The past few years I have been researching perennial edibles to add to our Urban Potager. I do not have a lot of space to work with which means I have to be very selective about what I place on our property. There are a lot of productive perennial edibles that come back each year to provide food for your daily eating but if they are not ones you will eat then why bother growing them.Don’t you agree?  I am not going to just add perennial edibles to my property because they come back. The plants I add must earn their space to keep their place in Palm Rae Potager! I am not afraid to pull a plant and compost it if it is not serving my goals in trying to grow as much food possible on our city lot.  A long time ago, I got over the fear of pulling plants from my garden beds. It comes from not having a lot of space.

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I feel each person needs to find those plants that are ones they will use on a daily basis in their home. If someone tells you to grow something due to it being a perennial, but you just don’t have the space to commit to the edible or enjoy eating it then you need to move on. I really enjoyed starting a small purple asparagus bed a few years ago. Delicious too! It was in a far corner of my yard. It was growing in an out-of-the-way spot that had partial sunshine initially. It was the only place I could grow asparagus. I put in two medium-sized beds, and due to lack of sunlight, it just did not produce a big enough crop to dedicate that much ground to each season. I enjoyed a few asparagus spears the second year but sometimes you just have to make an executive decision!

Fall Corn Mache

I live on the border of Iowa and Illinois, and if you go to the outskirts of the Quad Cities, you will see miles and miles of farmland all through Illinois and Iowa. If you are on the expressway going a few hours away during the growing season, you will see planes spraying all the crops as you drive along. A person may be growing out in the country but unless they create some buffer zones for their farms; I don’t see how it is organic since they know the pesticides travel through the air and water. It is even questionable with buffer zones.I know on our city lot, I would love to grow food in my front yard but most of my neighbors like to spray their grassy lawns with chemicals. The trucks stop by monthly or weekly sometimes, and you can definitely smell the chemicals when they spray. I have my native plants up front since food growing near the road is not a possibility. I do have a herb garden up near my front door which is buffered by an arched wall which makes it easier for them to be protected.

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Corn mache + Salad burnet with hummus

Today there is so much chemical use it is very hard to get food that does not have a trace of chemicals on it, even Organic foods. According to an article written in Forbes  ” tax-payer-supported research indicates is that 40 different synthetic pesticide residues were detected in organic food samples at levels similar to what was seen for the comparable conventional food samples.”  They did find that the pesticide residues were amounts too small to be a health/safety concern, but if anyone thinks that even organic foods will not be contaminated by old and new chemicals that have and are presently being used in farming practices, is a bit naive. I use to believe if I purchased a USDA organic product it would not have any residue at all from any pesticides.

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Chocolate mint is my favorite cold and warm tea

  If it was not for being dx with indolent cancer back in 2000, I don’t know if I would have paid attention to my food supply as much as I do now. I am ashamed to even admit that for it is sad that it took getting sick for me to pay more attention to my food quality. I am excited about adding more perennial edibles to our Urban Potager since it makes growing food a bit easier. I can count on my perennial vegetables to be up and going while I have many of my annual edibles still under lights.My quest for perennial edibles is an ongoing project. My goal is to integrate more perennial edibles into our Urban Potager over the years. Each year, I find a new one to trial and look forward to new ways to find a seasonal rhythm that will provide productive food throughout the year from both annual and perennial edibles.

Bloody Dock a Red Sorrel which you can easily start from seed

I will be creating more beds this year of some new perennial edibles.There are some that are new to me, and if they don’t impress me with their production and usefulness in our organic living, as you know, I am not afraid to pull them and compost them to give back to the earth!

Here are some new ones I will be exploring this year and some that I have grown for the past few years

  • Chervil
  • Sorrel
  • Bloody Dock
  • Good King Henry
  • Caucasian Spinach
  • Arugula ( perennial)
  • Claytonia
  • Corn Mache
  • Alpine Strawberries
  • Currants
  • Honeyberries
  • lovage
  •  Sunset hibiscus
  • Elderberry
  • Leaf Celery
  • High Bush Cranberry
  • Claytonia
Leaf Celery

I live on a traditional city lot which many of my neighbors do not grow food on their city lots. Their backyards are mostly wall to wall grass and a few perennial non-edible plants. I need to blend into the neighborhood and make our food growing look attractive. If I can show them it is attractive and encourage them to grow more food or native plants in the city than I have made a difference in our urban life. This means I have to add these perennial vegetables in mixed beds with other attractive annual or perennial plants. Some of these plants are not always beautiful plants. They are useful in an edible landscape, but one has to be careful to not place them in a location where they do not look their best or produce their best.

Viburnum trilobum/ High Bush Cranberry

I look forward to sharing some of my perennial edibles this summer. Next week, I plan on sharing the herb Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)  we have been eating since March. Trust me you will want to grow this little beauty in your garden!

 

 

 

 

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

16 comments

  1. Wow, I do love the idea of edible landscaping. A friend of mine has put in blueberries as foundation plantings. They are beautiful bushes with lovely color in the fall–and of course, that fruit we have to fight the birds for.

    1. I do too:-)Rosalind Creasy coined the term and has several books on the subject. She lives in California. Perfect weather for edible year round eating! I live in zone 5 which means having to find those that work in our landscape, but her book is helpful:-)
      http://www.rosalindcreasy.com/

  2. What a glorious and beautiful post Robbie. I am going to pin it and save it as well. I am most interested in some of the perennials that you have shared here and will be looking into seeing if I can find them anywhere. I let some of my weeds do their thang in Sanctuary now as I eat them and so they are no longer ‘weeds’ in my opinion. Here’s to lovely perennial filled low maintenance gardens!

    1. LOL..Eating weeds is my thing too!!!
      I need to learn how to cook and live with these new foods. I had some friends try some of my perennial vegetables last year and they were not too impressed ( I tried them with several groups of people) If it does not taste like something they know they just said, No thanks. I am learning to appreciate some of the new flavors. It is interesting how when you start eating them you acquire a taste for them and eventually the store bought vegetables just don’t satisfy my taste buds. I have been buying celery at the store but when I use lovage it has so much more flavor as well as leaf celery. I find the celery from the grocery store is “tasteless”. LOL

      1. I think people today just don’t know the true taste of food how it should grow naturally to be honest. When Steve was eating meat (last year) we would kill a rooster from our property and he would have some of the breast meat and he said it tasted completely different to any chicken that he had ever had. We would simmer the bones to make a chicken stock that was incredibly rich and complex in flavour and you can’t buy chicken like that, not anywhere. We also noticed that their bones were completely different to those from shop bought mass raised chicken. The same goes for vegetables and weeds etc. We are designed to eat all sorts of things. To be foragers by nature. People are spoiled because they can just head to the nearest supermarket and buy a tonne of plastic and some very expensive (to the environment as well as to their hip pockets) produce that tastes a specific way because it has been engineered to taste that way as well as being doctored for long shelf like (thus compromising taste) etc. When you forage you have to get used to a new taste on the block, ‘bitter’, which most people won’t even contemplate but when you look a little deeper into our not so distant past, was a flavour that is vitally important to human nutrition and health. You and I are on a journey to understanding what is truly healthy for us and putting what we are learning into practice. With regular folk (the supermarket lovers) you have to doctor their food SO much with sugar and fat and salt to make it ‘taste good’ that it is hardly worth eating by that stage and tastes nothing like it’s original components.

      2. :-)Fran, you are so right!!!! Years ago I tasted a chicken a friend raised, and it tasted NOTHING like what you get in the store. I don’t eat as much meat anymore and try to utilize what is on our property. Legumes are mostly my protein of choice, but I do eat fish, eggs, and cheese a few times a week. I occasionally ( several times a month if at all) will eat grass fed burger or a chicken raised organically open range. If I am exercising pretty hard or bike miles on the river-LOL.
        I did notice that when I presented the food to people, they complained about the bitter taste. That is interesting for I read that the bitter means more nutrition. You are correct:-) Funny how we use to not mind bitter greens. I was with some people one day, and they said, “how do you eat Kale”…I thought why do you not eat Kale??? It is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. You can eat it from your own yard it takes up little space, and a small patch can give you healthy greens right in the city!!!
        It seems so strange to me to NOT grow Kale (Chard/Spinach/lettuce etc.) in the city. I raise a ton of it on my property and freeze it for winter. If you cook Kale, the oxalates are not a problem for those people that may have issues.
        I am so glad you are working on trying to grow food for personal use. I learn a lot from you each season.We both have issues with our growing areas, but we do grow quite a bit in our spaces. Go US!!! To us “Bitter Sisters” lol

      3. HAHAHA! “The bitter sisters” I love it! 🙂 I learn heaps from you Robbie. You are ahead of me in leaps and bounds when it comes to vegetable growing. I am going to put some kale in wicking beds this year (in fact in the next week) as I love it. I love strong flavours and love broad beans and brussels sprouts etc. I think our palates have been trained to not accept real flavours any more so that we can be fed a diet of garbage and will eat it willingly (much like those poor force fed ducks in France). It’s no wonder obesity is on the rise. I wonder if Mr Trump is after all of our livers?! 😉

      4. LOL The Trumps do eat well, I have no doubt—but OMG-those force fed ducks that is one of the saddest things I have ever seen anyone do! I watched a documentary about that and it upset me greatly. A chef was doing the show and telling about how it tasted. This place produces the best “Foie gras” yadda, yadda- I figure they grew up eating those foods and is part of their heritage. They did treat the ducks well on their property:-) They roamed and ate well!
        I feel we need a Bitter Sister club we can all get together and eat bitter food! A new trend:-)

      5. We could have one of the ‘Twisted Sisters’ songs as our anthem “We’re not gonna take it…NO we aint gonna take it… we’re not gonna take it…anymore!” 😉

  3. I like the idea of perennials edibles and do try and incorporate them where I can – though admit I do love my annual edibles too – and of course unlike you Robbie I do have the blessing of more space. Have you every tried nine-star perennial broccoli. It’s supposed to be perennial but I have always found it doesn’t do as well the second year so I end up saving seed and just growing like sprouting broccoli. May be worth a try though, may do better for you. I have chervil all over my tunnel this spring – just at point of pulling it up now – I’ll leave a couple of plants for seed. Do you just use it in salads?

    1. Oh, I agree, I will always have some of my annuals. I don’t feel I would have enough variety for eating if I only grew perennial vegetables. I would love more space like you have, but I am finding that I get a lot of food growing practicing succession planting. It does require a bit more time, but I don’t mind. I really do need to try that it sounds interesting. I will look for Nine-star broccoli!
      I love Chervil and use it in my salads.There is a soup ( Holy Soup) that I want to try but have not done it yet. I did try to make some chervil pesto, but the first time was not too successful-LOL. I’ll give it a go again.
      I feel it is good for beneficial insects. I use it a lot with my humus in place of lettuce. I love the flavor. Very nutritious plant too:-) I have a post I wrote for next week about its history. Fascinating plant it has been around for AGES!

  4. I have always wanted to grow honey berry! Let me know how it does for you. Very informative post Robbie. I often wonder if that living nearby agricultural land is what made my dog sick. They say lymphoma is an environmental related cancer and I’m scratching my head saying but I don’t use any chemicals. I clean with vinegar. I never spray my garden / lawn. We made/cooked his food … interesting. There are many farms nearby and it is frequently windy here. I have to know more about perennial arugula! I’m going to grow it (annual) again this year because I just love that bitter taste. I gave it up for awhile because of flea beetles and didn’t want to mess with row covers. Perennial edibles ROCK! My asparagus is coming gin great. I have to finish cleaning it up! Hopefully I will plant soon — I am so far behind already! But there is snow in the forecast for Monday so maybe I’m just feeling crunched and all else is right on time.

    1. Hi Kathy!!! I was over visiting your blog yesterday and I could not comment:-( Your home in Florida looks stunning and I am looking forward to seeing what you grow this year!

      It is so cold here too and raining all the time. It has rained for a week straight. I can’t even be in the garden for it is too soggy. LOL. I need a boat! I’ll be complaining later this summer about it being too dry:-) So I better be grateful for the rain right now since we are known to have some pretty dry summers.

      I have a few blooms on my honeyberry plants so it may take a year or two to get enough to eat. I am very excited to try this new fruit.
      It is interesting you mentioned the wind and lymphoma- I was dx in 2000 with indolent lymphoma and our house was right next to large farm fields on the outskirts of town. We lived there for 11 years and I got it 6 months later after we moved to town. I also lived near one in my early 20’s too. I always remember the spraying and it did cross my mind. There is a lot of farmers that get cancer. Lymphoma is seen more often in older farmers that have worked with chemicals.
      MY perennial arugula is a project in the making. I have tried several years, but each year it goes to seed and I can’t find it. I am trying to find one that will establish itself in my Urban Potager.

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