Photo: The delicious benefits of edible perennial plants

Oca is from the Andes and the bulb can be harvested after frost, once the above-ground greens die back. (Credit: Fluffymuppet via Flickr)

I aspire to eat more local foods — out of my own garden, if possible.

So I took a perennial vegetables workshop by Solara of Hatchet and Seed @hatchetnseed. She introduced me to a new term, "edimentals" — edible, ornamental plants — and supplied a list.

Perennial vegetables are great because they:

  • Keep coming back!
  • Withstand pests better than annuals
  • Build and improve soil quality
  • Don't need tilling, leaving mycelial culture (mushrooms and other fungi) and soil structure intact
  • Increase aeration and water absorption
  • Create compost, add to topsoil and bring up nutrients from deep down when dropped leaves die back each year
  • Are edimentals — delicious AND beautiful!


Need a warm, protected spot. Varieties include globe and cardoon (wild). Blanch stalks and eat them cooked, too! Warning: sunchokes or Jerusalem artichoke spread.


Buy crowns or start from seed. From seed to shoot takes three years! Before prepping your bed, think long-term (they live up to 40 years) and keep soil mounded.

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Caucasian spinach

Grows well in shade. Eat shoots.

Chufa (a.k.a. tiger nut)

A sedge tuber found in wet areas. Popular in Spain.

Cinnamon yams (a.k.a. air potato or Chinese yam)

Grow in pots (even an old bath tub) since tubers are large and will go deep. Use the vine to create shade.

Daubenton kale

Hardy plant that grows more than two metres tall. Extremely nutritious due to many years accumulating minerals. Great flavour. Tender enough to eat raw.

Day lilies

Edible before flowers open. (Read about all edible parts.)

Earth chestnut

Easily grown from seed. Eat greens (similar to parsley) and crunchy tubers.

Garden giant mushrooms

Seed into wood chip paths. Edible at the "button mushroom" phase. Don't eat a lot!

Good King Henry

Enjoys shade. Eat shoots. Looks like spinach.

Ground nut

A nitrogen-fixing ground tuber with climbing vines. Native to the East Coast. Contains 16 per cent protein (potatoes are five per cent protein).


Eat shoots in spring.


Edible early before leaves get big (when it looks a bit like asparagus).

Elephant garlic

A perennial leek. Eat as you would leeks or harvest entire bulbs.

Leaf celery (a.k.a pink plume)

Stronger tasting than celery. Leaves are great in soups.


From the Andes. A single tuber costs about $3.50. Flowers and leaves are edible. Similar to oca.

Nettle (a.k.a. stinging nettle)

Best in early spring. Easy to grow from seed. Prefers a moist, shady area. Cook young leaves like spinach or use in tea. A popular dye plant. Promotes good soil. Great in compost but not very kid-friendly.


From the Andes. Needs full sun but can survive in partial shade. Harvest the bulb after frost, once above-ground greens die back. Once harvested, lay in the sun to sweeten. Prepare as you would potatoes.

Perennial onion

All parts are edible, even flowers! Varieties include Welsh, garlic chives and walking onions. Bees love 'em!


Only eat stalks — leaves and roots are toxic. Compost leaves. Happy near a compost heap!

Skirret (a.k.a. sweet root)

Related to dill, parsley, celery, cilantro and carrot. Shoots and roots taste like parsnip.


Great in soups or pesto! The French variety grows in clumps.

Turkish rocket

Eat shoots, flowers and leaves. Beware: This spreads!


This giant tuber from South America is a heavy feeder and gets tall. Harvest after frost. Pot in winter, replant in spring!

Perennial plants:

  • Are often long-lived — e.g., asparagus lives up to 40 years!
  • Create resilience when planted from seed (avoid moulds, pests and diseases from nursery plants)
  • Use microclimates around trees
  • Can be left all winter

Which perennials will you grow?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

November 29, 2016

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1 Comment

Dec 06, 2016
10:33 AM

Where are Jerusalem artichokes? The most prolific, edible, nutritious tuber in North America. It looks very much like tall, lanky sunflowers. Pretty nice to look at, as well.

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