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Top perennial veg suggestions

 
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Hi all, my main post is here: https://permies.com/t/154597/Garden-Scratch-ADVICE

But I have a specific question... I want to include some perennial veg in my garden, particularly ones that are not just salad leaves (salad is fine but I don't want to eat it all the time!), what would your top perennial veg suggestions be? For context I live in south England. Half of my garden gets good light, the other half less so, but it's not very shady either.

Thanks!
 
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I'd recommend asparagus; except I don't know how it does in England.
 
G Prentice
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John Indaburgh wrote:I'd recommend asparagus; except I don't know how it does in England.



Thank you. Yes, asparagus is one I've been thinking about - unless anyone tells me that it won't work in my location.
 
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It will do fine Asparagus grows all over the country, it even grows wild near the sea in the south. The only issue is it takes a lot of space to get much of a yield.

Looking a bit bigger, how about a nut tree, hazelnuts are probably the smallest and take well to trimming. You'll still need to allow for a 4m Ø and nothing much will grow under them. It is better to have 2 trees but there may be others in the area anyway.

If you have a flower meadow instead of a lawn, crow garlic, silver weed and pig nuts would be nice if slow growing additions.
 
G Prentice
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Skandi Rogers wrote:It will do fine Asparagus grows all over the country, it even grows wild near the sea in the south. The only issue is it takes a lot of space to get much of a yield.

Looking a bit bigger, how about a nut tree, hazelnuts are probably the smallest and take well to trimming. You'll still need to allow for a 4m Ø and nothing much will grow under them. It is better to have 2 trees but there may be others in the area anyway.

If you have a flower meadow instead of a lawn, crow garlic, silver weed and pig nuts would be nice if slow growing additions.




Thanks. I'll have a think about the asparagus space issue as I don't have a lot of space left for food crops. I have some hazels in my new hedge, but it will take time for them to start producing nuts (although I'm not sure how well they produce nuts in a hedge).
 
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G Prentice wrote:


Thanks. I'll have a think about the asparagus space issue as I don't have a lot of space left for food crops. I have some hazels in my new hedge, but it will take time for them to start producing nuts (although I'm not sure how well they produce nuts in a hedge).



That's going to depend on the hedge! I planted 30 trees last year as a windbreak hedge, (I have 3 mature stools already) but my hedge will be allowed to get nearly 8meters thick and 5m high.  If you can abstain from trimming some of the hazels each year you'll probably be able to get some nuts from those ones each year.
 
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Rhubarb, horseradish, golden fennel, artichoke and perennial kale are a few perennials I planted in my food forest.  Hope that helps!
 
G Prentice
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

G Prentice wrote:


Thanks. I'll have a think about the asparagus space issue as I don't have a lot of space left for food crops. I have some hazels in my new hedge, but it will take time for them to start producing nuts (although I'm not sure how well they produce nuts in a hedge).



That's going to depend on the hedge! I planted 30 trees last year as a windbreak hedge, (I have 3 mature stools already) but my hedge will be allowed to get nearly 8meters thick and 5m high.  If you can abstain from trimming some of the hazels each year you'll probably be able to get some nuts from those ones each year.



My hedge will probably only get to 2.5m high due to neighbour issues. But it's less than 1m at the moment, so I won't need to worry about the height limit yet! I won't need to cut the hazels every year, so perhaps I'll get some nuts. One thing I do have in my favour is that there aren't any squirrels near my garden, so I might actually get to keep some of them if they do grow :)
 
G Prentice
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Joshua LeDuc wrote:Rhubarb, horseradish, golden fennel, artichoke and perennial kale are a few perennials I planted in my food forest.  Hope that helps!



Thanks!
 
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Lovage (wild celery) is certainly one of my hardest working perennials. It replaces celery in most dishes, the leaves can be used like parsley, the seeds can be used as a spice.

It's the first thing to come out of the ground in the spring and it will produce A LOT all summer (the largest stalks get too tough, but there are always smaller ones at the shady base).

As an added bonus, the stalks freeze very well and the leaves can be dried easily (even without a dehydrator - I just hang them in a cool dry place and use them all winter long in stews and stocks). And the flowers attract lots of pollinators. The only thing not to love about lovage is that you might get too much of it (but it's not invasive)
 
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Kena Landry wrote:Lovage (wild celery) is certainly one of my hardest working perennials. It replaces celery in most dishes, the leaves can be used like parsley, the seeds can be used as a spice.

It's the first thing to come out of the ground in the spring and it will produce A LOT all summer (the largest stalks get too tough, but there are always smaller ones at the shady base).

As an added bonus, the stalks freeze very well and the leaves can be dried easily (even without a dehydrator - I just hang them in a cool dry place and use them all winter long in stews and stocks). And the flowers attract lots of pollinators. The only thing not to love about lovage is that you might get too much of it (but it's not invasive)



Thanks - Lovage sounds like a contender!
 
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Japanese yams might work for you. Sunroots (Jerusalem Artichokes) are a popular root option. Garlic or Elephant Garlic can be perennial.

I bet the similar threads at the bottom of this will also give you some good ideas too.
 
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I'm SE england.

Rhubarb is fantastic for me. Mulch it well each winter.

Globe artichokes - Low yield in our climate, but I get a few meals each year from a dozen or so plants.

Jerusalem artichoke - not exactly perennial, but ones you establish a patch you won't get rid of them. The resprout from the tubers each year.  About the only perennial crop that provides meaningful calories. Shop around for varieties with large tubers of smooth shape. Small bumpy ones are a pain to work with in the kitchen. I have had a lot of success fermenting them. My best was with a curry powder. Crisp, crunchy and refreshing.

 
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L. Johnson wrote:Japanese yams might work for you. Sunroots (Jerusalem Artichokes) are a popular root option. Garlic or Elephant Garlic can be perennial.

I bet the similar threads at the bottom of this will also give you some good ideas too.



Thanks!
 
G Prentice
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Michael Cox wrote:I'm SE england.

Rhubarb is fantastic for me. Mulch it well each winter.

Globe artichokes - Low yield in our climate, but I get a few meals each year from a dozen or so plants.

Jerusalem artichoke - not exactly perennial, but ones you establish a patch you won't get rid of them. The resprout from the tubers each year.  About the only perennial crop that provides meaningful calories. Shop around for varieties with large tubers of smooth shape. Small bumpy ones are a pain to work with in the kitchen. I have had a lot of success fermenting them. My best was with a curry powder. Crisp, crunchy and refreshing.



Thanks! Will a sunny position increase the yield of the globe artichokes much? Space is a limitation for me, so I can’t plant lots of them.
 
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Probably. I get half a dozen small heads per year from each plant I think. I don't get the huge globes, but they are a fun treat and full of flavour. I neglect them, so getting any heads at all always surprises me. I usually lose a couple of plants each winter (rot? our soil is very damp), but they make babies that can be easily split off and replanted.

I gave up on asparagus. Every time I tried them they limped along for a year or so, then died off. They seem to get nibbled by everything, so don't set good roots in the first few years. And in our location any that do survive get swamped by the bindweed.

Personally I would down play the veg in our region and focus on fruit, as our region is especially well suited to it. I have three rows of berry bushes (redcurrant, blackcurrant, gooseberry), fruit trees. They fruit prolifically, and I am expecting this year (year 3 since establishing them) to be my best year yet. Probably 1/3 of my growing area is given to perennials and 2/3 to annuals.

My main annual crops have been pumpkins, beans (green, runner), spinach, courgette, leeks, welsh onions (nearly perennial, if you keep dividing them), beetroot. Outdoor tomatoes have been highly variable - I had a great first year, but wet cool summers since then. I'm going to try again this year.

Potatoes have been a bit rubbish. We always have slug problems, and I don't like using pellets to protect the local hedgehog population.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:Probably. I get half a dozen small heads per year from each plant I think. I don't get the huge globes, but they are a fun treat and full of flavour. I neglect them, so getting any heads at all always surprises me. I usually lose a couple of plants each winter (rot? our soil is very damp), but they make babies that can be easily split off and replanted.

I gave up on asparagus. Every time I tried them they limped along for a year or so, then died off. They seem to get nibbled by everything, so don't set good roots in the first few years. And in our location any that do survive get swamped by the bindweed.

Personally I would down play the veg in our region and focus on fruit, as our region is especially well suited to it. I have three rows of berry bushes (redcurrant, blackcurrant, gooseberry), fruit trees. They fruit prolifically, and I am expecting this year (year 3 since establishing them) to be my best year yet. Probably 1/3 of my growing area is given to perennials and 2/3 to annuals.

My main annual crops have been pumpkins, beans (green, runner), spinach, courgette, leeks, welsh onions (nearly perennial, if you keep dividing them), beetroot. Outdoor tomatoes have been highly variable - I had a great first year, but wet cool summers since then. I'm going to try again this year.

Potatoes have been a bit rubbish. We always have slug problems, and I don't like using pellets to protect the local hedgehog population.



Thanks! I've got the fruit covered, that's why I'm starting to think about veg. I'm going to do some annuals in raised planters. My priority this year is establishing ground cover to suppress the weeds, but hoping to plant some perennials, too. The hedges and fruit bushes are already planted - looking forward to seeing them come to life in spring :)
 
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Skirret is one I'd like to try once I figure out a good spot for it.

Good King Henry shoots can supposedly be used like asparagus. I only planted mine last year, so I haven't tried it that way yet. I tried a few leaves and the flavour was good but the oxalic acid was very strong for me, so I'm skeptical I'll use it much. Maybe it'll produce enough seeds to use those for something.

Daylilies.
 
G Prentice
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Jan White wrote:Skirret is one I'd like to try once I figure out a good spot for it.

Good King Henry shoots can supposedly be used like asparagus. I only planted mine last year, so I haven't tried it that way yet. I tried a few leaves and the flavour was good but the oxalic acid was very strong for me, so I'm skeptical I'll use it much. Maybe it'll produce enough seeds to use those for something.

Daylilies.



Thanks! I've added them to the list :)
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

G Prentice wrote:
Thanks. I'll have a think about the asparagus space issue as I don't have a lot of space left for food crops. I have some hazels in my new hedge, but it will take time for them to start producing nuts (although I'm not sure how well they produce nuts in a hedge).



That's going to depend on the hedge! I planted 30 trees last year as a windbreak hedge, (I have 3 mature stools already) but my hedge will be allowed to get nearly 8meters thick and 5m high.  If you can abstain from trimming some of the hazels each year you'll probably be able to get some nuts from those ones each year.



Hazels, for nut production, are usually planted with more spacing than in hedgerows. This is mostly, I believe, to deter squirrels as they will eat your entire crop. Squirrels don't like crossing open ground when they can avoid it so having a spacing too wide for squirrels to jump/cross in the canopy will help your yield.

Ben Law, in his book "Woodsman", talks about the hazel plantations in Sussex and Kent in this way. He also mentions the distinction between Cob and Filbert-type nuts (which was new to me) and also how the hazel can be "brutted" to increase nut production. I've quoted a passage below:

When I first cut the derelict orchard, or 'platt', as a cob nut orchard is often called, it was a matter of cutting back thick, overgrown stems and reshaping the cob nut trees to form a goblet shape. The re-growth is then 'brutted' (snapped so that the branch is stressed and left to hang, still well attached to the mother tree by the fibers that are so strong in hazel wood). These goblet-shaped trees then produce an abundance of nuts. Commercially, most cob nut orchards are grown well away from woodland, in areas where squirrels are less likely to risk crossing open pasture to reach the delicious nuts dangling from the 'brutted' trees.(

 
Michael Cox
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G Prentice wrote:

My priority this year is establishing ground cover to suppress the weeds, but hoping to plant some perennials, too.



I found in our climate that ground cover plantings quickly turn to grass. Grass rapidly impacts the vigour of fruit trees and perennials planted through it. My strategy now is to deep mulch perennial areas with woodchips, and maintain them via spot weeding. Then till beds for annual planting and top dress them with well rotted woodchip/chicken manure mulch from our chicken coop.
 
G Prentice
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Michael Cox wrote:

G Prentice wrote:

My priority this year is establishing ground cover to suppress the weeds, but hoping to plant some perennials, too.



I found in our climate that ground cover plantings quickly turn to grass. Grass rapidly impacts the vigour of fruit trees and perennials planted through it. My strategy now is to deep mulch perennial areas with woodchips, and maintain them via spot weeding. Then till beds for annual planting and top dress them with well rotted woodchip/chicken manure mulch from our chicken coop.



I used carboard mulch to remove the existing grass over about 9 months, but I know the battle will restart once spring kicks in. I have dug up a lot of the rhizomes of the couch grass but I imagine a significant percentage is still there. I'll probably end up mulching around plants with bark chips.
 
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I've just seen your post about not having any squirrels nearby - lucky you!

As for perennial veg, I've grown perennial kale (Taunton Deane), Babbington's leeks and Egyptian walking onions very successfully. The first two have the additional advantage of being natives.

Another two Alliums to try are wild garlic (you can buy the tubers online or find a landower to let you dig them up - they are great in a shady spot such as the bottom of your hedgerow) and three-cornered leek (be careful with this one, it grows rampantly all over the SW - I foraged it extensively whilst living in Bristol).
 
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How about sea kale?
 
G Prentice
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Thanks for those - added to the list!

I like the idea of putting the wild garlic at the bottom of my hedge on the shady side of the garden.

Pretty sure I'll give sea kale a go, too.
 
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Jan White wrote:Skirret is one I'd like to try once I figure out a good spot for it.

Good King Henry shoots can supposedly be used like asparagus. I only planted mine last year, so I haven't tried it that way yet. I tried a few leaves and the flavour was good but the oxalic acid was very strong for me, so I'm skeptical I'll use it much. Maybe it'll produce enough seeds to use those for something.

Daylilies.



Skirret roots are really tasty, but a pain to clean. I gather the new shoots in spring are edible, so I was going to try them as a green this year.

Good king henry is a bit bitter. I quite like it as a 'green' though in moderation. What I do like about it here is that it makes a very good groundcover and will happily grow in shade and keep weeds down. I use it for this (along with sweet ciceley (myrris odorata) - just as ground cover as much as anything.

One that hasn't been mentioned is scorzonera, the roots are edible, but it is perennial and in the daisy familiy. The leaves and flowers scapes are edible and the flowers are quite pretty too - like large long stemmed dandelions. Have you tried Hosta? Solomons' seal? I do like how the perennial veg are so pretty too!
 
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I've tried, really tried, to come up with good perennial vegetables, but I have all but given up.  I have the standards, asparagus, horseradish, walking onions, but I've come to realize that, for me at least, there is no real substitute for annual vegetables.  I've decided that seed saving and planting my own annuals is far, far, better than trying to come up with perennial substitutes that fall short of being as good as annuals in almost every category.  The more time I spend thinking about it, the less I even care.  Saving seeds is generally fun and easy.  Planting enough seeds to grow many times more vegetables than my family can eat takes very little time.  Heavy mulch takes care of most other issues.  For me, the extra time and effort to grow annuals is very much worth it for the tradeoff of high yields, huge variety, and much better taste in almost every case.  I haven't given up entirely and I will still look for good tasting perennials that grow here, but I'm far less concerned about it than I used to be.
 
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Other than berries and fruit, the only truly perennial veg we grow are nesting type onions and chives, (that we consume almost daily) lemongrass and artichokes.
 We do have several vegetables that reseed good enough that we need only weed and water. sweet potatoes come up in the patch heavily every year.(we leave the small ones in ground).
Malabar spinach, everglades tomatoes..(you cant kill those things off), turmeric and ginger.
I am starting dandelions and purslane this year to see if I can get it established in an isolated area.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote: Solomons' seal? I do like how the perennial veg are so pretty too!



How about Day lilies, mallow, houseleeks also edible and pretty. Even hogweed is quite nice to eat. (the standard one not giant hogweed)

I thought that solomons seal was poisonous, we have some but I've only ever considered it to have medicinal value.  My book notes it as a duretic that can be used at low doses and for short times, it has an extra note on the berries being poisonous. I'm wondering if this is again many different plants coming under the same common name. The one mentioned in the book is Angular solomans seal Polygonatum odoratum Which is native to the UK and Europe not the USA. I can find sites that say solomons seal is edible if boiled in 3 changes of water and ones that say it's edible raw. and ones that flat out say it's poisonous of course websites are very bad at putting their sources.
 
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Thanks, everyone. Some really useful suggestions and comments. I've got quite a long list already, but if anyone thinks of any more feel free to post them here - I'll sit down soon and go through them all and see what might work with the areas of the garden that I have available for planting.

I checked my Martin Crawford forest garden book and there is no mention of Solomon's Seals being poisonous (and hopefully he knows what he's talking about - if he doesn't I will be very ill or dead by the summer because I've used his book a lot in my plans!). He mentions various Polygonatum but P. odoratum is included so apparently it is okay to eat (he says the shoots taste good). He did also say that the young plants are vulnerable to slugs, so I'll have to plant them out when they get bigger.
 
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I think  the flavour of Solomons seal varies quite a lot. It is the young shoots that you can eat. I have tried them a few times, and haven't got the preparation right yet. I can taste a really nice pea like flavour, but a bitter overtaste is still masking it too much for the 'husband test'*
Whether it is growing conditions, maturity, variety or the preparation process I'm not sure.

*Do we eat that again?
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:I think  the flavour of Solomons seal varies quite a lot. It is the young shoots that you can eat. I have tried them a few times, and haven't got the preparation right yet. I can taste a really nice pea like flavour, but a bitter overtaste is still masking it too much for the 'husband test'*
Whether it is growing conditions, maturity, variety or the preparation process I'm not sure.

*Do we eat that again?



Maybe a water change is called for then, that often removes bitterness, I'll have to try mine this year, I've not paid them much attention other than noting that it's present.
 
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i’ve mostly cooked giant solomon’s seal (P. biflorum) young shoots (up to ~18”)  without any water changes - actually sautéing with no boiling…the leafy tips of the shoots are the bitter part, at least on this species. the stems are much sweeter and milder. i like a bit of bitterness in foods from time to time, so i don’t mind it, but i reckon you’d have a fair bit of vegetable left if you wanted to remove the bitter part before cooking.
 
Luke Mitchell
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Location: Pembrokeshire, UK
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Perennial kale is delicious. I recently foraged sea kale for the first time and perennial kale is quite similar (the old leaves are tough but the young leaves delicious). Sea kale felt a little saltier. As a bonus, chickens love the older leaves that may not make the cut for the human plate!
 
Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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Around here, false Solomon's seal, Maianthemum racemosum, is what's eaten as an asparagus substitute. The young stalks are tasty, with, to me, a bit of a mild, musky garlic flavour. If you can find any berries before the birds eat them, they're like a maraschino cherry - but without the gross waxy texture and oversweetness.
 
Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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The perennial kale I grow is from experimental farm network. It's just regular kale, but it will produce seed and continue to grow afterwards. There's a lot of genetic variation in it, but at least some of the plants are quite hardy. We had a two or three week cold snap where temperatures were regularly -18C, down to -20 a couple times. Now the snow's melting and the kale is visible again - and doing just fine. Well, it was until my puppy ate it 🙄
 
Posts: 39
Location: SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS, CA
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This is one of my favorite topics!  The game I'm playing on my homestead is to find a delicious perennial substitute for every annual veggie.  Many nice ones have been mentioned.  In your climate, I'd also suggest runner beans as a wonderful perennial bean.  You can eat the young pods as green beans, the fresh beans as a shelled bean, and let them dry as the most delicious dried bean you've ever eaten.  Even the root is edible!  I've attached a photo of a root I dug up last season and the beautiful dried beans.  If you mulch the roots, they will often perennialize.  
runnerbeanroots-2.jpg
runner-bean-perennial-edible-root
runnerbeanseeds_1024x1024-2x.png
runner-bean-seeds-coloured
 
G Prentice
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Location: South coast of England
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Christy Garner wrote:This is one of my favorite topics!  The game I'm playing on my homestead is to find a delicious perennial substitute for every annual veggie.  Many nice ones have been mentioned.  In your climate, I'd also suggest runner beans as a wonderful perennial bean.  You can eat the young pods as green beans, the fresh beans as a shelled bean, and let them dry as the most delicious dried bean you've ever eaten.  Even the root is edible!  I've attached a photo of a root I dug up last season and the beautiful dried beans.  If you mulch the roots, they will often perennialize.  



Interesting! Are you talking about the normal runner beans that lots of gardeners grow as an annual? I didn't think that they could be perennial. Do you just leave them in the ground at the end of the summer and mulch around the base of the plants?

With the dry beans do you literallly just dry them and then eat them without any further cooking/preparation?
 
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Good King Henry aka Lincolnshire Asparagus is a keeper.  Greens in the early spring, then eating it like asparagus and then a grain in the Fall.  When we sold it at market there were folks that liked it more than traditional asparagus.  Never tried to harvest it as grain but I have read it was done way back when.  It is easy to propogate by splitting in Spring.

Another would be sorrel.  If you are in England you may not be able to get the profusion variety which is only available from Richters in Canada.  Never bolts even in the hottest summer and once again very easy to propogate.  

Ramps are only available in Spring but another one that spreads easily and reliable.  Here in Maine they are ready in early April.  Nature knows you are ready for a cleanse.  Tough to grow from seeds.  The plants will become available on ebay in March.  A pound of plants will get you a nice bed started.

Cheers
 
Nancy Reading
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G Prentice wrote:

Interesting! Are you talking about the normal runner beans that lots of gardeners grow as an annual? I didn't think that they could be perennial. Do you just leave them in the ground at the end of the summer and mulch around the base of the plants?

With the dry beans do you literallly just dry them and then eat them without any further cooking/preparation?



I've had runner beans overwinter in my polytunnel in a mild winter. I suspect you'd generally need to dig them up and replant like a dahlia or Yacon in the UK. it's usually a bit damp in winter and the roots would probably rot off - otherwise they'd be resprouting in allotments everywhere! I wasn't aware that  the root was edible, apparently the young leaves are too which I learnt recently! This really is a great plant isn't it? I'm going to have another go at growing them this year. Although they don't like it too hot and need pollinators so don't like it too windy, they're just such great plants and I love the green beans too.
I had heard that the dried beans need boiling like kidney beans. That's what pfaf says too:  pfaf on runner beans
 
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