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, calls them “edimentals” — edible, ornamental plants — and supplied a list.

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!
  • Create resilience when planted from seed (avoid moulds, pests and diseases)
  • Use microclimates around trees

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

  • Need a warm, protected spot. Varieties include globe and cardoon (wild). Blanch stalks and eat them cooked, too! Note: sunchokes and Jerusalem artichokes tend to spread.

  • Buy crowns or start from seed. From seed to shoot takes three years! Before prepping your bed, think long-term (they live up to 40 years) and keep soil mounded.

  • Grows well in shade. Shoots are edible.

  • A sedge tuber found in wet areas. Popular in Spain.

  • Grow in pots (even an old bath tub) since tubers are large and will go deep. Use the vine to create shade.

  • Hardy plant that grows more than two metres tallExtremely nutritious due to many years accumulating minerals. Great flavour. Tender enough to eat raw.

  • Flowers are best to eat as buds, before they open.

  • Easily grown from seed. Green tops similar to parsley.

  • Enjoys shade. Shoots are edible. Looks like spinach.

  • A nitrogen-fixing ground tuber with climbing vines. Native to the East Coast. Contains 16 per cent protein (potatoes are five per cent protein).

  • Eat the shoots in spring.

  • Edible early before leaves get big (when it looks a bit like asparagus).

  • A perennial leek. Eat as you would leeks or harvest entire bulbs.

  • Stronger tasting than celery. Leaves are great in soups.

  • From the Andes. A single tuber costs about $3.50. Flowers and leaves are edible. Similar to oca.

  • Best in early spring. Easy to grow from seed. Prefers a moist, shady area. Cook young leaves like spinach or use in tea. A popular dye plant. Promotes good soil. Great in compost, too.

  • From the Andes. Needs full sun but can survive in partial shade. Harvest the bulb after frost, once above-ground greens die back. Once harvested, lay in the sun to sweeten. Prepare as you would potatoes.

  • All parts are edible, even flowers! Varieties include Welsh, garlic chives and walking onions. Bees love ’em!

  • Only eat stalks — leaves and roots are toxic. Compost leaves. Happy near a compost heap!

  • Related to dill, parsley, celery, cilantro and carrot. Shoots and roots taste like parsnip.

  • Great in soups or pesto! The French variety grows in clumps.

  • Eat shoots, flowers and leaves. Note: This spreads!

  • This giant tuber from South America is a heavy feeder and gets tall. Harvest after frost. Pot in winter, replant in spring!