Perennial Edibles

Perennial crops bear a delectable harvest year after year without replanting.

By Ellen Ecker Ogden

Photography by Rob Cardillo

perrenial edibles are a tasty treat
No matter how early the garden is planted, the time between sowing seeds and the first harvest seems interminable. That's why I cultivate perennial edibles, many of which are ready to eat earlier in the growing season than annual crops. The rosy knobs of rhubarb, for example, push through the soil just as I'm sowing pea seeds. Like a well-synchronized orchestra, lovage and other perennial herbs emerge in tune with the asparagus, one of the first vegetables of spring. The tiny white flowers of alpine strawberries above shiny green foliage are a sign that this sweet taste of spring is near.
A wide range of perennial edibles—vegetables, herbs, and fruits—is available to the gardener. Because of their permanence, perennials benefit from careful soil preparation. But once the plants are well established in the garden, they spring to life each year, heralding good things to eat and becoming the part of the kitchen garden that never stops giving. As you plan your spring garden, consider allocating some ground to the four hardy perennial plants that follow. They are both ornamental and productive and are mainstays of my Vermont kitchen garden in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4.