How to grow edible perennial plants

Garden with edible perrenial plants

A perennial fruit and vegetable garden by Hatchet & Seed. (Photo: Kelly Brown)

Eat more local foods — out of your backyard or community garden, if possible.

Solara Goldwynn of Hatchet & Seed in Victoria, B.C., calls them “edimentals” — edible, ornamental plants — and supplied a list for species suitable to that area.

Perennial vegetables are great because they:

  • Keep coming back and can be left all winter!
  • Withstand pests better than annuals
  • Build and improve soil quality
  • Don’t need tilling, leaving mycelial culture (mushrooms and other fungi) and soil structure intact
  • Increase aeration and water absorption
  • Create compost, add to topsoil and bring up nutrients from deep down when dropped leaves die back each year
  • Are “edimentals” — delicious AND beautiful!
  • Are often long-lived — e.g., asparagus lives up to 40 years!
  • Build resilience when planted from seed (avoid moulds, pests and diseases)
  • Use microclimates around trees

To support essential insects like bees and butterflies, add locally sourced native species to your yard and garden. Talk to a nursery expert or master gardener in your area for advice on local perennial vegetables, how to plant them and which parts you can eat.

Know your plants. Related species may not be edible. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these plants, do some research or take a workshop to be sure you know which parts are best to eat.

Twenty-three edible perennials

  • Artichokes Cynara cardunculus  
  • Asparagus Asparagus officinalis
  • Caucasian spinach Hablitzia tamnoides  
  • Chufa (a.k.a. tiger nut) Cyperus esculentus  
  • Cinnamon yams (a.k.a. air potato or Chinese yam) Dioscorea batata 
  • Daubenton kale Brassica oleracea ramosa 
  • Earth chestnut Conopodium majus 
  • Good King Henry Chenopodium bonus-henricus 
  • Ground nut a.k.a. hopniss Apios americana
  • Hops Humulus lupulus  
  • Elephant garlic Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum 
  • Leaf celery (a.k.a pink plume) Apium graveolens 
  • Perennial onion Allium fistulosum 
  • Rhubarb Rheum rhabarbarum 
  • Skirret (a.k.a. sweet root) Sium sisarum 
  • Sorrel Rumex acetosa 
  • Turkish rocket Bunias orientalis