The New Home Economics

Book review: Perennial Vegetables

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Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles
By: Eric Toensmeier

perennial_vegHere’s another recent library book that I breezed through pretty quickly.  Why such a quick read?  Once again, much of the information within does not pertain to the frozen tundra on which we live.

I’m really glad I got back into getting books from the library instead of buying them in the past few years, because many gardening books in particular are not really written for us northern gardeners.  This problem has been well-documented elsewhere so I won’t whine any further about it.

Fortunately there were a couple of gems here, such as a list of good perennial vegetables for each climate (even mine):

Welsh onion
ramps
garlic chives
groundnut
udo
asparagus (check that one off, already have it)
Turkish rocket
good king Henry
chicory
sea kale
jinenjo
Chinese yam
wood nettle
lovage
water celery
fuki
pokeweed
giant Soloman’s seal
French sorrel (and several other kinds of sorrel)
scorzonera
skirret
Chinese artichoke, sunchoke
dandelion (I’ve got lots of these too!)
linden
nettles

I read through the plant profiles of each of these and narrowed it down based on a couple of criteria:  1) how fussy is this to grow?  and 2) how much do you have to do it before you can eat it?  is harvesting it a pain in the butt?  and 3) does it taste good enough to be well worth #1 and #2?

Here’s my narrowed-down list of things I’d like to try:
Sorrel: tangy edible leaves in a cute little bush form (I recently tasted some and thought it was really good), can be eaten raw or cooked
Good King Henry (maybe): edible asparagus-like shoots
Scorzonera (also known as salsify): edible leaves that can be eaten raw or lightly blanched.
Sunchoke: kinda like a giant sunflower with tuberous roots like potatoes
Ramps: a shade-loving onion also known as wild leeks, apparently they can be found fairly easily in the wild
Lovage (maybe): Toensmeier describes it as “a gigantic perennial celery” that is best-tasting after being cooked.

I’ve had sunchokes before, and they are quite good.  They’re a root vegetable that you cook like a potato, but they are smoother and have a nice flavor.  However.  A word of warning: they contain inulin, which most of us are not really accustomed to in our modern diet.  Any plant that has it should be eaten in very small quantities at a time or you will suffer painful gaseous consequences.  I speak from experience.

My first challenge is going to be finding someone local who sells these plants, and my second is going to be finding a place to grow these, since I don’t have many sunny spots left in my yard.  Fortunately most of them tolerate part shade so I’m going to see how far I can push that.  I can’t wait to start my garden plan for 2010.  But I’m not going to get around to that until about January.  For now, I will continue to enjoy my current fresh edibles (just picked last night):

justpicked4 quarts of raspberries!  We are having a bumper crop this year.

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One thought on “Book review: Perennial Vegetables

  1. those raspberries look wonderful!! what a treat!

    oh btw, tonight at the lagoon there is a free screening of Food, Inc. at 7:30. i know you have already seen it, but thought you might want to pass it along.

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