The perpetual vegetables: why it is essential to the organic vegetable garden.

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Often when we start a vegetable garden, we think first tomatoes, radishes, carrots, basil. Because that’s what we used to buy from traders and it’s easy to prepare. However, all these crops are seasonal, they must be repeated each season – or several times a season as for radish. 
So we should start by installing plants that are faithful, between which we would slip – if we have time – seasonal crops.

Perennial vegetables are vegetables that can be kept for many years because they are perennial, and that their harvest does not require killing the plant.

It’s good for my vegetable garden to keep plants in place from one year to the next!

In the second half of the twentieth century, the vegetable garden became the reserved area for annual plants that are sown, cultivated and torn each year before returning the whole plot to start the next season. 
In the light of the theories that encourage respect for the soil, protect it permanently and not return it, cultivating only annuals in the garden is an aberration . Because the annuals that have to be reinstalled each year oblige to regularly disturb the ground and to intervene a lot to keep the free space between the periods of culture.

Cultivating perpetual vegetables means going out of the tabula rasa system every winter.

Perennial vegetables are the answer to this problem. Even if we also grow annuals, they allow to keep permanently “habitats” where can shelter the auxiliaries while one prepares his “boards of culture” of annual vegetables. 
To keep a land healthy, it must be covered permanently. Many practitioners of the organic garden interpret this directive by “we must mulch permanently”. While it is far better to have a permanent cover of live plants – the roots do not just tap into the soil, they participate in its life.

List of perpetual vegetables that you could try:

NB: clickable links should refer you to Groww’s growing sheet, for example if you want to know more about each plant – unfortunately there is a bug right now! Open the site directly , then look for the plant in the list – we try to fix the bug …

  • The Onion rocambole or rocambole garlic does not need to be uprooted for consumption, they form “bulbs” at the summit of the stem.
  • The perpetual leeks form new feet near the first, simply reap the pace.
  • The rhubarb , of course! Each year, it provides edible stems with an acid taste.
  • The chervis , to use as carrots.
  • The Rapunzel is fully edible, it is used as a condiment.
  • The horseradish is produces edible roots mustard flavor.
  • The chard or chard, even if they are not strictly speaking perpetual vegetables because they are biannual, are harvested very long.
  • The spring onion makes such large stalks that it is not strictly speaking a condiment, but a vegetable.

From lovage , replacing celery, consume in small quantities because it is very strong.

Among the “perpetual vegetables”, there are many flowers!

In this article on edible flowers , I mentioned many plants that can serve as perpetual vegetables:

The artichokes are also beautiful large flowers. To place a little apart, because they multiply very quickly. 
the daylilies – which are entirely edible, and of which one can eat the flowers in donuts for example. 
the dahlias – which can eat the tubers like potatoes. We can not keep them in the ground because they fear the cold, but when we shelve them we can divert some to eat them 🙂

Dr. Kimberly Seltzer

Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley Research Assistant, MIT

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