While most fruits and herbs are perennial, most vegetables are annuals, sown and harvested within one growing season. However some vegetable plants are perennial – planted once, they will provide crops year after year.
Discover easy-care crops to grow.
Growing perennial veg is often described as lower maintenance than annual veg – there’s no frenzy of sowing, pricking out and transplanting in spring, and plant require less pampering in terms of watering and feeding. Together, they produce their crops over a long period, especially during in the ‘hungry gap’ in late spring, as well as from late autumn into winter. They are generally robust plants that stand up well to pests and diseases.
Perennial vegetables can be beautiful, too, making them a good addition to a border as well as to the veg garden. Here are some perennial veg to try.
Expensive in the shops, asparagus is a real treat in May – picked and eaten fresh, it’s hard to beat. Asparagus is ready to harvest two years after planting one-year-old crowns, but it’s worth the wait – and established asparagus plants will provide an annual crop of tasty spears for up to 20 years.
Discover how to plant and grow asparagus.
Jerusalem artichokes are relatives of the sunflower, and produce cheery yellow flowers late in the season, which are popular with pollinators and make good cut flowers, too. They are grown for their tubers, which can be harvested in from November onwards and eaten raw or cooked. Plant tubers in March or April and plant into well-prepared soil, 15cm deep and 30cm apart. Give them plenty of space – they can reach 3m tall and any tubers left in the ground will produce large plants the following year.
Globe artichokes are architectural plants, with large, grey leaves. They look great at the back of the border as well as the veg patch. The flowerheads, cut before they open, are delicious. Watch our video guide to planting globe artichokes.
Egyptian walking onion
This unusual plant ‘walks’ around your veg plot. At the the end of a leaf stalk, at the top of the plant, a cluster of bulblets grows, called bulbils, sets or topsets. As the stems dry out they fall over and, if the soil conditions are right, the fallen bulbils take root and grow into new plants. The original plant will produce a shallot-like bulb that, if left unharvested, will divide into several more. During its first year a plant may not produce any bulbils, but will produce top growth that you can snip and use as you would chives.
The long, skinny roots of skirret taste like a cross between a carrot and a parsnip, with a hint of pepper. Sow from seed or plant a one-year old crown; the roots may be a little woody in the first year, but will be sweet and tasty from then on. In summer the plant produces heads of lacy white flowers which are popular with bees and butterflies. In autumn, harvest some roots for eating and leave the rest to grow on into new plants. Incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting and water and feed generously. Eat raw or fried or in a soup.