What are perennial vegetables

A quiz for smart people

This is a quiz for people who know everything! These are not trick questions. They are straight questions with straight answers.

Don’t cheat! Write down your answers. Then scroll down and see just how smart you are.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4.. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn’t been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters ‘ dw’ and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter ‘S..’

Yes, only 9 questions, not 10. Can you think of a 10th question for this quiz? Send it in with your comments. Don’t forget to include the answer.

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Answers To Quiz:

1. The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends . . Boxing

2. North American landmark constantly moving backward . Niagara Falls (The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.)

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons . . Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside .. . Strawberry.

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle. (The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)

6. Three English words beginning with dw Dwarf, dwell and dwindle.

8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh Lettuce.

Which ones did you get right????

Perennial Vegetables to Grow

Most of our favorite vegetables—beans, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes (technically fruits!)—are annuals. They complete their life cycles in a single growing season, so we have to plant them year after year. There aren’t many true perennial vegetable garden plants, but there are some that behave like perennials. Here are seven to keep you stocked with edibles for many seasons.

Globe Artichoke

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This member of the thistle family produces large, attractive perennial vegetable plants. If the edible flower buds (what we eat as artichokes) are not harvested, they unfurl to reveal fuzzy purple flowers. Grow artichoke (Cynara scolymus) in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Artichokes require ample, consistent moisture for best growth. They survive drought but don’t produce as well in dry conditions.

Start artichokes from root divisions (preferred method) or seeds (seed-grown plants typically don’t produce as well as root divisions). Plant 24-36 inches apart in rows about 36 inches apart. Amend the soil prior to planting with 2 inches of compost. Fertilize monthly with a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

When growing artichoke as a perennial, amend the soil around plants each spring with a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost. Where marginally hardy, cut back the plant in fall and cover with a 6-inch-thick layer of straw. Harvest perennial artichokes in spring, with a secondary peak in fall. Harvest the flower buds when the stalk has fully extended but the bud has not opened. Err on the side of early harvest rather than late to avoid woodiness in the heart. Marginally hardy in Zones 6-7; hardy in Zones 8-10.


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This hardy crop lasts for decades in the garden and is one of the first vegetables that can be harvested in spring. Plant asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Mix a 2-inch-thick layer of compost into the planting site. Because asparagus is long-lived, it’s important to adequately prepare the soil before planting.

Grow asparagus from rooted crowns, available from garden centers and online. A month before the last frost in early spring, dig trenches 6 inches deep (in clay soil) or 8-10 inches deep (in sandy soil). Space the trenches 36 inches apart. Add a phosphate fertilizer to the planting trench according to package directions. Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen, which will promote foliage over stalk production.

Set the root crowns 12 inches apart in the trenches. Cover the crowns loosely with about 3 inches of soil. After the new plants grow for about six weeks, add another 3 inches of compost-enriched soil. Finish filling the trench in fall.

Hand-weed to avoid damaging plants. Leave asparagus unharvested the year you plant it so it becomes well established in the garden. In the second year after planting, harvest for only two weeks. By the third year, harvest for the usual five to eight weeks.

Start harvesting when the spears are 1/2 inch in diameter. Harvest every day in warm weather and about every three days in cool weather. Every year, leave some of the spears to grow into fernlike plants that rejuvenate the roots for next year’s crop. Zones 4-8

Jerusalem Artichokes

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In the same family as sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus, also called sunchokes) are grown like potatoes for their underground tubers. You can eat them raw or cooked like potatoes. However, because their carbohydrate breaks down to fructose instead of glucose, Jerusalem artichokes can be a better choice than potatoes for people with diabetes.

Plant the tubers as soon as the ground can be worked in spring in fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. Place them 3-5 inches deep in rows 36-42 inches wide and leaving 15-24 inches between plants. Hand-weed to avoid disturbing the plant while it is growing.

By August, the plant will be more than 6 feet tall with yellow flowers. Tubers about 4 inches long and 3 inches in diameter begin to form in late summer. Wait until after frost to harvest. Handle them carefully as the skin of the tubers is very thin. You can leave some tubers in the ground to grow into plants again the following spring. Zones 4-9

Note: These are vigorous plants that spread by underground rhizomes and may become difficult to eradicate. Some gardeners consider them invasive.

Onion Family Members

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Some types of onions, such as the fall-planted bunching and Egyptian onions, continue to produce new onions even when some are harvested. Grow all onions in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter.

In spring, apply fertilizers high in phosphorous and potassium but low in nitrogen. Plant onions as sets, seeds, or transplants in spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Space them 6 inches apart, in rows about 1 foot apart. Transplants should be placed about 1 inch deep.

Bunching onion (Allium cepa var. solanium, also called the Welsh onion) is a type of multiplier onion. It does not grow into large bulbs. Both the roots and tops can be eaten, but some may be left to grow into larger onions.

The Egyptian onion (Allium cepa var. viviparum) produces small bulbils at the top of its stalk in late summer. You can use these tiny onions as they are, or plant them in the fall to grow more Egyptian onions.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) grow similar to chives (Allium schoenoprasum), with slender leaves up to a foot long and star-shape white flowers in late summer. Both garlic chives and chives form clumps fairly rapidly. Zones 4-8


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This sharp-flavor vegetable is technically a hardy biennial, meaning it grows for two years. It is a type of chicory and is related to Belgian endive. Dark red leaves with white veins form into a tightly clumped head that resembles cabbage or romaine lettuce.

Grow radicchio (Cichorium intybus) in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Sow seeds in spring or autumn, then harvest the inner heads in late fall when they are firm and have the deepest color of white and red, leaving the roots in the ground to produce another crop. Avoid picking it too early; immature leaves taste bitter. Add olive oil and salt to the fresh leaves to cut the bitter flavor. Zones 4-8


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Though many people treat it like a fruit, rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is actually a hardy perennial vegetable (because you eat the stems, not the plant’s fruits). Plant rhubarb in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Locate it where it won’t be disturbed because it will be productive for many years.

Plant crowns in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Place the central bud 2 inches below the soil line. Space the crowns 6 feet apart. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of compost around new plants when the air temperature rises above 80 degrees F. Cut off at the base of the plant any flower stalks that develop.

Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring. After harvest, spread a 2-inch layer of compost around plants. When the stalks become thin, usually after six to eight years, dig and divide the plant in spring or fall.

Rhubarb stalks have the best color and flavor when harvested during cool weather. Leave first-year plants unharvested. By the third year, harvest all stalks larger than 1 inch wide for as long as eight weeks. Use only the stems; the leaves contain oxalic acid and are poisonous. Zones 2-9


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Sorrel is a perennial herb with a tart, lemony flavor used for soups, stews, salads, and sauces. The two main sorrels grown are common sorrel, Rumex acetosa, and French sorrel, Rumex scutatus. They are relatives of rhubarb, and the leaves contain small amounts of oxalic acid that’s not harmful when consumed in small quantities. The leaves are a good source of vitamin C.

Sorrel tastes best in early spring; it becomes bitter as the weather warms. It’s hard to find in markets because it wilts shortly after harvest. To grow sorrel, sow seeds directly in the garden in full sun and average soil 6-8 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. Established plants may be divided. Garden sorrel is frost-hardy to Zone 5; French sorrel is hardy to Zone 6.

  • By Deb Wiley


The cultivated cabbage is related to the wild mustard, which originates from the Mediterranean region. It grows best in temperate climates. Large producers of cabbage are China, India, Russia, Korea and Japan.

Cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked, and it is often used in soups and stews. It can also be fermented to make sauerkraut or kimchi.

There are quite a number of different head-forming cabbages, all belonging to the ‘capitata’ group.


Brassica oleracea var. capitata
Head cabbage
Heading cabbage
Red cabbage
Savoy cabbage
White cabbage
Winter cabbage
Rode kool
Witte kool
Col de savoya
Col lombarda
Col morada
Repollo morado
Chou cabus
Chou rouge



Basic information and facts


Cultivated cabbage is related to the wild mustard, which originates from the Mediterranean region.


Grows best in temperate climates. Large producers of cabbage are China, India, Russia, Korea and Japan.

Annual, biennial, or perennial:

Cabbage is a biennial plant but it is grown as an annual. For seed production it is biennial.



The leaves are wrapped close together to form a “head”. Heads can have a weight between 0.5 and 3.5 kg.

Climate and weather:

Prefers temperate climates. Some tropical countries also produce cabbage in hill areas and during the cooler seasons.


Plants cannot self-pollinate, but are cross-pollinated by insects.

Type of soil:

Prefers well-drained soils.




Prefers to grow in full sun light.

Spacing (close range)

30 centimeters between plants

Spacing (wide range)

60 centimeters between plants


By seed.

Insect pests:

Many insects pests. Some important pests include the Cabbage whites (Small White: Pieris rapae, Large White Pieris brassicae), the Diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella) and the Cabbage Webworm (Hellula undalis). But caterpillars of several other Lepidoptera can also feed on the plants. Other insect pests include aphids, cabbage flies, and flea beetles.


Several fungal diseases including Fusarium, Alternaria and Downy mildew. Bacterial diseases such as Black rot.


Root-knot nematodes.


Cut the stem just below the head.


Cabbage is often eaten raw (as salads) or cooked in various ways. It is often used in soups and stews. Sometimes it is pickled or can be fermented to make sauerkraut or kimchi.

Proverbs and Quotes

  • A louse in the cabbage is better than no meat at all.
  • It’s no use boiling your cabbage twice.
  • Cabbage: A vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head. (Ambrose Bierce)
  • This cabbage, these carrots, these potatoes, these onions … will soon become me. Such a tasty fact! (Mike Garofalo)

Crop categories

Leaf vegetables
Food crops
Temperate crops



Asparagus, the Perennial Vegetable That Keeps Giving

How would you like to plant a vegetable once and harvest it repeatedly for 20 years or more? With Asparagus you can do just that.


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Asparagus has a long history going back as far as the first century. There are records of it growing in ancient Greece and Rome. Egyptians over 2,000 years ago cultivated asparagus for medicinal reasons and legend has it that it was so revered they offered it up to gods in their rituals. The Ancient Greeks and Romans used the Persian word “asparag” which meant shoot.
There is good reason that the plant has such a long history, and if you’ve ever had fresh asparagus I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s definitely worth adding to your garden. It’s a very low maintenance plant and will reward you for many, many years to come, but soil preparation is vital in long-lived healthy plants.
Select and prepare your asparagus bed with care: This crop will occupy the same spot for 20 years or more. It can tolerate some shade, but full sun produces more vigorous plants and helps to minimize disease. Asparagus does best in lighter soils that warm up quickly in spring and drain well; standing water will quickly rot the roots. Prepare a planting bed about 4 feet wide by removing all perennial weeds and roots and digging in plenty of aged manure or compost.
In the old days, gardeners were told to prepare an asparagus bed by digging an 18″ deep trench and then backfilling it with a mix of compost and soil. Thanks to modern plant breeders, today’s improved varieties of asparagus are less work to plant (6″ to 12″ deep is adequate) and produce almost twice as many spears per plant. Choose an all-male variety if high yield is your primary goal. The production increases are due to the fact that these hybrids are all-male cultivars, so no energy is wasted producing seeds. Asparagus plants are monoecious; each individual plant is either male or female. Some varieties of asparagus readily available are Jersey Knight, Jersey supreme, and Jersey Giant. They produce all male plants, so they’re more productive.
Starting asparagus from 1-year-old crowns gives you a year’s head start over seed-grown plants. Buy your crowns from a reputable nursery that sells fresh, firm, disease-free roots. Plant them immediately if possible or wrap them in slightly damp sphagnum moss and place in a cool area until you are ready to plant.
Don’t harvest any spears during the first 2 years that plants are in the permanent bed. They need to put all of their energy into establishing deep roots. During the third season, pick the spears over a 4-week period, and by the fourth year, extend your harvest to 8 weeks. In early spring, harvest spears every third day or so; as the weather warms, you might have to pick twice a day to keep up with production. Cut asparagus spears with a sharp knife or snap off the spears at, or right below, ground level with your fingers.
Asparagus is very drought tolerant and can usually grow without supplemental watering because it seeks moisture deep in the soil. However, if rainfall is insufficient when planting or afterwards, it is beneficial to irrigate the crowns. Otherwise the plants will become stressed and vigorous growth will be impeded. Weed control can be accomplished by hand hoeing and cultivating during the planting year.
Keep your asparagus bed clean and healthy and it will reward you for many years!

Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work

Growing perennial vegetables doesn’t mean giving up tomatoes, peppers and other annual crops. You can experience the amazing benefits of perennial edibles simply by rethinking your existing garden plan and pioneering new, unused areas of your landscape.

3 Ways to Incorporate Garden Perennials

Design and planning are critical parts of “perennializing” your food garden: After your new perennial edibles have put down roots, they’ll be set for years to come. There are three basic design approaches:

1. Push the Envelope. “One method to begin perennial edible gardening is to expand the edges of an already established garden,” says Bethann Weick, garden educator at D Acres, an organic permaculture farm and educational homestead in Dorchester, N.H. Perennial vegetables do well in beds devoted only to perennials because their extensive root systems grow undisturbed by digging and cultivating. However, interplanting with annuals can also be a successful strategy and one way to control erosion in your perennial garden.

To expand your garden’s edges, hand-dig or till a 3- to 4-foot-wide perimeter bed on one or more sides. Or, if you’re willing to wait a year to plant, follow Weick’s easy sheet mulch method to prepare the site: “Cover your lawn with four layers of cardboard, and top that with a thick layer of wood chips,” she says. “Place compost beneath the cardboard layers for additional fertility. Within a year, the grass will die and the mulch will become rich organic matter ready for planting.” Other locally available mulch materials work equally well, Weick says. For instance, thick layers of newspaper could be topped with shredded leaves or grass clippings.

If space or conditions won’t allow you to expand your garden’s edges, you can experiment and create a perennial vegetable border within the bounds of your existing vegetable garden.

2. Dive into Edible Landscaping. If you already grow a perennial ornamental border or foundation shrubs, consider integrating some perennial vegetables, such as sea kale or sorrel. Many have attractive leaves or flowers, and they won’t become so aggressive that they overtake ornamentals. If your gardening space is limited, try growing perennial vegetables — especially greens — in containers.

Take advantage of currently unused areas of your landscape, matching the conditions to the appropriate perennial edibles.

“One of the things I love about growing these foods is that there are different ones for different niches,” says Toensmeier. “Not all require full sun and loamy soil the way most annual vegetables do. You can grow many perennial greens and herbs — such as wild leeks — on the shady north side of the house, below trees, in a wet site or in other unused areas of your property.”


3. Pioneer a Plant Community. If you’re already growing perennial vegetables and want to take garden diversification to the next level, consider permaculture gardening. Like nature’s ecosystems, this approach promotes greater partnerships between plants, soil, insects and wildlife. In permaculture designs, edible vegetables, herbs, fruiting shrubs and vines grow as an understory to taller fruit and nut trees. The technique is sometimes called “layering.”

Weick suggests a five-year plan for gardeners who want to begin layering their landscape with edibles. “In the first year, plant fruit trees as the outposts. That same year and over the next several years, use the sheet mulch technique to prepare planting areas beneath the trees for the understory plants,” she says. Sheet mulch a 2- to 3-foot-radius area around each fruit tree the first year and gradually increase the mulched area as the trees grow. After the first year, you can begin planting the mulched area with perennial vegetables, fruiting shrubs and vines. (For more on this method, see “Permaculture Gardening: A Natural Way to Grow” further along in this article.)

10 Best Perennials

Based on expert recommendations, the following are widely adapted perennial vegetables selected for their flavor, productivity and versatility. Be sure and see photos of many of the perennial vegetables described below in the image gallery above.

1. Ramps, or Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum). This onion relative grows wild in deciduous forests east of the Mississippi, emerging in spring. Leaves and bulbs are both edible. Grow in a shady border in moist loam, or naturalize beneath trees. Hardy to Zone 4.

2. Groundnut (Apios Americana). Native to eastern North America, this nitrogen-fixing, 6-foot vine bears high-protein tubers that taste like nutty-flavored potatoes. Grow the vines as Native Americans did: near a shrub (as support) in a moist site that receives full sun or partial shade. Harvest in fall. Hardy to Zone 3.

3. Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). This familiar plant is long-lived and productive, bearing delicious green or purple shoots in spring. Asparagus thrives in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. For best production, plant male hybrids. Hardy to Zone 3.

4. Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus). A traditional European vegetable known for its tasty shoots, leaves and flower buds, this spinach relative grows in full sun or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. Plant seeds in compost-enriched soil, and harvest the tender shoots in spring. Hardy to Zone 3.

5. Sea Kale (Crambe maritime). Sometimes grown as an ornamental, this coastal native bears gray-blue leaves and white flowers on 3-foot-tall plants. Cover the plants in spring and harvest the blanched, hazelnut-flavored shoots when they are about 6 inches tall. The young leaves and flowers are edible, too. Plant nicked seeds in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Hardy to Zone 4.

6. Jerusalem Artichoke, or Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus). Grown by Native Americans, sunchokes bear sunflowerlike blooms on 6- to 12-foot stems. The crisp, sweet tuber can be eaten raw and used like potatoes. An added bonus: Sunchokes attract beneficial insects. Plant tubers in full sun and well-drained soil. Harvest in fall and winter. Hardy to Zone 2.

7. Lovage (Levisticum officinale). The young leaves and stems of this 6-foot-tall perennial are an excellent substitute for celery in springtime soups. The seeds and roots are also edible, and the umbel flowers attract beneficial insects. Lovage thrives in average garden soil, in sun or partial shade. Hardy to Zone 4.

8. Rhubarb (Rheum x cultorum). Although most people think of rhubarb for dessert, the reddish stems have a long history of use as a vegetable in soups in Asia. Caution: Don’t eat the leaves or roots, which are poisonous. Plant rhubarb roots in full sun and rich, well-drained soil. Harvest in spring. Hardy to Zone 1.

9. French Sorrel (Rumex acetosa). The lance-shaped leaves of sorrel add a wonderful, lemony tang to salads and soups, and they can be harvested from early spring to late fall. Look for sorrel transplants in the herbs section at your local nursery. Sorrel grows in sun or shade and average soil. Hardy to Zone 3.

10. Crosnes, or Chinese Artichoke (Stachys affinis). Also known as mintroot, this little-known mint relative sets out runners that form a dense, 12-inch-high ground cover. The small, white tubers are crisp and sweet, and add a great crunch to salads. Harvest the tubers annually for best plant growth (just leave a few for the following year). Grow crosnes in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. Hardy to Zone 5. (For more info, see Crunch a Bunch of Crosnes.)

Happy Returns From Perennial Gardens

Keeping your perennial plantings going isn’t much different from caring for annual crops. In fact, after they’ve been established, perennial vegetables practically care for themselves. “These plants have deeper root systems, so they need fewer outside resources — such as fertilizer and water — than annual crops usually need,” says Toensmeier.

Giving the plants a strong start is key. Before planting, dig compost and other necessary amendments deeply into the soil, as you would for perennial flowers. Give aggressive perennials, such as Jerusalem artichokes or self-seeding garlic chives, their own bed so they won’t overtake more modest growers. Be especially sure to stay on top of weeds the first year or two until your perennials have spread out above and below the ground. Mulch the beds with a generous layer of compost, wood chips or shredded leaves early on. “You also can experiment with an edible ground cover, such as violets or wild strawberries,” Toensmeier says.

With its increased diversity, your garden should have fewer insect and disease problems. For added insurance against pests, Weick interplants calendula and other flowering plants to attract beneficial insects (for more on attracting beneficials, see Enlist Beneficial Insects for Natural Pest Control). Otherwise, maintenance is simple. Feed perennials annually with compost or another organic fertilizer, replenish the mulch each spring, and remove any weeds that sneak in. Consider these measures a small investment, because “planting perennial edibles is planting for the future,” Weick says. “Over time, you’ll put in less work and harvest more food, while building diversity and stewarding the land for future generations.”

Permaculture Gardening: A Natural Way to Grow

Developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, permaculture is “an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor,” according to the Permaculture Institute in Santa Fe, N.M. The approach is modeled on the structure and relationships of natural ecosystems, and the principles can be applied to growing food, building homes and communities, and more. Learn more at the Permaculture Institute website and in our Gardening blog, to which permaculture gardener and educator Bethann Weick regularly contributes.

Getting Started With Perennial Vegetables


Some perennial vegetables can be difficult to find at local garden centers. Check out these mail-order suppliers, and use our Seed and Plant Finder to locate additional sources.

Goodwin Creek Gardens: Williams, Ore.

Oikos Tree Crops: Kalamazoo, Mich.

Permaculture Nursery: Food Forest Farm; Holyoke, Mass.

Tripple Brook Farm: Southampton, Mass.


Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier


Apios Institute for Regenerative Perennial Agriculture

Perennial Solutions

Plants for a Future

Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.

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