucasian Spinach: we got seeds from Poland, and we have 9 plants. If we get seeds you are welcome to some. GKH: do yourself a favor and get some plants from Richter's and then start seperating them in the spring. We started with a tray of 128 and are probably up to 200 plants. Same thing goes for sorrel, get their variety Profusion. We started with 36 plants from Richters, and after 2 years and splitting we harvest and sell 7-8 pounds per week. Let me know questions
 
jocelyn badley
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Thanks for your reply Ed! I am looking at the Richter's website right now! Thanks for the tip.
I would love some seeds if your Caucasian Spinach ever produces any. I've done a quick look online and it looks like there are lots of people looking for seeds, but no one who knows where to get any
And I am definitely considering goumi now. I'll have to see if there's anywhere that's likely to stay warm enough.
 
Ed Waters
Posts: 109
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Hopefully we will have seeds this year (no guarantee) and if so you are most welcome to them. I bought 25 seeds for $2 from a gentleman in Poland, and it would be wrong to charge something for them. The look beautiful and they are finally starting to "vine". Almost exactly the same timing as our Red Malabar. One of the problems we seem to be having is that the plants that are good for our Z5 seem to survive but that doesn't translate to flourish. For example we have 8 Chinese Chestnut trees, that all had catkins this spring but a late frost killed them all. Our kiwis died back, as did all of our English walnuts. They all come back but any hope of getting fruit is gone. Hazelnuts, goumis, currants, gooseberries, aronias etc don't seem to have that problem.

One very cool thing that Mother Nature showed us this year. We piled black walnuts in our driveway and drove over them to remove the outer shell. In the process the red squirrels made off with maybe 30% of them. Well now towards the end of June we have black walnut trees sprouting all over the place. Same thing for the hazelnuts. We even have some in the pots for our meyer lemon trees. I figure if I try planting nuts everywhere this fall that it won't work but I'm going to do it anyway.

All the best,
 
Robert Ray
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Posts: 1386
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Strawberry spinach or beetberry, chenepodioum capitatum, has done well as a self seeder in my area.
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jocelyn badley
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Thanks for the tip, Robert! Do you find the strawberry spinach tasty? I've read comments from others that they don't find it particularly good to eat.
 
Robert Ray
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I like the greens. The berries are insipid yet sweet. No real descriptive flavor. In a salad the acid of a dressing and the occasional sweet of a berry is enjoyable.
A word of caution though it is spreading quite well in my climate. One pass through the chickens is an effective seeder. It is working as a good cover crop and chop and drop mulch before they go to seed.
The berries start ripening about mid August.
 
Posts: 49
Location: Zone 3 Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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I live in Thunder Bay, which I've always though of as Zone 3, with kindness towards some Zone 4 and the occasional Zone 5 plants. My gardens are a work in progress and I am focusing on continuing to establish my edible perennials because the growing seasons have become ever more unpredictable for tender garden annuals. This year I’m also looking at setting up a food forest.

Some things I already grow successfully:
Alliums: Egyptian onion, Welsh onion, chives, garlic chives, garlic (treat as biennial).
Edible herbs: Sweet Cicely, Sorrel, Good King Henry, tarragon, mother of thyme, mints, stinging nettle (yum, but lots of competition for as the butterflies love it for their caterpillars too), lovage, angelica (more of a biennial), horseradish, parsley (biennial).
Medicinal herbs: Most artemesias do well, elecampane, costmary, valerian, St Johnswort, so many more.
Perennials: Daylillies, spiderwort, asparagus, hostas, fiddleheads aka ostrich fern.
Fruit: Haskaps, blueberries, gooseberries, currants, Gogi berries, possibly lingonberries—waiting to see how they survived this winter, strawberries, alpine strawberries, apples, plums, grapes, raspberries, rhubarb, sea buckthorn, Saskatoon berries.
Tubers: Sunchokes.
Perennial for the garden, pollinators, and chickens: Comfrey.

Edible plants, not perennials in my zone, but that self-seed in my garden:
Purslane, summer savory, New Zealand spinach.

Other perennials I'm trying this year:
Perennials: Hablitzia tamnoides aka Caucasian spinach, oyster plant, sea kale, udo, fuki, Turkish rocket, Aprios Americana, nodding onion, ramps, ramsons, Allium fistulosum (3 more varieties), blue chives, perennial leek cross, camas, Amphicarpa Bracteata aka ground bean, crosnes, prairie turnip, Dioscorea japonica – yam, cinnamon yam, German thyme, watercress, and more.
Trees/shrubs: black walnut from Zone 3 stock, hazelberts, butternuts, hardy dwarf black mulberry, hardy Asian pear Shinseiki, Korean pine ordered from Green Barn Nursery and HardyFruitTrees.ca both out of Quebec.

Foraged items:
Lots of wild fruits in the area for foraging: highbush cranberries, low bush cranberries, chokecherries, rosehips, wild strawberries, Saskatoon berries, blueberries, and so on.
Please note that fungi foraging in the Thunder Bay area is quite amazing! Includes: morels, oysters, lions mane, chanterelles, honey mushrooms, yellow foot Chanterelles, puff balls, lobsters, and on.
And there are so many great foraged greens available too: I plan to really explore cattails from spring to fall this year, not just the shoots and young stalk ends. We’ve now also have our secret early, mid, and late spring fiddlehead picking areas. There are so many more wild edibles that we hunt too.
I love the foraging books: All of Samuel Thayers books for what to harvest and how to cook. As well as Ugly Little Greens by Mia Wasilevich for great cooking ideas. She is why I’m cooking with lambsquarter seeds.
From the Land Website: Hanks Shaw’s website honest-food.net is the place to go for excellent information if you live off the land.

I’ve learned of and sourced many of my new garden items from here on Permies. Thank you!! It’s so hard to find Canadian sources! I always check Permies, ebay.ca, and Etsy.com/ca. Norton Naturals is Awesome. Aster Lane Edibles seems to be closing shop so get your seeds now! Quebec tree nurseries seem to have good hardy tree and shrub varieties.

And some books and websites and vids of the authors helping my searching for edible perennials for my area:
Stephen Barstow: Around the World in 80 Plants. His vids are quite awesome for making Wish Lists. Find on Youtube.
Eric Toensmeier: Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro: A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles. And also LOVE his: A Global Inventory of Perennial Vegetables available on his website. In this comprehensive document he has, amongst all the other categories, got Extreme Cold and Cold Temperate, which are very helpful for this area.

Glad this thread continues. It’s a good resource for all of us cold zoners.  
 
Posts: 134
Location: Dayton, Ohio
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That far north, I would consider cultivating blueberries (Vaccinium sp.), blackberries/raspberries (Rubus sp.), Dandelions (Taraxacum arcticum), Serviceberry (Sorbus sp.), and Indian potato root (Hedysarum alpinum).
 
Posts: 90
Location: Providence, RI, USA
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I noticed early on a reference to Scarlet Runners being perennial. They are in some regions, but not in zone 5. I wrote a blog post recently about perennial beans that grow in North America that might be helpful to folks in this region. Of particular interest are Phaseolus polystachios (wild kidney bean), Apios americana (American groundnut), and Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut): Perennial Beans Blog Post
 
Posts: 105
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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ooo sounds pretty cold up there hablitzia tamnoides is a good perrenial green aswell as good king h.enry... many flowers are edible aswell  like dianthus flowers.. corn flower..getting a valiant or fredonia grape and eating the foliage works..crosnes..camas..heavy self seeders like miners lettuce and corn salad..potatoe onion..allium ampeloprasm allium tricocum <--- hopefully spelling that right. feild garlic..turkish rocket..salad mallow..buckler leaf sorrel and french sorrel ....day lilly.. tiger lilly  ..rose hips and flowers.
 
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