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Most productive perennial vegetables?  RSS feed

 
master pollinator
Posts: 10817
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I would like to add more perennial vegetables to my garden, but I don't want to waste space on low producers. So far for me the most productive are Garlic Chive, Walking Onion, Canada Onion, and Elephant Garlic. As you can see, alliums grow well for me, but I don't need more of those, really. The next most productive is Canna, but I think the tubers are yucky so we won't be eating it unless starving. I'd like some perennial carbohydrates. I have Sunchoke, but it has not been a great producer for me so far. Maybe I should try another variety? I think I have "Stampede" but I'm not certain.

Let me know what are your big producers. Thanks!
 
Posts: 626
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I think you could do this in zone 8. I have some chard plants that are 4 years old. They get clumpy, and thick at the woody base, but I trim the clumps so there's air space between them, cut off any stems that are shooting out and bolting, and keep feeding them, and they produce lots of big leaves. They can take some low temps, but probably not continuous freezing. I've got Fordhook and Ruby chard. I don't really like the rainbow chard. I think the heirloom ones have better flavor.

Look into Asian greens. I had one bitter green that bolted into a tall, amazing blue flower, yet it came back every year. I need to find the name of that again.

Malabar spinach is also called perpetual spinach, http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seeds_malabar_spinach.html

If you have a mild winter area and you keep cutting off the bolting stems as soon as you see them, you can keep a lot of greens going as if they were a perennial.

 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Thanks! I was able to keep some Collard plants like that for a couple years. I will definitely try it with the greens I'm growing now. Most greens survive our warmish winters.

I have Malabar Spinach but I think it is a tropical plant, isn't it? Probably won't make it through the winter without special care.
 
steward
Posts: 4095
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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In my garden, commercial sunroot varieties produce about 13 pounds of tubers per plant. That scenario is if they are dug every year so that they don't get overcrowded. I always miss a few tubers, so they regenerate themselves, and I weed them out so that plants are spaced about 18" apart.

 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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That's very encouraging, Joseph! I'm looking at "Supernova" variety of Sunchoke.
 
Cristo Balete
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Tyler, it might be worth setting up a small greenhouse to overwinter greens. I have a path down the center of mine, and the beds on either side are layered compost piles that stay hot to keep the temps up. Greenhouses cut the windchill. All you have to do is keep them a couple degrees above freezing for greens, which is pretty easy in Zones 8 and 9.

A PVC hoop house is not expensive. It uses 20 foot rebar hoops that 1/2" PVC is then slid over the rebar, and the rebar is put into the ground at 12 feet apart, hoops every 3 or 4 feet. A couple pieces of rebar going horizontally on either side at 3 feet up from the ground, another 2 feet up from that, and one running the length of the top, wired together, all covered with 1/2 PVC because the rebar cuts through plastic, is cheap and quick and can be added to if you want. I have made mine 7 feet in the center so I can go in easily with a hat on. The door is wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Thanks for that suggestion, Cristo.

 
gardener
Posts: 1517
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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The zone map says that I am in 7a. I think I am becoming 6b. At any rate, I can keep turnips, mustard, and kale alive all winter in my garden. Sometimes there are perhaps 4 weeks that they look REALLY sad, but they recover when it warms up into the daytime 40s. Chard will perish in the garden. But uphill in front of the east facing house, I too have had 4 year old chard. So zone 8 ought to easily do this. It seems micro-climates abound.
 
pollinator
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Edible grape leaves keep giving and giving. If harvested often, they are less bitter. Good in many Mediterranean foods.
 
pollinator
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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yacon is ridiculously productive.
 
Posts: 522
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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It seems like tree collards might be a good choice: http://www.bountifulgardens.org/Tree-Collards/products/141/
They should do pretty good in your climate. Also I've had potatoes come back for me for three years in some of hugel mounds and I'm in zone 6, so I bet you could perennialize spuds there. Just don't dig them all up, kinda like you would do with the sunchokes.
 
pollinator
Posts: 459
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Sweet potatoes produce edible greens as well as the tubers and they grow like mad when they like a place. The winter here is too cold for them but some kinds are supposed to be hardy in zone 8. And they're cheap, so experimenting wouldn't cost you a lot.

And while not a vegetable (but then neither is a tomato), figs seem possible, and you can do a lot of veggie-like things with them, before and after they're rip. Our fig tree just finished its second season without producing (Luke 13:6-9) but people nearby generally get great results without much effort, provided they beat the birds.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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These are some great suggestions, thanks! I've had moderate luck with Sweet Potatoes, and I think with a little more effort I could do better. They also seem to perennialize pretty well; again with a little more effort they'd probably do that better too.

With Sweet Potatoes and Sunchokes I'd be getting a good amount of calories growing. I tried once with Yacon and it died, but I think the soil might not have suited (heavy clay) or it might get too hot here.

 
Cristo Balete
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I forgot about a great one, asparagus. The crowns are available when all the other bareroot plants show up. The easiest I've grown is Mary Washington and Jersey Giant. I start the crowns in a gallon pot to make sure they get a good rootball on them, then plant them out. It helps to put them where you walk often because they will completely disappear in the winter, then when they start coming up it's time to cut them in the late spring. They will keep shooting spears for about a month, and they must be cut at about 8-10 inches so they won't turn into ferns. Then let the last few spears grow into ferns so it can feed the crown for next year's growth. The ferns get quite tall, sometimes 5 feet.

once established they are quite drought tolerant. When I first started my garden here 20 years ago I put asparagus in a place that didn't turn out to be a garden, and they are still coming up 20 years later, even though they don't get much water except winter and spring rain. They are much more productive, of course, with manure and mulch in late fall and early spring. Make sure there's no raw manure on them 6 weeks before you expect them to sprout. Basil, parsley and tomatoes are good companion plants for asparagus, but mark where they are so you don't hit them with a shovel when working around tomato plants, keep them a couple feet apart.

After cutting the spear, bend and snap the bottom part of the spear to find where the tough part ends and the tender part starts.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Cristo Balete wrote: I had one bitter green that bolted into a tall, amazing blue flower, yet it came back every year. I need to find the name of that again.



Was it Chicory?



I have some Asparagus plants in an area which is no longer a garden and they keep growing without care. But the deer get them because I haven't put a special little fence around them!
 
Cristo Balete
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Tyler, that is the style of flower, all right. Mine was really dark blue. Must have been a relative of chicory. And it came up just like that, too, abandoned and where it's dry, made it through two years of no water from me, and not much from Ma Nature. Thanks for the pic.

The weeds grow up around my original asparagus patch and the deer don't find it until late summer, and they only eat the tops, it hasn't seemed to slow the plants down. Neither do the weeds coming up around them, they do just fine. It's just the I forget to go out there in time to cut them, they are out of the sphere of effort when things get busy in the spring.
 
Posts: 106
Location: belgium
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Runner beans, perennial and a bit cold tolerant, mulching helps. Gives a good yield.
Sweet cicely. More a herb then a vegetable but the whole plant is edible. Leaves, green seeds and the root cooked.
Lovage . A good celery substitute.
Rumex patientia. Patience dock, "garden patience", "herb patience", or "monk's rhubarb". Early spring/ late winter it gives a good harvest of large, slightly sour leaves.
 
dirk maes
Posts: 106
Location: belgium
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Look here :
thevegetablegarden.be
 
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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how about globe artichokes?
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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I've grown Globe Artichokes but they are not especially productive and it turns out we don't really like them! Still, it was fun to grow them for a couple years. Now I'm growing Cardoon but have not eaten it yet.

 
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Check Bountiful Gardens Tree Collards
Grown in Willits, Ca.

 
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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It won't help with you not liking artichokes, but I cooked the flower stalk as well as the actual artichoke and it came out just as tender as the artichoke heart, but there was a lot more of it. Seems like by eating only the flower head our artichoke industry is ignoring 75% or more of the good eating on that plant.
 
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Seems like by eating only the flower head our artichoke industry is ignoring 75% or more of the good eating on that plant


The leaves of the globe artichoke are also edible.

You could put them in a strong flavored dish like an Indian curry, or a spicy Thai or Mexican dish, or mixed mashed in a savory spiced Mediterranean stew, heavy on your alliums so that you are not repulsed by the taste!
 
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Would it be possible to grow Green Globe Artichoke in Indiana, well i know it would be possible but would there be enough harvest and a good taste to make it worth it?


Feel free to use this coupon for you're help and if you need seeds. = ]

Use Coupon Code "Permies" for a 20% discount
Green Globe Artichoke: RaiseSeeds



RaiseSeeds.com




 
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I have some Asparagus plants in an area which is no longer a garden and they keep growing without care. But the deer get them because I haven't put a special little fence around them!

Thought of using fishing line to scare deer away? Apparently, its too thin for them to see and scares them away when they bump into something invisible
 
Cristo Balete
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These are not technically perennials, but where the ground doesn't freeze, garlic and potatoes keep coming back. I planted some garlic 20 years ago, and I've never had to plant it again, there are always the little "seeds" of garlic and potatoes left behind. The tiny garlic "seed" takes two years to mature, but once you get three years into tending a patch of them, they will keep coming. there's also top-setting garlic that puts the seeds up in a sort of flower clove at the top of a stem if left in the ground. Knocking off and covering those little seeds will start them up again the next spring.
 
Posts: 567
Location: Mid-Michigan
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How about stinging nettles (the vegetable that will bite you first!) ?

They're a weed here.

Super nutritious, very tasty, and I find them hearty or satisfying or something, in a way that other greens aren't.
 
gardener
Posts: 212
Location: Morongo Valley
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Cristo Balete wrote:These are not technically  perennials, but where the ground doesn't freeze, garlic and potatoes keep coming back.  I planted some garlic 20 years ago, and I've never had to plant it again, there are always the little "seeds" of garlic and potatoes left behind.



Parsnips became like this for me in Oregon.  They reseeded so heavily that as long as I planted two beds, 2 years in a row (as they flower the second year), they essentially were perennial.  I just had to weed.  Favorite way to eat parsnips - sliced into thin sticks, a little butter on them, and then baked until they are golden brown and crisp.  It makes them very sweet.

We also grew tree collards.  Good tasting, but needed a greenhouse in my region, so it was a lot easier to just grow "annual" brassicas like Portugese Kale which behaved like a perennial there anyways.  One year with a foot of snow and 20F temps,  the Portugese Kale just needed a little brush off, and lasted all through the winter.  As hardy as leeks in my experience.  Oregon has not only some cold in the winter, but also I lived in an area that received 60-80 in rain per year.  Plants that can stay edible through that sort of beating without protection were few; leeks, green onions, and Portugese Kale turned out to be the winners.

If you have the right climate....The other ones that was very productive for me - yacon, oca (the Andean oxalis tuber), and ulluco.  All Andean tubers, each good in their own way.  Oca tubers are really tasty, and different than anything else I've tried.  Yacon was my husband's favorite.

Ulluco turned out different than I expected.  They never bulbed out, likely because of our improper photoperiod.  But instead, they grew greens like nothing else. Thankfully I tried the greens, and they were delicious!  So what I bought to try as a tuber was actually a great green for me.  what's so funny is that most places you'll see written about ullluco, "The greens are edible, as well."  That makes it sound like they will be bitter or awful in some way.  They are delicious, even exquisite.

 
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I can't speak to their performance or flavor yet since I haven't grown them, but I've just finished Eric Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables and easily the plants that have me most excited are the yam family plants that produce edible aerial tubers, including the edible (i.e. non-poisonous) cultivars of Air Potato (Dioscorea Bulbifera – apparently its sale is banned in U.S. due to concerns of invasiveness), Winged Yam (D. Alata) and Chinese Yam (D. Oppositifolia). No dig, perennial starch growers! Toensmeier even writes that with some pampering air potato could match per acre yields of traditional potatoes.

To balance my excitement, here's a page claiming air potato to be among the worst invasive plants ever introduced to the U.S.: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/19295. This isn't a debate which would be solved here, but I honestly don't think it's as simple as "never plant this thing, ever."
 
pollinator
Posts: 74
Location: Coastal British Columbia
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I stumbled on this thread and love it! Has anyone had experience growing (would love to hear from PNW folks!):

Dioscorea bulbifera or Cinnamon Yam (D. polystachya)? How is the taste compared to bulbifera? I'm really excited to grow either of them and am curious if anyone has experience other than Eric Toensmeier.

Ground nut (Apios americana) or Hog peanut (Amiphicarpa brachteata)?

Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)?

Five Finger Akebia (Chocolate Vine)?

These look like very productive and high-calorie foods, so that's why I'm especially interested in them.

Thanks, permies folks!
 
master steward
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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I tried growing wapato (and camas), as well as ground nut. Neither survived until the second year for me. The bunnies at the wapato (and camas), and the ground nuts were weak and didn't pop up the next year...but I tried growing sunchokes with the ground nuts, and the SUNCHOKES didn't even do well. So, there was probably something wrong with my soil. I'm thinking it's deficient in a nutrient due to all the rain and my very well-draining soil...
 
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
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Of two Dioscorea bulbifera that I planted, one survived, came back the next year, produced no bulbs and then died the following winter.   I am, however, a terrible gardener, and YMMV.  I even managed to kill sunchokes.  Sunchokes!  I'm still looking for a starch that will work perennially or semi-perennially.

As far as greens go, I have a bumper crop of nettles every year.  I've also discovered that I love linden leaves.  They almost melt in your mouth until they're about 3cm across, and a single tree will give you tons.  We'll see how well my two trees survive my black thumb and my insistence on pollarding them small, i.e. within reach.
 
pollinator
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Location: 6a
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Sunchokes have been my hardiest producer.  I didn't actually harvest them this year I took the bulbs and made a big sunchoke bed.   (I purchased my sunchokes from Akiva in upstate New York.)   Most of my stuff is pretty immature.  Last year I planted Martha Washington Asparagus from seeds.  I should know this year if it's a

viable strain.  If even half of the seedlings I planted make it I'm looking at some serious asparagus in a couple of years.

Walking onions for sure., Garlic Chives,  Honey Locust, (edible flowers), Southeast Indian tribes used the pods for flour.
 
gardener
Posts: 1586
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Turkish rocket has been very productive for me though the flavor is a bit mixed. Depends on if you like a tangy and a bit spicy green/broccoli substitute. I like it steamed and raw but it does have a unique flavor. Pollinators seem to love it and it just gets covered in yellow flowers once I stop harvesting them (like broccoli). Been a very productive perennial vegetable for me.
 
pollinator
Posts: 203
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Horse Radish, yacoon, garlic chives, sunchokes, oca are my best.

Gotu Kola, mint, perennial basil, parsley, hop, sorrel, wild leek are also thriving.

I've always wanted asparagus and killed 6 crowns so far. I need to rethink my strategy on that.

Forgot to add Alpine strawberry. They are also good eating
 
Posts: 81
Location: zone 6a, ish
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I don't have a lot of luck with perennial anything (especially asparagus, though I have some hope that the stuff I started from seed a few years ago is finally going to produce enough for a meal this year, unlike the 4 different sets of crowns I've bought over the last 18 years), but some of my self-seeding annuals might as well be perennial because they just do what they want.  Mizuna, broccoli rabe, and Red Russian kale keep coming back (and the quandary there is "do I let them keep going, or do I do proper rotation in this bed?").  Sunflowers and amaranth, too.  And Lamb's Quarters, which I can't get rid of no matter how hard I try.

Chufa/ nut grass is supposed to be perennial, but it wasn't for me (I don't think it was well-established enough after the first year and the last two years have just been terrible with rain).  Burdock (gobo), on the other hand, has no problems, but I still haven't gotten around to trying to eat it; I have really compact clay/silt subsoil (carved out of the side of a mountain, about 8' below natural ground level) and I can't get more than 4" of root out without breaking it.
 
Posts: 87
Location: Fair Play, Northern California
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Despite living in a region with hot, dry summers, the Ragged Jack kale I planted a year ago survived the summer and is providing me with leaves to this day.  There are a handful of plants which did not go to seed, which is undoubtedly the reason they persisted. I suggest that if kales are kept from bolting, are in a shaded and relatively cool spot with sufficient water, then you could keep them for at least one whole year plus another cold season.  Since their bolted fellows have dropped seed, when the long-lived individuals run out of steam, there’ll be new ones to take their place.
 
pollinator
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No one has yet mentioned two of best perennial vegetables I grow so far, so I suppose I should.  They are daylillies and common milkweed.  I like both of these because they provide a steady supply of food over a long period of time.

With the daylillies I'll start harvesting some of the early shoots, which are among the first green things to poke out of the ground around here in the spring.  Then later it can literally be a daily harvest of either the large almost ready to open buds, or the daily flowers (I usually pick them in the evening as the sun is about to go down so I've gotten to enjoy them as flowers before having them as food).  I could also pick wilted flowers, that had been opened the day before, but find these tend to be great hang out spots for various bugs, so I leave it to them.  I understand the tubers are also edible, but haven't yet tried any.  I've been trying to get mine to spread and propogate more thus I haven't dug any up.  I've got the common, wild orange type along with several other varieties I bought and planted.  While I didn't do this on purpose it turns out that I made excellent selections for other types in that they don't all flower at the same time.  Instead I have a succession of various types flowering spread out nicely giving me a constant supply for months.  (Before anyone asks, I don't know the names of the types I bought anymore.)

With the common milkweed one does need to cook them, but despite what many wild edible plant books say you don't need any sort of complex double or triple boiling techniques to remove the "bitter" aspects.  If your milkweed is bitter, spit it out.  Common milkweed is NOT bitter!  Anyway, in the spring I can eat the shoots.  Later in the season I harvest the flower bud clusters, then the flowers, and finally the immature pods.  Again, this is a perennial plant that provides an abundance of food over a long period of time.  I let mine grow it's colonies in and around the garden beds where I'll plant other things around among them.  They certainly attract pollinators as well.
 
Posts: 41
Location: Central Virginia
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3 perennials occur to me to mention, 2 of which we've managed to get growing.

Yucca... true when you harvest it you kill the plant, but if you get them growing in a patch, they continue to spread and so you have an endless supply. The root is starchy, can be sliced up and used like potato, and is quite good. They do not only grow in the SW, we're in the VA piedmont near Charlottesville and they're a weed here. Don't need a good garden bed... just any moderately fertile soil in which they can grow.

Groundnut... have failed so far in getting these to grow, but will keep trying.

Crosnes... a variety of betony (Stachys) with tuberous roots which are a bit minty, strange looking, but were a favorite in Colonial gardens (we're always aware of this connection being so close to Monticello). Get a patch of them going in a growing bed and they will spread and proliferate. When you dig them you always miss some, and any bit left in the ground will make a new plant.

Few seed companies carry these... the latter 2 can be purchased from people on Ebay.
 
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