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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Here’s some more for the list:

New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) Perennial in warmer areas, and grows well in shade. Seed source: Kings.

I tried young Lime leaves (Tilia spp. linden) this past Spring and they are quite tasty (the taste has been described as oily), and the flowers make a relaxing tea.

Day lilies (Hemerocallis spp.) Edible shoots and leaves in Spring, buds and flowers (often battered) in Summer, and rhizomes (tiny) in Winter.

Malabar spinach (Basella rubra) Spinach on a vine, perennial in frost free climates, annual elsewhere. Seed source: Kings.

Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) Varying reports on edibility, ‘not as garlicky as garlic’. Seed source: Koanga, Ginny’s Herbs.

Bamboo shoots (Phyllostachys edulis, Phyllostachys bambusoides, Bambusa oldhamii and many more) Martin Crawford is big on these as they grow very fast: ‘Peel off the outside leaves [of the growing shoots] and the inside is edible, you normally steam these for 5-10 minutes. Phyllostachys bambusoides is often eaten raw. Rhizome source: Unsure?

Black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica). A root vegetable, said to taste a bit like oysters. ‘Scorzonera is a perennial, but is grown as an annual with culture suggested about the same as for parsnips, carrots, and regular salsify…The roots reach edible size about 6 months after seeding. However, if left in the soil longer, even through the second year, they are reported to keep their culinary quality.’ Seed source: Widely available

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) Perennial varieties include: ‘Cerolio’, ‘Grumolo’, ‘Dentarella’, ‘Italio Rossico’, ‘Rossa di Treviso’, Rossa di Verona’ and ‘Spandona’ (Martin Crawford). ‘All parts are edible. Eat the young leaves as a salad or boil to eat as a vegetable. Cook the roots as a vegetable. For use as a coffee substitute, roast the roots until they are dark brown and then pulverize them’ - from SurvivalIQ. Seed source: Widely available

Sea kale (Crambe maritime). The florets are said to taste like Broccoli and the leaves taste similar to Cabbage. Seed source: Unsure - showed up on Trademe in 2010?

Chinese Water Chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis). Corm source: Koanga

Bamboo Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) Perennial in frost free areas. Seed source: Kings

Yam Daisy (Microseris scapigera) Native to New Zealand and Australia http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Microseris+scapigera: Tuber source: unknown?

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) Martin Crawford includes this in his How to Grow Perennial Vegetables book for the young edible leaves. Root/crown source: The Fragrant Garden (under syn. Cochlearia armoracia)

Potato onion (Allium cepa var. aggregatum). Bulb source: Koanga

Oca, also known as NZ Yam (Oxalis tuberosa) You are probably already growing this one :-)

Elelphant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) Source: Koanga

Garlic (Allium sativum) Can be grown as a perennial

Solomon’s seals (Polygonatum spp) Young shoots are eaten like asparagus in Spring.

Sea celery (Apium prostratum var. filiforme) I think the native celery is perennial?

Mashua also known as Añu (Tropaeolum tuberosum) is related to nasturium and grown for the aromatic tubers. Tuber source: I’ve seen these on trademe and Koanga in the past but can’t find a source now…

Bellflower (Campanula spp) ‘All plants in their e Campanula genus have edible leaves and some also have edible roots’ PFAF. Some varieties are tastier than others.

Hi yes, this is a really useful discussion, this is my passion! Our nursery focuses on food forest plants and our website has a section on perennial vegetables. We are adding more to the list all the time and you can go on our newsletter for updates. Martin Crawford has a useful book on perennial vegetables and we have listed our plants according to his list, though some, like lemon balm, are not exactly what you'd call staples.  I haven't grown lettuce in ages, our salads are solely from perennials. Salad burnet and sorrel are two of my favourites.  See http://kahikateafarm.co.nz/perennial-vegetables.html

Glad I found this thread,  thanks Wayne.

I started the forest garden process in earnest with a new swale that we put in last year, partly as a way to keep the buttercup from taking over. Now, every time we dig one out we replace it with something, actually anything from among the stuff we want to grow. The main objective for planting the swale is new fruit trees but underneath them we are planting guavas, orangeberry, red currants (just jam the prunings in and let them go), a wide range of herbs and flowers that are endemic elsewhere on the place, such as calendula, phacelia, feverfew and comfrey of course, some tagasaste and a bunch of food crops like peas, broadbeans, parsnip, kale, sunflowers (all now seeding themselves) and as Wayne suggested, kumera. Its coming up fine, but how well did your experiment go?

We have also planted massed globe artichokes as a food source, insect attractant and as a wind shelter for one of our main gardens. Looking forward to that. Our Jerusalem artichokes are in a barely controlled block that makes great shelter in summer and plenty of compost materials in autumn. We have solved the fart problem to some degree by cooking with LOTS of ginger.

Thanks for all the lists, we'll work on them.

Love this link - keen to see more replies too!  We have a food forest group here in Alexandra, central Otago, and have just confirmed with council the opportunity to rescue a disused piece of council land to create a food forest.  Very excited!!  We've got a pretty good idea of some of the common perennials we'll be able to grow here, as well as some of those easy to grow annuals to fill in gaps and provide food and mulch.  Would be keen to hear more on some more unusual edibles / food forest beneficals too.



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