Most of the vegetables grown in the home garden are annuals, depending on which hardiness zone you live in. Annuals typically grow and produce fruit during the growing season, then die off after the first frost. There are some vegetables that are perennials – meaning they will come back the next season and produce again. There are not many of them, but the ones that are readily available are scrumptious to eat, and a joy to grow. Let’s discuss three of the most popular perennial vegetables.
Asparagus is arguably the most popular perennial vegetable. It can last up to 15 years with proper care. It is best to start asparagus from a one-year old crown. A crown is the root system of the asparagus plant. One crown can produce anywhere from 1/2 to one pound of spears a year. It is best to plant asparagus crowns in the spring, when the soil has reached at least 50° F. Asparagus spears can be harvested once they reach 7 – 9 inches long by snapping them off at the soil level. Once all the spears have been harvested, a new batch of spears will appear the next spring.
Rhubarb is another perennial vegetable that can be harvested for five years or more. The rhubarb root is mainly used in pies, tarts, and sauces. It is best to divide or plant rhubarb in the spring will the plant is dormant. Only plant rhubarb by seed in the southern-most portions of the U.S. Plant rhubarb in an area where the roots will not be disturbed. Do not harvest rhubarb the first year because the foliage needs time to build a good root structure. To harvest, pull of the leaf stalks from the plant and remove the leaf blades. It is not recommended to eat the leaf blades due to the high level of oxalic acid. In just a couple of years, you will have enough rhubarb to make some delicious pies.
Jerusalem artichoke (or Sunchoke) can be grown anywhere in the U.S. but is better adapted to the cooler northern regions. Jerusalem artichokes are mainly used for pickling and in salads. They should be planted in spring by using whole or partial tubers of the plant. Plant the tubers three to five inches deep and 30 to 42 inches apart. The plant can reach heights of six feet tall – quite amazing! Jerusalem artichokes should not be harvested until after the first frost, and tubers dug up later in the season tend to be sweeter. The best way to harvest is by chopping off the tops, then digging up the tubers. Jerusalem artichokes can then be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, as long as they are kept around 32° F.
If you have the available space in your garden, these perennial vegetables will make a nice addition that will continue to provide for many seasons.