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Perennial root crops - some plants to try

 
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I've been exploring options for new perennial veggies to try next year and there are 2 that I'm thinking about trying but I was curious if anyone on here has harvested them before.

The first is Creeping Bellflowers (Campanula rapunculoides) which have a reputation for being very aggressive and invasive in some areas. Though here in western WA they don't seem to be causing any problems so far. The reason they're invasive is they get decent size roots that spread around and they drop a lot of seeds. But their leaves and flowers can be harvested. Plus, those large roots are supposed to be great for eating.

Here is a link about it: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Campanula+rapunculoides

And here is a picture of the roots:



What do you think? Is it worth growing and harvesting? I have some areas where I could grow it without worrying about it spreading around too much. Plus I figured harvesting it would help keep it under control though I would want to make sure I would actually enjoy eating it so I would want to harvest it... Can't decide if it's worth it or not to grow. Lots of warnings out there about how aggressive it is and I don't want to make my life harder. It can easily regrow from root fragments so harvesting it each year shouldn't kill it.

The other one I'm thinking about trying is called King's Spear (Asphodeline lutea). It's supposed to have an abundance of roots that were a highly valued food in ancient Greece. The roots aren't large but sounds like they could be worth it.  Flowers are edible raw and supposed to be sweet. The shoots are edible too but don't sound great to me--"smell less than pleasant whilst cooking but have a fairly bland flavour".

Here is a link about it: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Asphodeline+lutea

And here is a picture of it from Wikipedia:



It's a pretty plant and I thought it could be a good addition to a gravelly area that I have where a lot of plants have struggled to grow. Plus I could get a harvest from it too. Looks like it can be propagated by division so it should be easy to harvest some of the roots and then replant the rest to keep the plant going.

-------------------------------

I'm exploring a bunch of perennial root crops right now. These are just 2 of the ones I'm looking into. I see both of these as plants that could be planted and left alone until harvest time. I doubt they would be at the core of my future root harvests but I thought they could supplement my other root harvests and add a bit more diversity of root crops. But I'm unsure if either are really worth it and I'm a bit worried about how aggressive creeping bellflowers can be.

I really want to get a lot more perennial root crops in to help improve our food security.

Any thoughts?

--------------------------------

Here are some of the other perennial root crops I'm considering. These are all native to my general area though 2 of them are generally found south of here in Oregon. But with climate change I could see these being good options up here and they should grow here fine now. These would likely be mixed into my food forests--except for Wapato which will be in a new wildlife pond I'm building in September/October.

Yampah (Perideridia Oregana)
Harvest Brodiaea (Brodiaea Elegans)
Wapato (Sagittaria Latifolia)
Tiger Lily (Lilium Columbianum)

Anyone tried these?

---------------------------------

I'm planning on growing some root crops like potatoes as my core staple crops but I'm hoping to have lots of others scattered all around. This way there will always be root crops available and ideally in large amounts though potentially scattered a bit. These root crops can supplement the core root crops or even replace them if needed. And some of them like Wapato could be a core harvest on its own if I can get enough wet areas to grow it.
 
pollinator
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That’s interesting about the tiger lily. I had no idea they were edible but I do know how beautiful they are. Mine grow in the very worst clay on my property.
The only perennial that comes to mind is the Chinese yam. The “air potatoes” are edible when cooked and root is ok raw. It produces a ton of bulbuls and they all grow. I have mine planted next to dense woodland and clip off any vines that pop up so they don’t spread further. I do let my main crop grow vines but gather all of the bulbuls I can do they don’t escape.
Carrot and turnips do very well self seeding but not perennial.
There’s a lot of talk on here about sun chokes but I’ll toss my thoughts in too. I bought twenty bulbs seven years ago. I planted them in the spring but had to dig them up in the fall because we were moving. I dug up around eighty. Through the chaos  of moving they were left in a bucket that was full of ice for a month. Figuring they were toast I tossed them all in the woods next to my house. In April I noticed around a dozen that had grown! I now have a bunch!
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Sun chokes
Sun chokes
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Danvers carrots
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Chinese yam
Chinese yam
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Purple globe turnips
Purple globe turnips
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Tiger lily
Tiger lily
 
Scott Stiller
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Maybe some walking onions too. Only harvest when ready to use because they don’t store well. I find them very strong after they reach maturity so harvesting in early spring is best. The stalks are tough but edible. I use them in soups like bay leaves. Big stalks go in while simmering and out before eating.
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pollinator
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i have some seedling campanula in pots, but no real experience with it yet. i've grown king spear a couple times but they've gotten wiped out by voles every time i've put them in the ground. real pretty plants, though, and i'll probably try again in new spots.
 
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My mum has campanula at her place. I'm going there today so I'll try some roots and report back. It certainly has spread around there, but not in an unpleasant way. It's not taking over or anything, but it's in pretty much all her gardens. We have a shorter growing season than you, so maybe that would make a difference.

Tiger lilies are all over the place here, but they're way too beautiful for me to use them as food. It seems like the bulbs take quite a while to grow and divide as well. I don't think you'd want to harvest any one plant more than every few years...like 4-5+.
 
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Creeping Bellflowers (Campanula rapunculoides) has been on my interest list for a while so I'm excited to see what people report on it.

The perennial tuber that has grown itself at my place is the Chinese artichoke, Stachys affinis, aka crosnes.  I think the chipmunks have been spreading it and it's now a carpet under one of my Chinese chestnut trees.  It's very happy in the partial shade under that tree and is now covering a few hundred square feet in thick luxurious growth....perhaps too thick?  I'm watching to see what it plays well with in that bed.  I'm hopeful that my ramps will continue to do fine with it.  It seems to be outcompeting a young rhubarb plant as well as some strawberries on the bed's edge.  I transplanted some away from the strawberries earlier this summer, but you'd never know it.  The sunchokes in that bed seem to be doing fine due to their height.  The crosnes have pinkie sized white tubers that make nice French fries....they look kind of like crinkle cut fries.  If anyone is interested in getting some tubers from me this fall then send me a PM showing that you made or boosted your Kickstarter pledge for Paul's Greenhouse movie by at least $10 today after this post!
 
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I'm very interested in this subject too, although I live in the opposite corner of the US from Daron! I didn't know about the tiger lilies (Scott, I may be mistaken, but are you sure that's not a plain old daylily?), but I do know they grow around here. So that's a definite possibility for me. The other three are new to me, but I have to say thank you Daron, for the links to the Plants for a Future and Useful Temperate Plants databases. Very useful. Can't have too many perennial food plants, in my opinion.
 
Scott Stiller
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Maybe so Leigh. I think I bought tiger lilies when we moved in but I could be mistaken.
 
Jan White
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So here's what the creeping bellflower looks like in a flower bed that hasn't been touched in five years or so. There's a lot.

I didn't do much digging, just got the first decent-sized roots I found where it was escaping into the lawn where some wood chips sat for a year.  My mum says the biggest ones are finger-sized.

First I just bit into one. Bad idea. The thin outer skin is bitter in an unpleasant way and tastes nasty. The skin peels off easily, though. Under that is a somewhat fibrous layer that comes away from the core easily as well. In the roots I tried, the fibrous layer wasn't too fibrous to eat raw. The core is completely tender. Overall texture is similar to a crappy carrot.

Taste is very mild, kind of like really bland hazelnuts picked green.

Having to get the skin off of every root somewhat lessens my interest in them as a food source. The skin does peel off pretty easily, so maybe once you got a technique down it would be fine. I have some getting established at my place anyway, since every time my mum gives me a clump of something it comes with campanula :) I think it has definite potential.
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master pollinator
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Maybe if cooked, the skin comes off more easily.

Daron, why not grow the campanula in a container and taste it for yourself?  It's very pretty!
 
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Daron Williams wrote:

The first is Creeping Bellflowers (Campanula rapunculoides) .... their leaves and flowers can be harvested. Plus, those large roots are supposed to be great for eating.


Rapunzel (if anyone remembers the fairy tale from Brothers Grimm) would agree https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapunzel


 
Scott Stiller
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What about nutsedge? Folks may hate me for saying this because it’s quite aggressive. Just dig up a couple clumps, clean and leave to dry. You don’t want them wet. They’re not bad at all.
 
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I was under the impression that tiger lilies are poisonous. Day lillies are a great perennial. Everything is edible. Flower buds are delicious sautéed. New shoots also. And the tubers are like potatoes. Plus it spreads by itself.
 
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I’m giving yams a try this year and cassava. I’ve never heard of anyone in the PNW trying cassava so I don’t have high hopes but it was a $2 experiment. I’m also growing oca. They seem reasonably happy with the conditions here.
 
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I am collecting Perennial plants also, here's my root wish list: Skirret, Scorzonera, Burdock, Gaint Bell Flower, Victory onions, Babington Leeks, Welsh onions, Solumon seal, Lillium/tiger lily or Easter lily,Hemerocallis- day lily.
Yacan, ulluco, oca, achira, arracacho, sun chokes, horse radish, Potato onion.

I have Hosta & daylilies, a few lillium lilies.
 
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Also mashua, another Andean root crop, akin to nasturtium. It climbs and spr ads itself around, has very pretty red flowers, flowers and shoots edible in salads, and the roots are supposed to be good too, though I haven't tried them yet. You have to leave them to bulk up in the autumn after the leaves die down, and look for a harvest before the ground get too hard.
And Good King Henry, sits quietly doing its thing in a corner. Spinach like, nice taste. Need to cut off the dead flowers to stop it seeding around too much.
 
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I have heavy clay soil in southwestern ohio.
I have day-lily, hosta, sunchokes (which have a grub issue)
what suggestions can you offer?
 
Daron Williams
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Scott – Thanks for sharing! Yeah… I’ve been considering Chinese yam. Just haven’t decided on a good spot for it yet. I didn’t add it to the list up above but I’m planning on growing some sunchokes. Going to create a relatively small bed to plant 5 to 10 tubers in. Figured it will be a good chance to get used to them. Plus I can easily just harvest some from the bed later on to plant elsewhere.

I haven’t tried eating tiger lilies yet but I’ve heard good things about it.

Yeah, walking onions would be a great addition. I’m also thinking about potato onions. Have you tried those?

Greg – Interesting, thanks for sharing! I do have a fair number of voles… but my potatoes fared okay despite having voles tunneling through the potato bed. Something to think about!

Jan – Thanks for sharing! Yeah, my plan with tiger lilies and some other native root crops is to harvest a mix of them as opposed to a bunch of any one type. Plus, I will be spreading it all over—could easily end up planting a good 50 to 100 to start with. Hopefully once they get established I could get a fair number of them each year without reducing the total number.

Greg – Thanks for sharing about the Chinese artichokes! I had forgotten about those—might need to add those to my list too! 😊

Leigh – Happy to share! Those 2 sites are some of my favorites for looking up plants. Not the easiest to just browse but they’re great for looking up specific plants.

Jan – Thanks for sharing! Really appreciate it. Gives me some stuff to think about. I might hold off on growing it for now while I work on getting some other crops established. Thanks again!

Anne – I’m thinking about doing that at some point. Just trying to figure out what to prioritize—there are a lot of possible options. Right now the bellflowers are being pushed lower on my priority list but I may still give it a go.

Erik – lol, yeah I found some references to that story! 😊

Scott – Hmmm… I wasn’t familiar with nutsedge. Is this it? https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Cyperus+esculentus

Rick – There might be multiple lilies called tiger lily. The one that is native here is edible based on multiple sources that I’ve read. It also has a long history of use by native peoples.

I did a quick google search for tiger lilies and I quickly found references to these 2: Lilium lancifolium or Lilium tigrinum. Those aren’t the same tiger lily that I was referencing. I’m not sure if those can be eaten or not. Always good to look up the plants by their scientific names to be safe.

Chris – Nice! Please let us know how those do for you! Oca is on my list of plants to try at some point 😊

Joe – Nice! That is a great list of perennials!

Chris W – I got some Good King Henry going and I’m hoping it spreads a bit 😊 I looked up mashua but I think the winters here are too cold for it. Not sure though.

Alex – Sunchokes might do well. I want to give those a try this fall. I’m going to build a small raised bed and add some compost to it to help improve the soil. My soil is mostly silt and clay depending on the area. Very heavy too…
 
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Greg Martin, doe the crosnes compete with the trees much? I planted a few last fall and I’ve been wondering if it was a mistake.
 
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I’m growing yacon - it’s been multiplying nicely for the last 5-6 years; crosnes for the last 3 or so, skirret, and runner beans & dahlias. This year, I added winged beans, which also have edible tubers. We have tons of day lilies around, but I hesitate to eat it in case I am prone to its surprisingly laxative effects. I’ve been a big fan of yacon - the yields are huge, they store through the winter easily as dormant tubers much like dahlias do,and everyone in the family likes the taste.
 
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Great thread.
I have a Chinese Yam I'm thinking of planting in a raised bed surrounded by chickens.
Even of they don't eat the bubils they should scratch them to death.


Nutsedge was mentioned.
From what I can tell,  the yellow nutsedge is the tasty one,  and it's not very hardy compared to the others.

I was just at a place that sold many of these roots as food,  Cam International Market.
I was without my phone, otherwise I would have looked up what could be started from the root,and bought some.

Something they didn't have last time I checked was fresh  
Ube yam.
Ube doesn't keep well,  but it's very prized.
If you live in growing zones 10-12 , it might be worth hunting down.
 
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Be careful with Chinese yam. I planted a few a coupla years ago and just let em grow. I forgot to pick the bulbils from the vines so they rooted where they dropped. Now they are everywhere and I can’t get rid of them. They are delicious though. I dug up one of the roots and it was about 1.5” around and 18” long! The bulbils are awesome I soups and stews. Ube is a great yam if you can get one. I love the purple tinge on the vine and it is by far my most vigorously growing yam.
 
Greg Martin
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Thomas Black wrote:Be careful with Chinese yam. I planted a few a coupla years ago and just let em grow. I forgot to pick the bulbils from the vines so they rooted where they dropped. Now they are everywhere and I can’t get rid of them. They are delicious though. I dug up one of the roots and it was about 1.5” around and 18” long! The bulbils are awesome I soups and stews. Ube is a great yam if you can get one. I love the purple tinge on the vine and it is by far my most vigorously growing yam.



Good point Thomas.  I'm not sure where the line is between invasive and not.  Up here in Maine I have been growing them for a decade and I've never seen a volunteer, though they grow very well for me.  Not sure why they don't self spread here.
 
William Bronson
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Yes,  I am very concerned about Chinese yam spreading!
Of all my weeds,  bindweed does the most direct damage and I don't need another vine strangling my plants.
I considered setting it loose at my second property,  but thought better of letting out of my sight.

My chooks have suppressed  bindweed, sunchokes and comfrey in the places they have been left to roam, so I think they will be apt guardians against the spread of the Chinese yam.
Plus,  I pay more attention to their composting run  than to any other part of the yard,  so I'm more likely to notice any strays.

While we are talking about vines with tubers does anyone grow ground nuts?
 
Greg Martin
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I've introduced groundnuts into several patches of my sunchokes, which they climb....thought was that I can harvest them both at the same time.  But jury is still out as I only did this last year.  So far the groundnuts are just surviving.  Hopefully I can post more on it in a year or three.
 
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Hi,

Was interesting to read and a few plants I did not know about, so thanks for sharing. I have been working on lists like that for a while my self, so maybe I can add a few things.

It is good to see ground nut (Apios Americana) being mentioned here in the end, since I hope it could be a major staple crop even in northern climates (possibly replacing potato entirely?). There should be improved cultivars with bigger tubers and much larger yield in general.

And then some plants that I think have not been mentioned already (unless I missed them):

Actually Sea Kale (Crambe Maritima) also has edible roots. Not just edible but caloric stable according to the author of Eattheweeds.com .  He writes: "Would be a prime edible. It has a large root, particularly at the end of the growing season and is edible raw. It’s easy to find, easy to dig up. That’s energy positive. It’s a caloric staple."  And this is a VERY perennial hardy plant. I grow it and it does very well, even far away from the sea and not even in sandy soil...    Maybe the explanation why it became an endangered species in many countries is because people foraged the edible roots for survival and not just the greens? hmm...

Cirsium horridulum - Bull Thistle. This plant should have a decent edible root, though I have no experience with it yet.

Nelumbo lutea - American Water Lotus. This one has a root rich in starch according to PFAF and eattheweeds.com.

Polygonatum multiflorum - Solomon's Seal (Someone else already mentioned it briefly I think) Also this has a root rich in starch and has been used by various people through time as food and medicine and it can tolerate a lot of shade, wow, interesting for certain locations of your land with trees and all.

Potentilla anserina - silverweed. I think this plant sounds interesting, some sources I read said that it has sustained communities from time to time, maybe mostly when other crops failed, possibly an emergency, but still survival crop. Edible tubers, perennial. It should spread like weed and be very difficult to get rid of, which would be a plus in that it can safely look after it self in some remote area and you can always go harvest some if you really need it without spending time on cultivating it. I have read some other people's experience with this and they say the roots are small and it takes long time to work for the calories you get out of it, so yes maybe just a truly emergency food. But I am not sure, have anyone tried this plant for food?

Everyone knows about cattail I assume, but it should fit this category of perennial and edible starchy roots? Of course you need some water habit, but still...









 
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alex Keenan wrote:I have heavy clay soil in southwestern ohio.
I have day-lily, hosta, sunchokes (which have a grub issue)
what suggestions can you offer?



One patch of my 'chokes get hit too. About 1/4" or a touch larger holes, some just into the surface, some are 1/2" or better deep. I'm not sure if it's grubs or wireworms. In either case it seems that nematodes are the best bet.
https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/garden-pests/wireworm-control/
I got a 1 1/2" electric chipper to run the stalks through. I scatter the chips over the patches and turn them under when I dig for the deeper tubers. That started loosening and improving my soil after just a couple years.
We can most of ours as pickles and relishes with a few canned plain, like potatoes. Chipped or chunked, I like them better than cukes. I've dried some chips raw and ground them in a food processor for flour. Not bad. It makes a great thickener for stews and gravies. Stiffens dough quite a bit. I don't mix in more than a scant 1/4 of 'choke flour or less.

BTW, west central Pa. here. I've got day lilies and three types of Sunchokes. Two are good, the third - not so much.
 
Anne Pratt
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Hello Rune, and welcome!

Tell me about growing Crambe.  I have three infinitesimal seedlings, grown from seed this spring, and adding no more than a millimeter/week.  I understand they can be reproduced easily by root cuttings!  The growing-from-seed route is a test in patience.  I only hope they get big enough to survive my USDA Zone 5 winter.  I might have to dig them up and put them on the porch or in the basement for the winter.  

I didn't know you could eat the roots, just the asparagus-like sprouts and the leaves.  I do want to get this plant going!

Any words of wisdom you can add would be welcome.
 
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Hi Daron,

I live in Pasco and have been on a few missions to find wild perennials.  Try the long ire meadow area on the little Naches River for Yampah ( Perideridea Gardineri).  It's bigger and better than the northeastern Oregon variety.  Also I have tried the wapato and they are delicious.  You should be able to find them around Olympia.  If not, head south toward the Columbia and look in the sloughs and backwater.  I have them near me on the Yakima River.  The Brodia are good tasting but small and fairly deep in the ground.  Lots of them in eastern Washington and Oregon.  Don't forget to try out lomatium couse.  It's also found in southeastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon.  I haven't tried the tiger Lilly but the Mariposa Lilly is excellent and probably larger than the tiger and also more abundant.
 
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Tina Nixon wrote:I’m growing yacon - it’s been multiplying nicely for the last 5-6 years; crosnes for the last 3 or so, skirret, and runner beans & dahlias. This year, I added winged beans, which also have edible tubers. We have tons of day lilies around, but I hesitate to eat it in case I am prone to its surprisingly laxative effects. I’ve been a big fan of yacon - the yields are huge, they store through the winter easily as dormant tubers much like dahlias do,and everyone in the family likes the taste.



I was planning on getting skirret this fall to plant. How do they taste? Are they easy to grow?

Thank you.
gift
 
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