Easier Gardening Through Edible Perennials

This year, I've really been struggling with a series of health issues. Maybe you have several little ones and are just plain tired. Or maybe gardening isn't something you love and you'd like to grow some food but spend less time in the garden. Whatever your reasoning, there is one really easy way to make gardening - well, easier: Plant perennials.

Most vegetables are annuals, meaning you need to replant them each year. But there are some veggies (and lots of fruit) that are perennials, meaning you plant them once and you don't need to replant them again for years. Berries, fruit trees, and nut trees certainly fall into this category (although they do require pruning to continue producing well). Here are some other perennial edibles to consider:

* Rhubarb. I've been amazed by how much food one rhubarb plant provides for our family! The first year, you shouldn't harvest the plant at all. After that, however, you can get 3-4 harvests until it's time to leave the plant alone in late summer so it can produce all the energy it needs to live through the winter.Although rhubarb plants can grow for decades, they should be divided every 4 years or so, when the stalks start getting spindly. TIP: For higher yields, choose a variety with green, not red, stems. (WARNING: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous.)

* Asparagus. If you have well draining soil, do yourself a favor and create an asparagus patch. You'll have to wait two years before you begin harvesting, but the patch will produce delicious food for at least 20 years.

a young (and small) artichoke plant.
* Artichokes. Globe artichokes are large plants - and quite showy; harvests begin the first year and the plants continue producing food for about 5 years. You'll want to divide artichoke plants every 3-4 years, making new plants to keep or give away.

* Ramps. Ramps (also called wild leeks) grow wild in some parts of the United States. They love shady, moist areas, and will spread and thrive in such an environment - each year producing a new crop (as long as you allow a portion of your plants to stay in the ground).

* Groundnuts. These are another edible that grows wild in some areas of the U.S. They don't mind some shade, and produce a pretty, flowering vine. I recommend growing them in a container, or they may spread too aggressively. The edible part of the plant grows underground and looks something like a round potato; it's eaten in much the same way, too. As long as you leave some tubers in the ground each year, you'll have a continuous supply for the rest of your life.
Ground nut vine.

* Sunchokes. Also called Jerusalem Artichokes. Grow them in a container because otherwise they spread like mad. During the late summer, this plant produces sunflower-like flowers, and in the fall through winter, you can harvest and eat the tubers, which grow underground and are somewhat similar to a potato. Like groundnuts, you'll have a new crop each year as long as you leave some tubers in the soil.

* Sorrel. Sorrel is an old fashioned salad favorite with a lemony flavor. It tastes best in spring, but can be eaten throughout the growing season. The plants live about 3-4 years.
An overgrown horseradish patch.

* Horseradish. This plant is very easy to grow and you can begin harvesting it one year after planting. It usually will last a gardener's lifetime.

* Egyptian Walking Onions. These amazing plants gradually bend down to the earth and deposit baby onions there. Fun to grow - and you'll never have to buy onions again.

* Chives. Chives add lots of flavor to your meals, take up very little room in the garden, and live year after year. We have a handful of chive plants and even though we eat them regularly and I both freeze and dehydrate some for the winter months, we have way more than we could ever use.

* Other Perennial Herbs. Depending upon where you live, there are quite a number of perennial edible herbs, including bay laurel, mint, sage, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. I always suggest growing most herbs in pots, since they have a tendency to spread otherwise.

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