What are perennial vegetables? Here's how to get started with them.

What are Perennial Vegetables and How to Get Started

In this episode, we’re going to dive into perennial vegetables. These are vegetables that you plant once and get harvests for years to come—without replanting. Ready to get started with these fantastic perennial foods? Let’s dive into them.

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Beyond providing abundant harvests year after year perennial vegetables also help:

  • Build soil
  • They support wildlife
  • Improve your gardens resilience
  • And save you time and energy

Show Notes:

You're reading the show notes for an episode of the Growing with Nature podcast. You can listen to this episode by using the player at the bottom of this section right before the resources list. If you enjoy the episode don't forget to subscribe so you never miss out on future episodes.

And perennial vegetables are part of our growing perennial foods pathway to abundance. By shifting more of your vegetable growing to perennial vegetables you will be helping to cultivate abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.

We’re going to take a look at these fantastic vegetables and I’m going to share with you what I’m growing, what worked well for me, and give some tips to help you get started.

Let’s dive into perennial vegetables but before we do if you like what you hear today, then please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you listen. Your review will help more people find us. People like you, who want to bring these skills home, to enjoy wildlife, grow more food, and help heal our living world.

Okay, let’s get started.



Episode Resources:

How Perennial Vegetables Provide Abundance

Perennial plants can help prepare your garden for climate change

Kosmic Kale is a fantastic perennial green and a great alternative to traditional kale.

I’ve wanted to grow food over the winter for a while now. But I just didn’t have the time to mess with planting annual vegetables in the summer to get fall and winter harvests.

At least I didn’t think I did.

It turned out that all the perennial vegetables we were growing were an amazing source of winter harvests.

Last winter these plants came into their own. And the result was abundant harvests of greens all winter long.

And we didn’t have to worry about getting plants established for a winter garden. Our perennial vegetables just provided winter harvests for us without any extra work.

No special plantings and no extra watering.

But our perennial vegetables also provide abundant harvests during the rest of the year. Some are better at providing early harvests before the summer heat sets in, some are great in the middle of summer and others don’t shine until the cool seasons set in.

By planting a diverse mix of perennial vegetables we can easily get harvests all year round—we just have to rotate what we harvest depending on the season.

Though some like purple tree collards and Kosmic kale give us harvests regardless of the season.

Here’s what we’re currently growing that is also proven to provide great harvests for us. 

  1. Miner’s lettuce
  2. Sorrels—French, Sheep, and Woodland
  3. Pacific waterleaf
  4. Kosmic Kale
  5. Purple tree collards
  6. Henderson and rose checkermallows
  7. Hooker’s, nodding and potato onions
  8. Violets
  9. Turkish rocket
  10. Caucasian mountain spinach

These are the perennial vegetables we’re currently testing to see how we like them and how well they grow on our land. 

  1. Sunchokes
  2. Wapato
  3. Several native lilies
  4. Asparagus
  5. Rhubarb
  6. Good-King-Henry
  7. Longevity Spinach

And there’s of course a bunch more we want to try—specifically, we want to try more root crops to get more calorie-rich perennial foods. 

  1. American groundnut
  2. Earth Pea
  3. Chinese Yam
  4. Thicket Bean
  5. Perennial Potatoes

That list really could go on and on but I don’t want to overwhelm you—you don’t have to plant them all.

First Tip – Don’t Try to Plant Them All at Once

Perennial greens create abundance in your garden year after year with minimal effort

Turkish rocket was one of our first perennial vegetables.

When starting make sure to focus on 1 or 2 perennial vegetables first. And perennial greens are a great place to start.

Look for a nice mild flavor perennial green. Here are some good options to start with.

  • Miner’s lettuce
  • Pacific waterleaf
  • Rose and Henderson checkermallow
  • Purple tree collards
  • Kosmic Kale
  • Caucasian Mountain Spinach

And follow the link in the resources section which has more information about these perennial greens.

Once you get comfortable with some perennial greens give some root crops or other types of perennial vegetables a try.

That’s where we are on our property. We’re just starting to test out perennial root crops to get harvests that can provide more calories than greens do.

Regardless of what you start with—just try planting them and see how they grow and how you like their flavor. Try cooking with them and see what you like.

Then next year try another couple perennial vegetables. And if you liked the ones you tried before consider growing more of them.

Second Tip – Where to Plant Them

Perennial plants help build soil - this nodding onion is an example

Nodding onions are a great native perennial vegetable that we've got growing right in our kitchen garden.

That brings us to our 2nd tip—where to plant your new perennial vegetables.

You don’t have to start in the garden. Your garden is a great option but these are perennial plants so make sure they can stay where you put them.

The ends of your garden beds are a great option. But you can also plant them around your trees and shrubs.

Even in your front yard—try mixing them in like you would flowers.

Or make a dedicated bed for them—this is a good option for perennial vegetables like asparagus.

I started by planting them around our trees and shrubs and at the ends of our garden beds.

But now I’m exploring ways to mix them into our kitchen garden.

You can plant them like you would flowers—in between your veggies. But keep in mind that perennial veggies are going to be there year after year and some will get large. But others are small.

Third Tip – Where to Find them

Close up of purple tree collard leaves

Purple tree collards are some of our favorite perennial vegetables.

One of the hardest things with perennial vegetables is figuring out where to get them.

Some are fairly common like asparagus and rhubarb but many others can be hard to find.

There are some that I’m still searching for and have yet to be able to find.

A surprising great place to start is Etsy. There are lots of people on there selling perennial vegetable starts and seeds.

Another great site is Oikos Tree Crops—especially for some fairly rare ones.

If you’re looking for Tree Collards then Project Tree Collard is a great place to start.

Sorrels and miners lettuce can be found at several websites just by doing a quick google search.

But depending on where you live you might find some of these plants locally. Some that I used to have to order online are now locally available here in western Washington.

The resources section has links to help you get started along with some links to blog posts I wrote that dive into perennial vegetables with additional resources.

And try just googling the plants you want to. I’ve found some great nurseries that way.

Growing Perennial Vegetables – The Main Thing is to Get Started

growing orach for food

Growing perennial vegetables is a great addition to any garden. Our salads often include miners lettuce along with other perennial greens. Pick 1 or 2 and just get started.

Perennial vegetables are a great source of food for your family and your community. They help:

  • Build soil
  • Support wildlife
  • Improve your gardens resilience
  • And save you time and energy

And the main thing is to just get started.

Start with 1 or 2 perennial greens. Miner’s lettuce and rose or Henderson checkermallows are great ones to start with.

Try planting them and then try harvesting them and see what you think. Experiment with adding them to your meals and see if you and your family like them.

Then try some more and expand the ones you like.

Soon you will have a wide range of perennial vegetables and you will have more harvests than you can use.

All without having to replant year after year.

And you will have better soil and you will be supporting wildlife too.

But you don’t have to replace all your veggies with perennials. Focus on the greens but keep your beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplants, corn, etc.

When you start replacing your annual veggies with perennial vegetables you will be starting down perennial foods pathway to abundance.

You really will be cultivating abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.

And stay tuned for our next episode where we will explore native vegetables and their role in supporting wildlife while also providing abundant harvests for your family and community.

Let’s work together to heal our living world.


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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created this site to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.

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