About Growing Perennial Vegetables
Perennial vegetables are a lesser known why to create a diverse garden that requires less work from you. Every vegetable gardener has a similar goal – grow more food with less work. Using perennial vegetables to your advantage is as close to zero-work gardening as you can get. You plant them once, and they continue to provide you with a harvest year after year.
That’s a wise use of your time and a smart use of the space in your garden. Most people only picture asparagus, rhubarb, and artichokes when you mention perennial vegetables, but most gardeners are unaware of other low maintenance and tasty veggies that return yearly.
Aside from providing an extra bounty, perennial veggies come with several other benefits, such as:
Extending the harvest because they have different seasons of availability when compared to annuals.
Working to enhance your landscape or acting as hedges and groundcovers.
Providing fertilizers to themselves and other plants nearby by fixing nitrogen in the soil.
Offering a habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators.
The Best Perennial Vegetables
Before we dive into the list, it’s important to know your USDA Hardiness Zone. Some of these crops will only act as an annual if you live in the wrong zone, but you can overwinter them inside if you so wanted!
Asparagus tends to be the first veggie that gardeners think about when they consider perennials. A single plant can produce a harvest for 20 years – impressive! Asparagus requires full sun and well-draining soil. They are hardy to zone 3.
Make sure that you select your planting location wisely. It can take two to three years to get a good harvest. Choosing an all-male variety helps to ensure a higher yield, and start with a crown to give you a year head start.
When you think of rhubarb, visions of desserts might dance in your head, but rhubarb is also used as a vegetable in soups throughout Asia. Make sure you never eat the leaves or roots, both of which are poisonous. Rhubarb requires full sun and well-draining soil. It is hardy to zone 1.
Radicchio, also called red chicory, is an under-appreciated perennial vegetable that is popular over in Italy but not in the United States. The tangy flavor is a must-have for gardeners. Many people mistake it for cabbage, but it does have a different flavor. The heads are small, and you can harvest on an as-needed basis.
Radicchio grows best in the cool seasons. Plant 5 to 6 plants per person and harvest the heads after 60 to 65 days!
4. Scarlet Runner Beans
Most people grow scarlet runner beans as an ornamental plant, but they are edible and delicious. You can use them as green beans or as dried beans. The flowers, leaves, and tubers are edible. It’s not unusual for plants to live over 20 years, taking over the garden! They’re hardy to zone 4.
Lovage produces 6-foot-tall stems and leaves, with edible seeds and roots. You can use lovage as a replacement for celery in soups. It prefers average soil, grown in full or partial shade. They are hardy to zone 4.
If you like spice, horseradish is for you. You can use it to spice up soups, sandwiches, and other meals. Some say horseradish also has medicinal properties to cure gout, colic, nerve pain, and painful joints.
7. Globe Artichokes
Perennial in zones 6 to 9, globe artichokes are a popular perennial that looks like a large cactus. Make sure you leave plenty of space for them to grow. You might want to consider their own bed because each artichoke takes up space! It does take a few years for them to establish, but each year produces a larger head than before so it’s worth the wait!
8. Egyptian Onions or Bunching Onions
Fall-planted bunching onions and Egyptian onions continue to grow new onions even when you harvest some. Egyptian onions grow small bulbils at the top of the stalks in late summer. These small bulbs can be used as they are, or you can plant them to grow more onions. This perennial works in zones 4 to 8.
9. Good King Henry
Hardy to zone 3, Good King Henry is a European veggie with delicious leaves and flower buds. It is a spinach relative that prefers full sun or partial shade. Make sure it has well-draining soil and harvest the shoots in the spring.
10. Sea Kale
Not all varieties of kale are perennials, but sea kale is a coastal native with beautiful grey-blue leaves and white flowers. All plants of the plant are edible, and it requires moist, well-draining soil in full sun. Some people grow sea kale as an ornamental plant because of its unique leaves! It is hardy to zone 4.
Groundnuts are native to eastern North America. These six-foot vines grow tubers that taste like nutty-flavored potatoes. Native Americans grew the vines near a shrub with moist soil that receives full or partial shade. You can harvest them in the fall, and they’re hardy to zone 3.
12. Chinese Artichoke
Also known as crosnes or mintroot, Chinese artichoke is a mint relative that forms a dense, 12-inch-high ground cover. The white tubers are crisp and sweet, perfect for salads. You can harvest the tubers yearly for best plant growth, so long as you plant in full sun or partial shade. It is hardy to zone 5.
13. Jerusalem Artichokes
Native Americans understood the value of perennial vegetables, and Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, are another option for your garden. They bear 6 to 12 foot stems with a crisp, sweet tuber that you can eat raw or use like a potato. Tubers require full sun and should be harvest in fall and winter. They’re hardy to zone 2.
14. French Sorrel
French sorrel has lance-shaped leaves with a delicious, lemony tang, perfect for soups or salads. You can harvest french sorrel from spring to late fall! It prefers sun or shade, so long as it has average soil. It is hardy to zone 3.
15. Wild Leeks or Ramps
Wild leeks are an onion relative that grows in deciduous forests, appearing in spring. The leaves and bulbs are edible, and the plant prefers to grow in shady borders or under trees. It is hardy to zone 4.
Growing perennial vegetables in your garden will increase your harvest for years to come without adding any extra work on your part. Once you plant them, most of these veggies will grow back without any fuss from you. Try one or several this year in your garden to extend your harvest.