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9 Perennial Vegetables You Can Plant Once, Harvest Forever … And Never Worry About Again

9 Perennial Vegetables You Can Plant Once, Harvest Forever … And Never Worry About Again

 Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Most gardeners are familiar with annual vegetables. These are the one you plant every year, reaping their harvest all season long until the first hard frost comes in the late fall. Many flower gardeners, on the other hand, are familiar with perennial flowers. These are the plants that you plant once and that will continue to return year after year. Lesser known to both vegetable and flower gardeners, though, are the perennial vegetables! After becoming established in your garden or landscape, these plants will continue to produce an edible return, year after year.

Aside from decreasing the amount of work in the garden, there are many reasons to plant perennial vegetables. Once established, perennial vegetables literally take care of themselves. Established perennials are usually more resistant to pests and diseases, making them much more reliant producers. Additionally, perennial vegetables extend the harvest window. Since previously planted perennial vegetables are already established at the beginning of the growing season, they are usually well on their way to harvest when you are just getting around to planting the annual vegetables in the spring.

Perennial vegetables can also serve multiple purposes. Many perennial vegetables are also beautiful, serving as an ornamental plant for your landscape. Some perennial vegetables can act as a hedge or groundcover, while others can provide shade and habitat for insects and pollinators. A few perennial vegetables can actually enhance the health of the soil for themselves and surrounding plants, increasing the health of your garden as a whole.

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While the benefits of perennial vegetable are certainly something to be celebrated, there are a few considerations to keep in mind prior to planting. Some of the perennial vegetables are slow to establish and may take a few years before they produce a significant yield. With that being said, once established, perennial vegetables can quickly spread and take over a garden area. It is important to thoughtfully consider where you are planting perennial vegetables and to maintain a regular harvest schedule. Additionally, perennial vegetables do tend to have a stronger flavor than many of the annual vegetables we usually enjoy. While this may indicate that they pack a nutritional punch, it may take your taste buds awhile to adjust.

The following is a list of some perennial vegetables that will enhance your garden and provide an edible output year after year.

9 Perennial Vegetables You Can Plant Once, Harvest Forever … And Never Worry About Again

Asparagus. Image source: Pixabay.com

1. Asparagus. Asparagus is probably one of the most well-known perennial vegetables. It takes a few years until it begins producing at its best, but once established you will be enjoying a plethora of fresh shoots every spring. Although it is possible to start asparagus from seed, you can speed up the harvest timeline by planting asparagus crowns.

2. Rhubarb. Although most people know of rhubarb in pie form, it is in fact a perennial vegetable with beautiful leaves (although toxic to humans) and an edible stalk. Like asparagus, rhubarb is best planted from crowns and should be allowed to establish for a few years before harvesting.

3. Horseradish. This is a must-grow vegetable for those who love spice, sushi or mustard greens. The large underground root of the horseradish plant is the source of the strong, spicy flavor that has been known to clear sinuses. If you want to control the spread of this plant, it is important to harvest the entire root in the fall and only replant what you will need for the following year.

4. Sunchokes (Jerusulum Artichokes). Sunchokes are in the same family as sunflowers and are grown for their underground tuber. The plants have yellow flowers that attract beneficial insects to the garden. When cooked, they have a similar taste and consistency to a potato. Sunchokes are vigorous plants, spread quickly, and once planted in a location are difficult to eradicate.

5. Sorrel. Sorrel leaves are tart, lemon-flavored leaves that are delicious in soups and sauces. Sorrel tastes best in early spring and will become bitter in warmer weather. Sorrel grows similar to other garden greens and is not as vigorous of a spreader as other perennial vegetables.

6. Wild garlic. Plant a patch of wild garlic for the first fresh garlic taste of the season. Wild garlic looks and tastes similar to cultivated garlic and loves moist soil and lots of shade.

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Both the leaves and bulbs are edible with a sharp garlic flavor when raw and a more mild onion flavor when cooked.

7. Scarlet runner beans. While most beans are known to be annuals, if you reside in zone 6 or above scarlet runner beans can be planted as a nitrogen-fixing perennial. As the name suggests, scarlet runner beans will vine and climb up any sunny trellis you provide. They can be eaten fresh like green beans, or allowed to mature and dry to be cooked later in soups and stews.

9 Perennial Vegetables You Can Plant Once, Harvest Forever … And Never Worry About Again

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Alpine strawberries. Although not technically a vegetable, alpine strawberries are worth planting as a perennial fruit that also acts as a great groundcover. Similar to cultivated strawberries, alpine strawberries can be planted as crowns, and make a great edible addition to an otherwise ornamental garden. While not as productive as the cultivated variety, once ripe these berries are deliciously sweet garden treats.

9. Hops. While not typically considered a vegetable by many, hops are useful perennials to plant for a number of reasons. The young shoots can be cooked and eaten similar to asparagus, and the cones can be used for beer brewing and as an antibacterial addition to homemade soaps. Hops are a beautiful climber in the garden and exude a delightful smell as well.

What perennial vegetables would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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13 comments

  1. I’ve had good results from leaving a few red and Russet potatoes in the ground after harvest. Those are always the first to sprout while frost is still happening, and are ready to dig 2 or 3 weeks prior to the new sets.
    It happened the first time by accident, thought I’d dug them all, only to find those early sprouts before winter was over the next year. My predominantly sandy soil allowed for a harvest of over 40 pounds in only a 6′ x 10′ area, now enlarged to 24′ x 10′. Being the #1 staple I’m building a small cellar underneath our manufactured home for year-round storage.

  2. I’ve also had excellent results with strawberries. Haven’t had to do much of anything with them year after year, they just keep producing every year once it warms up. Have a small area in my greenhouse, 12′ x 2′ that produce from mid April through early November, and an outdoor area 12′ x 6′ that produce from late April through October. These are all ‘ever-bearing’ variety, and give us no less than a pint EVERY DAY!
    Also have a 14′ x 3′ asparagus garden inside the greenhouse. Got my first harvest of asparagus in late February this year from crowns planted last year, and have dozens of new seedlings already producing thin spears that will be left to grow for adding to next years crop. At peak season I was getting 12-18 nice spears every day!

    • Wow! That’s really impressive! I’m just starting to harvest the asparagus this year and hoping for the kind of production you have. My strawberries look good so far, but I have a June bearer, so no long harvest period on that. (Maybe I should start a new bed with ever bearers!)

  3. Scallions are another great vegetable to add to the list of perennials.
    Thanks for the article. I will be adding the ones I don’t already have
    to my garden. :-)

  4. Hi just a quick comment. You might want to make a note on the Hops… it contains one of the most powerful phytoestrogens. Handling it while pregnant can cause serious complications. Women handling hops for harvest have found to have reproductive related issues.
    Love everything else!

    • What about post-menepausal women? Would hops be good for this age group?

    • I’ve also heard that hops are not the best thing to breathe, but you could put them in an out of the way area. What about those ground nuts (Apios americana) that Thoreau once wrote about? Almost like mini potatoes or other root vegetables.

  5. This is great information. I do have a question other than asparagus and rhubarb where can I find these other plants to buy.?

  6. I would add artichokes to the list. While people in northern areas grow them as an annual, in zones 8 and 9, they are perennials, and even northern gardeners can grow them as perennials if you protect the plants during the winter. (Cut the plant down to ground level, cover with bushel basket or something similar, stuffed with leaves or straw to protect the crown, and overwinter them that way. Be sure to uncover them in the spring.)

  7. The top photo appears to be ramps, not wild onions. NEVER trust common names…many names are used for very different plants, especially from region to region!

    For onions, Egyptian Walking Onions are the BEST and easiest of almost any perennial. Many vegetable growers around here grow them for Farmer’s Market and CSAs because they are so reliable. Set-grown shallots and “potato onions” also divide like garlic, and perennialize nicely where wildlife doesn’t get them. Of course chives and garlic chives round out the allium family nicely, along with the afore-mentioned garlic, proper. ANY garlic variety suited to fall planting in your area will perennialize; fertilize and thin clumps to get larger heads…and don’t forget to harvest the delicious “scapes” on top-setting varieties!

    Many garden vegetables will perennialize in sheltered locations or warmer climates…I’ve had chard survive 4 years in a high tunnel (until rodents ate it to below the ground), Mom had perennial broccoli in her greenhouse, etc. Bulb fennel will regrow multiple times from the base, if not cut too close.

    In areas where they grow, edible fern fronds and bamboo shoots would be worth encouraging in appropriate landscapes. I’ve heard that hosta stalks can be eaten like celery but haven’t tried it.

    Among wilder species, dandelion, violet, and nettles are high on my list of spring greens. Some folks swear by “poke sallet” (young pokeweed shoots) but the preparation must be correct to disarm the toxins. Despite the complications, it’s canned and sold commercially in some areas, so might be worth a try if you like it.

    There is nothing wrong with encouraging self-seeding annuals/biennials, either…whether cultivated, wild, or even invasive. They are part of a natural ecosystem, too. Lambsquarters, chickweed, purslane, amaranth, watercress (from clean sources), garlic mustard, spinach, arugula, mustard green, yellow rocket, turnips, bok choi, many others. Tomatoes will self-seed and often produce as early as their pampered transplanted counterparts. Tomatillo often self-seeds, too. So do cowpeas. Parsnips will readily self-seed if you can get them started and through the winter…just beware that the whole plant can cause terrible skin problems if not handled with care!

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  9. Have had asparagus several years and it’s easy to grow. Just need drainage, some soil nutrition like compost, and mulch well to protect the roots over winter. Other than that, break off the shoots when they are about eight inches or so long and enjoy.

  10. Chives come back year after year, and like the other writer, I accidentally discovered potatoes are repeat producers if you leave some in the ground. Also remember that green onions, if you buy them in the store with the roots on, if you cut the root base a half inch above the roots the green onion itself will regenerate again and again when stuck in a cup of water. The water should just cover the roots.

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