That Yield Years of Fresh Produce
Probably the most popular of the perennial food plants, asparagus can take two or three years to become well established but then can continue producing spears for at least 15 years or so.
Although its tart, red-tinged stalks generally are used as a fruit in pies and other desserts, rhubarb technically is a perennial vegetable in USDA Zones 4 through 7.
Although neither an artichoke nor from Jerusalem, this deceptively named plant actually is a sunflower native to the US. Also called sunchoke or earth apple, it is valued for its water-chestnut-like tubers that growers can harvest in autumn and eat like potatoes.
Often started by planting dormant roots in spring, the true artichoke isn’t as hardy as the previously mentioned imposter but can survive as far north as USDA Zone 6 if well mulched. If you forget to harvest in early summer, they’ll provide you 6-inch purple blooms as a consolation prize later.
Closely related to globe artichoke and also hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10, cardoon looks quite similar to its previously described kin, though its 3-inch flowers smaller than those of the artichoke. It usually is raised for its leaf stalks, which are blanched for a month or so before they are cut and cooked.
If you like spicy foods, you’ll want to grow horseradish among your other edible perennials. But be careful to harvest most of it every year, or this “horse” will soon gallop all over your garden.
Egyptian Walking Onion
The Egyptian walking onion “walks” when its heads of bulbils bend to the ground and sow themselves. The freshest of their shoots can be harvested and used as green onions. Also edible, the small bulbs at the bases of those shoots are very hot.
This peppery perennial grows in shallow, moving water such as what flows in a creek. Usually started from cuttings or seeds, it is at its best during the cooler months and should be harvested while still young, as it loses much of its bite after it blooms.
If your taste runs more toward sour than spicy, try garden sorrel, which grows in a rosette and has a tart flavor. You can harvest its young leaves at any time during the growing season and add them to salads or soups, though cooking eliminates much of the tartness.
Chicory's bitter leaves have long been used as salad greens and its ground roots as a coffee substitute. A variety of garden cultivars are available, with the red-leafed types generally known as radicchio.
Good King Henry
This perennial vegetable contains some saponins and oxalic acid, so it shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts or by those sensitive to these compounds. However, its leaves reportedly make a good substitute for spinach, while its shoots can be eaten like asparagus.
Although a member of the legume family that produces showy reddish-brown flowers and edible “beans,” this vine most often is grown for its tubers, which can be cooked as potatoes are.