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I love the "idea" of perennial vegetables...

 
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I love the idea of growing and eating them, but the taste leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion.  Look at the number of times you see Linden tree leaves being touted as a vegetable.  I have to believe no one that adds them to a list has ever eaten one.  If you try them, you'll quickly finding out they taste like, well, a tree leaf, and they aren't a good substitute for any vegetable I ever ate.  

So, here is my question.  What perennial vegetable actually taste good enough to be a substitute for the roughly equivalent annual vegetable?  I'm in zone 4b, so that rules out a lot of things I can grow.  I have dozens of fruit trees and berry bushes planted in my food forest, but I would really like to have some perennial vegetables growing, short of the few things I have.  Currently I have asparagus and horseradish, and that is about it.  Any ideas of great tasting, cold hardy veggies?

Thank for your time.
 
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Asparagus is the only vegetable that I ever think of with perennial veg. Do you have rhubarb? Not really a veggie, but definitely a perennial. Spinach and lettuce are annuals, but if you let them go to seed they will often reseed themselves, which has the low maintenance factor of perennials. Lambsquarters, purslane, and dandelions all kind of taste like spinach as long as you pick them early in the growing season, and since those are actual weeds they are super easy to grow.
 
Trace Oswald
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Leora Laforge wrote:Asparagus is the only vegetable that I ever think of with perennial veg. Do you have rhubarb? Not really a veggie, but definitely a perennial. Spinach and lettuce are annuals, but if you let them go to seed they will often reseed themselves, which has the low maintenance factor of perennials. Lambsquarters, purslane, and dandelions all kind of taste like spinach as long as you pick them early in the growing season, and since those are actual weeds they are super easy to grow.



I don't grow rhubarb for the same reason I don't grow cranberries.  I have a rule (my own rule, that applies to me only), that if I have to add a ton of sugar to something to make it edible, it isn't edible.  

I am planting a lot more things like spinach that I can let go to seed.  I do have lambsquarters and dandelions growing, but I don't really eat them.  I've never tried cooking them, only eating them raw.  I can eat them, but I wouldn't say I enjoy them much.  I like purslane raw, but don't have it at my current land.
 
pollinator
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Trace Oswald wrote:
I don't grow rhubarb for the same reason I don't grow cranberries.  I have a rule (my own rule, that applies to me only), that if I have to add a ton of sugar to something to make it edible, it isn't edible.



That's a smart way of looking at it, Trace. I like that rule.

 
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groundnuts are tasty. turkish rocket flowerstalks are a favorite of mine. lots of perennial shoots besides asparagus i find really good...though many of those are frequently on the foraged side of things a opposed to the garden - solomon's seal, milkweed...and hostas, wherever they're planted.

there's more that i'm blanking on.

people have different tastes, too. i enjoy rhubarb without sweetening pretty well - there's lots of applications in the kitchen for sourness, after all. and it can be eaten with sweeter things, too.
 
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I can't make suggestions for zone 4, but here where I am in Hawaii, I have several perennial veggies that we regularly use.
... Pumpkins - the plant goes on for well over a year, and if tended well, it lasts for years.
... Peppers. I have plants that are over four years old now.
... Basil, Rosemary, parsley. They plants last for years.
... Chaya, mamaki (for tea), moringa -- all perennial shrubby trees.
... Chayote (called pipinola here). Produces year around.
... Sweet potatoes.
... A perennial collard that I think is called Flash, or Blaze. I'm not sure.
... Kale and chard don't stop unless disease gets them, or they get too tall.
... Cholesterol spinach and Okinawan spinach.  
... Edible hibiscus
... Hawaiian landrace Lima beans

I'm sure that there are more, but these are the ones I have growing on my homestead and that we eat. Turmeric I guess could be called a perennial. If I don't harvest it, the plant simply resprouts the following year. Same with yacon.
 
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I do understand your desire to have them taste good. I feel much the same way, though I feel that there are many perennial vegetables up to the task. Some that I highly recommend and personally enjoy the flavour of (though I know tastes are different for everyone) and I think most of these should be able to survive in zone 4b:

Egyptian walking onions
potato onions
Elephant garlic
Giant Solomon's seal
Sea kale
Turkish rocket
Herbs of all sorts
Sorrel (French & Red veined - red is better for soups imo)
Air potato (I am not certain this one will survive there but I was seriously impressed with it. I added the potato like tubers to stews and no one even realised they were not Irish potatoes)
Jerusalem artichoke (sun choke)

The Egyptian walking onions are like tougher green onions, instead of adding them after cooking I add them just a minute before cooking is done with great results and I top all sorts of things with them. Potato onions do not taste exactly like regular onions to me, but it is hard to describe, maybe it is just a hint of garlic I taste? But I use them in place of normal onions and after cooking they seem virtually the same, they are a bit of a pain to prepare as they are small but I feel it a worth trade off to not be having to start new seedlings every year.

Elephant garlic, I could go on about the virtues of this plant at length. It is expensive to get started, however it is more than worth it in my opinion. I always made sure to keep note of how many I planted each year and try to double that many for the next year so I wouldn't eat all my stock. These work wonderfully at most stages as a normal leek. In their first year where you get a softball sized smooth allium I use them in any recipe that calls for both onions & garlic as the flavour is of both to me. And the second year you get a wonderful segmented bulb of garlic that has the easiest to peel, giant cloves. I love garlic, roasted, as pate, as a dip, in almost everything so this plant was magnificent for me. And you can cut the garlic scapes to use in stir fries!!! I cannot recommend this plant enough. Every year after I harvest and cure my garlic, I prepare the bed well, I do not dig  but I rake it out, add fresh compost, add a thick layer of mulch (very thick and these grow right through my rough midwest 6b winters) I pull back mulch every 12" to plant and then push the mulch back around the plant as it grows. I weed the bed once or twice during the year and that is it. I have never watered them or anything.

Giant Solomon's seal is very similar to asparagus, I cut off the emerging stalks and cut off the leaf tip part because I do not like it. I find it to be far more ornamental and prolific than asparagus. Also, the deer or something was always eating my asparagus, where they left this alone. I added them to stir fries, soups, or would have them by themselves. A lovely treat early in Spring.

Sea kale is very similar in taste to normal kale, it is to me a bit tougher, a bit stronger, but I just chop it up finely and saute it, toss it into my eggs, or stir fries, or wonderful in soups. Rachel Ray has a recipe for chicken cacciatore stoup which I use this in place of the spinach and it is a HUGE crowd pleaser. I do modify the recipe some but not much, and it is a great use of a stewing hen to boot. Use the youngest leaves for more tender milder flavour.

Turkish rocket grows these amazing little broccoli raabi shoots, strong mustard flavour, wonderful in stir fries. The leaves can be eaten too but can be a bit strong if someone is not a mustard lover, the youngest leaves are best. As far as I can tell, so long as you keep picking, it keeps making these wonderful little broccolis.

Herbs, who can live without a magnificent herb garden, these range wildly and I highly recommend anyone try every new herb they can get their hands on to find flavours they treasure.

Sorrel is a great salad green, it has a natural lemon tang and I often don't even bother to make a salad dressing when I have fresh young leaves to add to my salad. Older leaves and the red variety are best cooked like greens but still retain that lemony burst which is wonderful in eggs, soups, stir fries, etc.

Air potato - I had such a hard time finding this little fellow. Make absolutely sure you get the edible variety and not the poisonous variety. I do not remember where I got mine, may have been Oikos? It was a huge surprise though. The delicate vines with their heart shaped leaves were lovely and the potatoes have a thin skin that can be slightly bitter. I tried them sauteed in butter though and they were good. I put them whole into soups and stews and no one even realises they aren't Irish potatoes. And I didn't have to dig at all. I grew mine in home made wicking tubs from cattle mineral feeders my neighbour was throwing away. I planted them, watered once, mulched and then just let them climb the nearest tree. These can become a weed so I wanted to be careful. Mine never escaped to my knowledge, the tubers are decently well hidden from birds so it was just a matter of going out and picking them when I wanted to cook them. The vines died back on me every winter though so I am not certain how well they would do in zone 4b but I think they are worth a shot. Maybe they would need some protection. These were not my highest yielder but the best actual potato replacement I have found.

Jerusalem artichoke - I mostly grew these for my mother who  is diabetic but I would eat them too. They are not like a potato, but definitely a tuber earth like flavour is present. They are sweeter. I liked them best in place of or with potatoes in my curries, and soups. My mother loved them though and would eat them in everything. Just to show what a variation personal tastes can have. They were very pretty and once I got them established they were problem free and very pretty with their flowers.

I hope this helps, sorry for being so long winded, trying to explain tastes is hard and I am sure there are more these are just the ones I have experience with that I am pretty sure can be grown in 4b (except maybe air potato.... sorry if that one doesn't work out)
 
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I largely agree with you - though I love rhubarb. I even eat a stalk or two raw, pluck and chew, tart and wonderful. Perennial vegetables are more of a short seasoned novelty in my garden than a staple.

I have had some success with perennials that other cultures actually regularly eat. Chinese culture/cuisine has some good examples.

Do you like stir fries? Hosta shoots and unopened daylily flowers are both good in stir fries. Fiddleheads are tasty, though ephemeral. I like purchased bamboo shoots, so if it was a tiny bit warmer, would consider planting bamboo to eat. Grape leaves used to wrap meat or rice are delicious.

Walking onions are pretty pungent, and arent all that productive for me. Chives I make a lot of use of in the spring though.
 
Trace Oswald
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Aimee Hall wrote:I do understand your desire to have them taste good. I feel much the same way, though I feel that there are many perennial vegetables up to the task. Some that I highly recommend and personally enjoy the flavour of (though I know tastes are different for everyone) and I think most of these should be able to survive in zone 4b:...



Aimee, thanks for that.  It had some things that I will definitely try.  I do grow sunchokes, I just forgot to add them to the list.  I like them, but we haven't figured out a great way to prepare them yet.  Currently we roast them, but mine are kind of small and it's tedious trying to get the skin off them.

I do grow onions and garlic.  I guess I just never really considered them vegetables, because I use them for flavoring rather than as something that you can eat alone.  I love them both though, and eat lots.

Again, thanks for your in-depth post.  I've never grown elephant garlic, sorrel, Soloman's Seal, Turkish Rocket, air potato, ...  All sound like things I need to add to the food forest.  
 
Trace Oswald
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Catie George wrote:Perennial vegetables are more of a short seasoned novelty in my garden than a staple.



Catie, that sums it up pretty well for me.  I like daylily flowers, but my lady has other thoughts about me eating them.  Some strange idea that she likes to look at them :)  We grow hostas, but I've never eaten them.  We split a lot of them out this year, maybe I will get to try them in the spring.  We have fiddleheads galore here, but I've never eaten those either.  I do grow lots and lots of chives.  They are great, easy to grow producers here.
 
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Hawthorn and beach tree leaves taste pretty good in early summer, once they go from bright green to dark green they are not worth anything anymore. Nettles do taste ok, I'm not keen on the "furryness" but it can be gotten round by blending. Reedmace Typha latifolia also tastes pretty good though the roots are not worth the chewing in my opinion.  if you want a strong flavour for a bowl of ramen style soup then ground elder is good, but it's not something I would want to eat a lot of.
 
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I'm with you on the rhubarb, Trace.

I just planted them this year so I'm not sure how they'll perform, but I got a couple things from store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org that seem promising.

One is homesteader's kaleidoscopic perennial kale grex and the other is Deitrich's wild broccoli raab, which is a self-seeding biennial.

In 20 years I've never successfully grown kale. No matter where I've been or what kind of soil, including my current place, the kale has always been stunted and covered in aphids. This grex is all big and beautiful with no aphids. Most of the best plants are big leaved collard types.

The raab is in pots to be planted out when it cools down a bit. The leaves are a little strong to eat them raw in large quantities, but they're nice cooked. Like turnip greens. A few plants went to seed this year, and raabs are tasty. I only ate one, though, cause I want the seeds.

I have a patch of the raab growing that I don't even remember planting. I must have sprinkled some around in random places before hedging my bets with some in pots. The random patch came up and thrived all summer under very challenging conditions.

IMG_20200819_071927627.jpg
kale grex
kale grex
IMG_20200819_071832221.jpg
raab in pot
raab in pot
 
Trace Oswald
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Jan White wrote:I'm with you on the rhubarb, Trace.

I just planted them this year so I'm not sure how they'll perform, but I got a couple things from store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org that seem promising.

One is homesteader's kaleidoscopic perennial kale grex and the other is Deitrich's wild broccoli raab, which is a self-seeding biennial.

In 20 years I've never successfully grown kale. No matter where I've been or what kind of soil, including my current place, the kale has always been stunted and covered in aphids. This grex is all big and beautiful with no aphids. Most of the best plants are big leaved collard types.

The raab is in pots to be planted out when it cools down a bit. The leaves are a little strong to eat them raw in large quantities, but they're nice cooked. Like turnip greens. A few plants went to seed this year, and raabs are tasty. I only ate one, though, cause I want the seeds.

I have a patch of the raab growing that I don't even remember planting. I must have sprinkled some around in random places before hedging my bets with some in pots. The random patch came up and thrived all summer under very challenging conditions.



That kale is beautiful.  I'm going to try to track some donw.

I had never heard of Deitrich's wild broccoli raab.
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

I am planting a lot more things like spinach that I can let go to seed.  I do have lambsquarters and dandelions growing, but I don't really eat them.  I've never tried cooking them, only eating them raw.  I can eat them, but I wouldn't say I enjoy them much.  I like purslane raw, but don't have it at my current land.



I do not like either dandelion or lamb's quarters raw, but love them cooked. In my opinion, lamb's quarter's is an improvement on spinach in most any recipe involving milk or cream.  Dandelion has a stronger bitter flavor, can substitute for other strong-flavored greens like mustard green.
 
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How about lovage? I use the stems as a replacement for celery, and the leaves are strong but very tasty (think more parsley than salad).

And it peeks first in my garden, and produces very generously for a long season (it's best in the spring, but keeps producing younger stems through the summer).

I also eat a lot of violet leaves in salads. Very mild taste, but it bulks up stronger-tasting greens in early spring.
 
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I'm on board with most of these, except rhubarb.  I've held the too-much-sugar theory myself for many years.  I don't make jam or jelly for the same reason.

And this year I've expanded into wild foods!  I, too, have been eating violets, dandelion (the flowers are sweet!), mallow, plantain, and of course all those berries that grow like weeds.  

Also this year, I've been trying to grow more perennial vegetables.  I have Caucasian Mountain Spinach seedlings, and tiny sea kale (crambe) plants.  Regarding the latter, I've read that one can eat the shoots like asparagus, and (like asparagus) it used to be common to cover the early spring shoots with a cloche to keep them in the dark, blanching them.  Then, the leaves are edible (and huge).  I haven't tried these vegetables yet because they're still babies, in August!  When it grows up, it has beautiful white flowers.  It was grown as an ornamental for generations, but fell out of favor for some reason.

I tried to grow Good King Henry, but I didn't realize I had to cold-stratify them.  That was the holdup with getting the Caucasian Mountain Spinach in the ground, too.  Next year for the Good King!

I'm also "arranging" for self-seeding with ground cherries, cilantro, kale and asparagus.  And I have discovered that the plants I am struggling to grow from seed are available from edibleacres.org.  I'm putting together an order for next spring.  Turkish rocket, Fuki, skirret, ramps . . . so many things to try.

We have been talking on the Aging Homesteader thread about accommodations to keep us home longer, and perennial (and self-seeding) vegetables are a part of my plan.  I love gardening, and I'm not trying to get out of it!  But having some food that doesn't require seed starting, transplanting, thinning, and all the rest seems brilliant.
 
Aimee Hall
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I probably eat way too many onions and garlic. I can eat onions that I have sauteed to caramelise (no sugar added!) and eat that as a meal, or just roasted garlic. When I was iving by myself meals were often very simple like that. It all balanced out throughout the day, just no need to get fancy for one. There are also perennial leeks out there that put babies out at the base that are worth looking into. I will be growing some here but I do not have the results to share yet.

I would love to hear how the Caucasian Mountain Spinach goes! I don't think it will grow here and I never could get my hands on it while I was in the states. I am glad to see the availability of perennial vegetables increasing. I imagine it is hard for companies to do because so many of us purchase our initial stock than make our own cuttings, etc and never buy again. Very hard for people who make their living on those annual seed sales and a bit of a niche market but I am very glad the interest is picking up enough for more places to carry them!

I get so excited talking about perennial vegetables though. I have very little time so I put a lot of time and effort into setting my systems up and getting them established so they can care for themselves while I am busy and that is something perennial vegetables thrive at. I do think it is a lot of trial and error finding the ones you like the taste of best. And if someone knows a good and easy way to skin those sun chokes, please share! I'd love to know too. =D Stay safe all!
 
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 I've held the too-much-sugar theory myself for many years.

Maybe not edible, but you might use tree leaves for dressing. In my country we have a recipe with fried orange tree leaves, search for "paparajotes". The leaf is not eaten, but the rest of the cake gets the flavour.
Also bay leaves in your pots.
Rosemary and thyme are perennials too, but I don't know if they can grow in your zone. (I have yet to get used to your way of zoning climates, since I usually say things like semi-arid warm mediterranean climate)
 
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Do you remember the Bill Mollison Permaculture video where the homesteader grew a palm tree next to a rock outcropping in Northern Washington?  It was two large boulders that were south facing.  The palm tree right up against it.  Well, I thought that you might experiment with Globe Artichoke.  I have a plant in my garden and I can't get rid of the thing !   Not that I want to.  I love artichokes.  The point was that it was hardier than anything else in my permaculture garden.
 
Aimee Hall
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Sepp Holzer also has amazing information about season extension/growing in demanding climates in his books. Very much worth a read, I have found that I have not regretted reading and trying everything I can learn about/think of because I am often pleasantly surprised when things work out better than expected. The flip side of that is to also not let any failures get you down. Best of luck and stay safe evereyone.
 
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I've been working at turning  the merely edible into the desirable.
My mulberries and grapes produce lots of leaves and little fruit.
Both have edible leaves,  but neither humans,  bunnies or chickens really like them.
So I'm drying them, making them into powder.
So far,  I've only used pinches in smoothies, but I'm planning on trying a pesto for over grains, adding them to salad dressing, baking with it, thickening soups etc.

I also harvested some grapes this year.
They are tiny,  sour and seedy.
I dried these as well, now they resemble peppercorns.
They are now extra crunchy and tart.
I'm calling them grapenuts and adding them to oatmeal.
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:I love the idea of growing and eating them, but the taste leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion.  Look at the number of times you see Linden tree leaves being touted as a vegetable.  I have to believe no one that adds them to a list has ever eaten one.  If you try them, you'll quickly finding out they taste like, well, a tree leaf, and they aren't a good substitute for any vegetable I ever ate.  

So, here is my question.  What perennial vegetable actually taste good enough to be a substitute for the roughly equivalent annual vegetable?  I'm in zone 4b, so that rules out a lot of things I can grow.  I have dozens of fruit trees and berry bushes planted in my food forest, but I would really like to have some perennial vegetables growing, short of the few things I have.  Currently I have asparagus and horseradish, and that is about it.  Any ideas of great tasting, cold hardy veggies?

Thank for your time.



I guess its all a matter of perspective. I happen to love linden tree leaves simply for the fact that they dont taste like much, at least compared to most of the wild edibles that grow in my area, which is also zone 4. Ive been getting more and more into foraging every year and you learn to appreciate slight bitterness, because that’s better than extremely bitter. I also eat rhubarb and cranberries raw without sugar. I grew up addicted to sugar and just came out of that fog 3-4 years ago. I really appreciate sour and tangy flavors now. They kind of cut through that sweet tooth like a knife.

I would recommend some foraging books by Samuel Thayer. He is from northern Wisconsin, which is also probably zone 4. His books A Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden have tons of information on edible perennials in the area, how to identify, prepare and enjoy them.
 
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I have to throw in a good word for mallow (malva sylvestris) as a perennial that ought to be in every cottage garden. Leaves are ever-bearing here in zone 7 Virginia, so I've picked young tasty ones even in the depths of winter. I imagine that in zone 4, you'd have a period without growth, but these plants are fantastically hardy and prolific reseeders, in case you get a bad year and lose some. The seeds are edible and can be added to soups (but I'd chop them up dry in a coffee grinder or food processor first), and the stem, leaves and roots are medicinal. The flowers are technically edible but not much nutritionally, they're just pretty on a salad. The more you harvest the leaves, the fewer flowers you'll get, but if you don't harvest the leaves, this plant grows about 4 feet tall in a fountain of little purple striped flowers. The stalk has a tendency to lodge in heavy winds if you let it get that tall, and then your salad is growing down next to the mud, so I recommend pruning the stalk periodically through the growing season.

Anyway, use the leaves of malva sylvestris like spinach. Raw in salad, but they really shine when blanched with a bit of oil or butter and some onions (mmmm!) or added to soup. One of the only greens that I actually enjoy (I'm a picky eater). Also the root, once it's big enough, is quite starchy and can be used as soup thickener. Nutritionally a great plant; it's famous for having kept people alive during famines.

I second the recommendation for Egyptian walking onions. The bulbs are edible but they do take a long time to get big enough; mostly we use the greens. I feel you can't have a big enough crop of them, so they're tucked into corners all over my garden.

Scarlet runner beans are a wonderful perennial! In your climate, though, you'll have to winterize their beds or dig up the rhizomes and bring them inside over winter. Happily, you can store a lot of rhizomes in a little space. They'll start growing earlier and produce more beans if you treat them this way instead of growing them as annuals (and the rhizomes will grow big enough to bother eating, too; they're nutritious as well).

Mashua might actually really like your summer climate, but just like with scarlet runners, you'll have to bring the rhizomes in before frost every year. They look like nasturtiums, so your flower-lovers in the family will appreciate them (and the scarlet runners, which are great hummingbird flowers), but they send climbing vines up a trellis. When they're done for the season, you dig up a mass of tubers that are similar to sunchokes.

Daylilies (the common species) are known for the edible flowers, though the unopened buds are actually much more nutritious (equivalent to green beans), but did you know that the rhizomes are edible, too? That way, those who wish to see the flowers won't be so upset about you consuming the buds. Just wait till blooming is done and harvest big rhizomes, replanting the little ones. You can also collect the dry spent flowers and store them dry as soup thickener, though that's the least nutritiously valuable option.

Sunchokes, ground nut and multiplier onions get lots of love on Permies so I will just add my thumbs-up and move on.

Hazelnut and chestnut trees, while not veggies, are important staple crop foods that are perennial, winter hardy, and can be pruned to fit your garden space. Hardy orange might be another good choice for your climate, though again, not a veggie and not tasty raw; best used for orange peel zest and orange fruit leather or preserves. Good for adding a bit of vitamin C to your morning porridge. By contrast, Rosa rugosa rose hips are tasty as fruit leather without needing much sugar and those are hardy in your area, too.

I think there are native cattails that grow in your zone, so you might want to check varieties. Cattails are surprisingly nutritious veggies & starches.

I recommend looking up what the native tribes cultivated or harvested in your region, if you can find that information. Don't accept the stupid modern wisdom they exclusively grew the 3 sisters, year after year; it's a lie. Here in Virginia, the wealth of foods they nurtured or even domesticated (like seed chenopods) is impressive, and there are a considerable number of perennials in that list, but our climate is quite different from yours so... See if you can find out. There may be cool local perennials grown for roots or shoots that you've never eaten or even heard of.

Have fun with the perennial garden and keep an eye out for when the perennial black oilseed sunflowers are available for sale! The Land Trust, I think, is developing those right now and I'm very excited for that!
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Mallow (malva sylvestris)
Mallow (malva sylvestris)
 
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Location: PA, zone 6a
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Udo (Aralia cordata) can be used for shoots and grows pretty well. Should be hardy in zones 3- 9. Aralia racemosa has some edible qualities as well. Cryptotaenia canadensis is edible, shoots, young leaves - zones 4-8. Cryptotaenia japonica pretty much the same. Marsh Mallow (Althea officinalis) is edible, roots are a bit too sugary for me - but the leaves are edible, hairy though. Malva sylvestris - zone 4-8. Phaseolus polystachios is a perennial in zones 5-9 or 6-9 pretty much a really small bean. Organic mulch might overwinter them in the ground in zone 4. Its a wild plant so there are probably hardier types as well. Apios americana - zone 3-7 shoots flowers, seeds and tubers are edible. There are other edible Apios species, but americana seems to be easier to obtain. Grape leaves are edible as well. Bakercreek sells malva sylvestris as zebrina, and also sells marsh mallow. Experimental farm network sells Phaseolus polystachios. Prairie moon nursery sells Phaseolus polystachios as well, might be different types - they also sell some other wild edibles - Cryptotaenia canadensis and Aralia racemosa and many others. I believe there are some better tasting wild species of rhubarb - but you can't really obtain them outside of Europe. Also believe there are some wild perennial ground cherries that should work in zone 4, pretty annoying/hard to get though. Oh yeah Cultivariable is selling Horse Radish and a few other perennials. Could check them out.  Some others mentioned Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis) - it is pretty hardy and grows well, but it can form colonies and take over if you aren't careful. So a word of caution there. A lot of the plants I listed can "naturalize" as well. I tend to enjoy having edible plants like that.
 
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some good tasting decent yielding zone 4 perennials

mitsuba, a celery like gourmet used in japan
caucasian spinach, vine thats tasty raw or cooked
Bunias orientalis, has broccoli like florets
Blonde de Lyon Sorrel, a gourmet sorrel variety used in french cuisine to make sorrel soup, pleasant lemony flavor
Opuntia humifusa, makes decent nopales, a very cold hardy cactus
salad burnet, with succulent leaves and a cucumber flavor, good for salads
Claytonia sibirica, has very tender leaves with a beet flavor
Good king henry, a close relative to quinoa, has oxalates but is quite good
udo, a japanese delicacy, the variety 'sun king' is quite hardy
shallots, not all are hardy but some varieties are
Dioscorea batatas, potatoes that grow on vines!
Phyllostachys aureosulcata, has tender bamboo shoots, and is at least root hardy in zone 4
hops, good for beer, but the shoots are also delicious
Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) has an edamame like seed
scotch elm (Ulmus glabra) supposedly have a quite nice edible seed
American olive (Chionanthus virginicus), not a lot of info on this one, but is supposedly used to make an olive substitute and is in the same family as Mediterranean olives
Japanese angelica (Aralia elata), another eastern delicacy

theres many more but these are just some of the interesting/tasty/productive ones

 
Aimee Hall
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Those are some great species to look into I had not heard of, thank you C.! I think an edamame substitute would be an amazing asset! And those that I mentioned are your list, I definitely agree with the tasty part for sure!

Have you had any luck in your search Trace? Now is a great time to get many perennials established as seedlings if possible for Spring planting!
 
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