Image by Liudmila Chernetska
Growing food for the family is a lot of work, but what if there was a way to reduce the amount of time spent transplanting and establishing fruit and vegetable plants each year? Just like with flowers, planting perennials instead of annuals is the answer. What fruits and vegetables are perennials? More than you might think!
Topping the list of perennial fruits and vegetables is this springtime favorite. Asparagus requires full sun and moist, well-drained fertile soil. Plant one-year-old crowns 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) deep in the early spring. Avoid harvesting spears the first year to allow the plants to become established.
Create edible landscaping by planting blueberries in lieu of other ornamental bushes. The red fall foliage will delight you as will the luscious blueberries, which ripen in midsummer. Blueberries require acidic soil and it’s best to plant two varieties for cross pollination.
This member of the onion family is the perfect perennial for small gardens. Plant chive seeds in a sunny location, then divide the clumps in future years. Harvest chives by cutting the stalks 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) above the soil. Aim for 3 to 4 cuttings the first season and monthly in subsequent years.
Grow these attractive vines on a pergola and relax in the shade while the fruit develops overhead. Plant the vines in a sunny location and choose varieties which perform well in your climate. Grapes require trellis training and annual pruning.
This delightfully tangy condiment ingredient is one of the easiest perennial fruit and vegetable plants to grow. It requires a sunny location and good drainage. Plant horseradish in the spring and harvest the roots in the fall of its second season. Leave the smaller roots in the ground to regrow new plants.
- Ostrich Fern
Plant this ornamental in a shady spot of the flower bed and harvest Ostrich fern fiddleheads in early spring. Pick the shoots when they are 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm.) tall and tightly curled. Be sure to cook fiddleheads for a minimum of 10 minutes to improve palatability and remove any toxins.
Also known as wild leeks, plant this North American native in early spring under your favorite deciduous tree. Resist the urge to harvest the leaves for several years as these plants need time to mature.
Grow this antioxidant rich fruit in a sunny location with fertile soil. Raspberries grow on biennial canes, but the root systems are perennial and will send up new shoots each year. Erect a post and wire trellis for support and pick the fruit when it reaches the mature color for the variety.
Rhubarb is one of the old-time favorite fruits and vegetables that come back every year. Plant rhubarb crowns in early spring in a sunny location with rich, fertile soil. Hold off harvesting until the second season and only consume the stalks as the leaves and roots are toxic.
Strawberries are short-lived perennials which readily form new plants via runners. Plant the crowns shallowly during the spring in a sunny, fertile location and begin harvesting fruit in 2 to 3 months. Once the new plants have rooted, remove older plants whose productivity has declined.
Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, this member of the sunflower family can grow 6 to 10 feet (1.8-3 m.) tall and produces beautiful, yellow-petaled flowers. Sunchokes are grown for their roots, which resemble a lumpy potato. Harvest after a hard frost in the fall and leave pieces of root in the ground for next year.
- Water Celery
Water celery is an edible ground cover that thrives in moist conditions. This perennial produce plant grows 9 to 28 inches (23-71 cm.) tall, spreads quickly and can be harvested all year long. All parts of the plant are edible and can be used like celery.
Grown for its tubers (which resemble sweet potatoes), yacons have a fruity taste profile. Often eaten raw, the starchless tubers are harvested after the flowers die back. When digging, separate the tubers from the rhizomes and replant the latter. Yacon plants can reach 6.5 feet (2 m.) tall.
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