Hi food forest fans,

I thought it would be useful if we created a list of perennial vegetables that would be suitable additions to food forests. It seems one of the benefits of food forests is that perennial plants produce more food for less work. That's clear with fruit trees, but perennial vegetables are a more uncommon idea.

You could reply to this discussion with any knowledge you have eg include name of vegetable, what climate or region it suits, any leads on where it can be bought/sourced, other useful facts to know.

By the way, Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier is a useful book, but written about what is available in the USA, hence why an NZ-focused list would be useful.

 

Kumara - naturally a perennial in warm climates, but treated as an annual in temperate areas. Can propogate by putting store-bought kumara in a box of sand in spring and letting sprout. Plant out sprouts late October. We live in Auckland and have left our vines in place to see if they can grow here perennially and produce more tubers. Leaves died down over winter. Will let you know if they come to life.

 

 

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I would love to know more perennial vetables we could use in Auckland.  I believe in some places Kumura is used as a green not just a root.  A Taiwanese neighbour told me his job after school was to pick and cook the kumura shoots to fatten the pigs.

I grow artichokes (Jerusalem, globe and Chinese) The globe tastes good and is supposed to be good for the liver, doesn't provide that much vegetable for the space but it is decorative.

the Jerusalem has disadvantages because of its aftereffects and it does not store that well.  It is fiddly to prepare especailly if you want to peel it.  The Chinese artichoke is even harder to prepare, and I have only found recipes, in books where it is assumed you employed a cook to prepare the food.  

 

I have been using yacon, and find that tastey and easy to prepare.

choko does not have much flavour but can be used for curries etc.  The baby chokos are great in stirfries, - use them about thumb nail size.  Choko tips are good in stir fries as well,

I did try Nine star perennial cauliflower but it didn't survivie that well.  I don't know if it was just the wrong place or I didn't look after it well enough and pick it early enough.  I woun't mind trying it again some time.

"Creating a forest garden"  by Martin Crawford mentions a variety including plants I did not realise were edible such as Aquilegia, vuylgaris or grannys bonets, which I have tried in a salad a couple of times since I read it.  Solomons seal which I haven't tried.  Also I remeber seeming in a permaculture magazine that Hosta was a popular spring vegetables in certain parts of Japan.

the main problem I find is that often people don't know how to make the best use of these vegetables.  For example Cardoon is always listed as a perennial vegetable, but I have not yet found anyone who says they have cooked it.

Other perennial  vegetable I have include edible canna, aspargus, good King Henry, perennial leeks, japanese parsley.  Others I have are annuals, but just keep self sowing and include miners letters, lambs lettuce and land cress. 

I would love to hear what other people have tried, both growing and eating some of these plants.

Hi Kathrina,

 

Yacon

Do you grow Yacon as a perennial? If so, any tips for harvesting the tubers so as to not damage the plant? We grew some last season and threw out the plants, only hearing later they are perennial.

 

Kumara

Kumara leaves and shoots are delicious in a stir fry, a trick we learned from my wife's Malaysian grandmother. The shoots you need to peel with your fingernail - a bit fiddly so can just eat the leaves. Just don't pick so many that it weakens the plant or your tubers may turn out smaller. We added garlic and shrimp paste for flavour.

 

choko

Can't wait to try baby chokos. We have a couple of vines but yet to convince the family they are tasty. Problem may be I was harvesting big old chokos.

 

Good King Henry

Is this available in your standard plant shops? How do you eat it?

 

Brassicas

Does anyone know if other types of perennial brassica are available in NZ? Toensmeier had one called Tree Collard which sounded tasty and useful.

HI all, I am going to love this discussion :)

yacon has the dahlia-like edible tubers and also the crown part where the shoots grow from which you can either ferret under to get the tubers and leave the crowns , or lift them and divide them.  yacon recipes would be good because my kids just peel and eat them, but you can do other things with them right? they sweeten in the fridge apparently, I have a load in there right now waiting for inspiration....

 

years ago kings seeds had seed of a perrenial broccoli, which had white curds like little caulis, but haven't been able to find seeds since, where did you get the seeds katharina?

 

I have tried to grow good king henry but  didn't have much luck, the southcoast environment centre had seeds but they weren't viable, hope they get some new ones sometime.

 

another plant I was given last year is stonecrop, which is edible when the succulent-like leaves are small in the spring, has beautiful flowers which insects love.

 

This year I have got skirret and udo seeds from the southern seed exchange to try, the udo have been stratifying in the fridge and I was just looking up some info about skirret as I wasn't sure when to sow, will be interesting.

I have sorrel which keeps coming up  around one of my fruit trees, and multiplying leeks and egyptian walking onions establishing too
I eat yacon by cutting into little cubes and pouring lemon juice over for added flavour. Then it can be eaten as is, or added to fruit salad.

i have some good king henry which i originally bought online from ginnys herbs, after seeing it recommended in english books. it is a small salad leaf plant that dies right down in winter (well mine did anyway).  Am growing it in my herb garden rather than food forest as all salad type vege plants have been decimated by ducks that i have in there. although have come up with chicken wire cages for new plants, so am thinking that i will try again and protect them until they are bigger then maybe they will survive.

I too am keen to try some perennial brassica's, but have had no luck tracking down seeds in nz - I did look at the logistics of importing some seed, which from memory didn't look to be too bad given that brassica is a readily accepted seed family (some paperwork to fill in). Might be worth looking at again especially given that there might be a few of us interested?

HI christy, please save seed from your good king henry plants this year, I didn't have any luck growing it from old seed. and yes would be interested toknow more about perrennial brassicas :)

Here in Southland the easiest perennial vegetables are the artichoke family, globe Jerusalem and Cardoons.

Cardoons  stems are the part you eat but you need to be blanched (like leeks excluding the light for a few days before harvest from the stalks). We have successfully blanched it and made a lovely soup.  We have sea beet which we can harvest leaves year round- it has a red and white striped stem.  Too cold down here for kumera but we do find that urenika potatoes come back year after year in the same patch with no disease issues.    There is a really good book called 'Simply living-  a gathers guide to NZ;s fields forests and shores by Gwen Skinner which is great to learn how too cook 'wild' plants.  She mentions young comfry leaves in salad or fried in batter.  We have french sorrel that comes back very early each spring and would love some viable Good King Henry seeds too!  We have fat hen which is in the same family and this used to be eaten widely by humans in the past e.g. Bog mans last meal was fat hen.  Our nettle patch also regenerates each year and nettle soup is lovely.  I think these are all annuals that reseed so easily if left wild rather than perennials.   Will look into the veges others are growing and see if any would be suitable down here.

Auckland seedsavers are having there seed swap and AGM this Saturday at the Auckland Botanic Gardens Manurewa  9-10 seed cleaning sorting and packing10-12 seed collection and seed swap.  There will be a short talk by Stella Christoffersen who is our curator, and owns Running Brook seeds.Bring any spare seeds, seedlings, cutting material, roots of perennial vegetables and  useful plants for the trading tables and a small plate for morning tea. All welcome Gold coin entry. Futher information Kathrina Muller 09 2671260 or saimuller@paradise.net.nz

 

 

Yes I think a NZ focused book would be awesome

Kia ora Wayne,

Asparagus- once the crowns are set up are perennial each spring

Scarlett runner beans- they die back in winter but resprout in Spring.  Not only are they perennial but a legume- double points for food forest!

Rhubarb- A fruit maybe but still perennial- many varieties, esp in old gardens

Welsh bunching onions- clump like chives- Koanga Institute I think

Pikopiko- the hen and chicken fern, grown in shadey areas, and not where kumara etc are grown.

Peruperu/ Urenika/ tutae kuri purple potatoes continue to come up year after year

jerusalem artichoke- keep coming up 

globe artichoke- a long lived plant whose flowers are eaten

watercress-once a bed is established, it can be managed and picked each spring

Great idea to get this list going

Donna

Dahlias are my latest perennial vege... Haikai Tane, said they ate them commonly in China, I have always loved them- easy and prolific. We had them for dinner last night in a stifry- very nice, like yacon but less sweet with a celery like taste- very Asian.

Need to cooked well and eaten in small doses as they contain inulin which can give wind and digestive upsets. I feel no problem today though. Flower petals can be eaten too. But the tubers are easy easy food. grow all summer with bee attractant blooms, then haves tubers. In Golden Bay, top of South Island, they can winter over fine, so harvest when ever. In a couple of years they multiply heaps !! so you can spread them wherever. 

The tuber I used for dinner, I had pulled up 2 months ago and hadn't planted, I peeled it cause its skin was tough but inside it was still crisp like yacon! I imagine it would be also good in stews or soups.

I had been meaning to try them for ages and I'm so pleased they are yummy and useful... a great food forest plant, grow about a metre of less high... prolific.

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