Most vegetable gardens are filled with annual vegetables that are started from seed or seedlings each and every year. After harvest, the soil is turned and the whole process begins again the next year. Why not add a few perennial crops to the mix? Planting perennial veggies means you can enjoy their yield year after year without replanting, and because perennials often produce at different times than annuals, having both in the garden extends the harvest.
Asparagus crowns need a few years to become productive after initial planting, but it is worth the wait as asparagus will keep coming back for up to thirty years. Weed frequently and give asparagus its own bed without any other vegetables growing in it, because it gets choked by other plants easily. Harvest spears by snapping them off at the bottom when they reach five to seven inches tall.
Although lovage looks more like celery, it is a member of the carrot family. Every part of this plant can be eaten. The leaves make a tasty herb (try it in place of parsley), the root can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, and you can use the stems as you would celery. Just a little lovage goes a long way; it’s both flavorful and prolific. You will only need to plant one in your garden.
Plant rhubarb in your garden and you will be rewarded with a ton of scrumptious pies, muffins, compotes, and crumbles (or how about delicious rhubarb sorbet?). Rhubarb requires almost no attention once it’s planted and will come back year after year. It will produce more edible stems if you remove the flowers as they appear, so be vigilant and pluck the blossoms.
To promote growth, do not pick all of the stalks at once. Harvest up to one-third of the plant at a time by twisting and snapping the stems off at their base.
Artichokes are beautiful and decorative in the garden. Plus, they produce for up to five years. Give them plenty of space when planting them because they can get very large when they mature – up to four feet tall and four feet wide. Harvest artichokes when they feel firm and have a diameter of at least three inches. Store the harvest in the fridge and eat them within two weeks.
Artichokes you do not harvest will open and produce stunning purple flowers. To overwinter artichokes, cut back the plants and cover with thick mulch.
Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, have an edible tuber that tastes like a water chestnut crossed with an artichoke. They grow five to ten feet tall and, while a wonderful vegetable to have on hand, they can be invasive—make sure to give sunchokes their own bed or they will take over the whole garden.
Remove flowers as they develop to promote tuber production. Tubers keep up to 5 months stored in a moist, cool place.