Gardeners and farmers are now harvesting the fruits of their labour, filling pantries and stomachs, and creating memorable feasts.
While we live amidst a rich agricultural region, not everyone has time or perhaps space to tend an annual crop garden. The abundance of local farmer’s markets is the best second option to fill your fridge and larder, but you might also consider planting some low maintenance perennial vegetables in your patch of soil.
Here’s a short list of easy to grow edible perennials for this region that can provide a great amount of diversity to your ingredient list.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
A familiar veg to most of us, this is a great perennial crop that you can get two harvests per year from. Also good to note is that asparagus does not like to be moved. Try to plant it in a warm site that does not need to be moved. I know of a woman who had an asparagus patch for 36 years in the same spot until the plants finally stopped producing. Purchase crowns in spring from your local plant nursery.
Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana)
These are delicious berries that come with their own paper packaging. Also known as Ground Cherry or Goldenberry, these self-seeding little gems originate in the Andes, and can tolerate poor soil. They require full sun and a long growing season, so best to start seeds indoors in March and transplant out in the same timeframe as tomatoes.
Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus)
A member of the Amaranth family (same as spinach), its leaves are used in much the same way as spinach however, its shoots are eaten like asparagus, flower buds like broccoli, and the seeds are an edible grain. Good King Henry can be grown in a shady spot and will provide you with nutrient rich greens.
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)
Also known as Chinese leeks, garlic chives impart an oniony flavor with a distinctly garlicky overtone. Young, tender leaves are great chopped into salads, or casseroles, and the white, edible flowers attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Give garlic chives full sun for best flowering and upright growth. They make an attractive edging in herb or vegetable gardens. Also frost tolerant.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
The lovage plant is an easy-to-cultivate perennial herb that tastes like the celery and the leaves and stalks can be used whenever celery is called for in soups, salads, and casseroles. Lovage was grown in medieval monastery gardens for medicinal, as well as culinary, uses. This plant likes full sun to partial shade and will mature to a height of sex feet or more. So choose your site well as it will spread to about 1m in time.
French Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
Cold-hardy sorrel is easy to grow in sun or partial shade. Young sorrel leaves are the plants’ edible parts, and new sorrel leaves emerge from the plants’ centers for several months, from late winter to late fall. The zingy, lemony flavor of garden sorrel is at its best in early spring, the traditional season for making sorrel soup. The flavor of sorrel leaves is due in large part to oxalic acid, which is harmless consumed in small amounts but should be avoided by people with a history of kidney stones.
Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus)
The sunchoke, also called Jerusalem artichoke, is a variety of perennial sunflower grown for its edible low-starch tuber which looks much like a small potato but tastes like a water chestnut. These easy to grow tubers can be planted in full sun as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. They are drought tolerant and disease free and the small sunflowers they produce are an added bonus.
A word of caution when planting sunchokes, give them lots of room as they spread and are very difficult to remove once established.
Ceres Edible Landscaping provides organic landscape maintenance, installation, and garden design. As a social enterprise of the Cowichan Green Community, all profits from Ceres support our food security programs in the Cowichan Region. Call Nora at 250.748.8506 to discuss how our services can support you in creating a healthier garden.