Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review: Perennial Vegetables


Perennial Vegetables 
by Eric Toensmeier

First, let me define Perennial Vegetables (based on the definition from the book).  Perennial here means any plant that lives for at least 3 years and is not killed by the harvest.  Plants include herbaceous species as well as trees, shrubs, bulbs, cacti, bamboos, grasses, and vines.  These plants are used in a way the common person would consider as a vegetable.  The author did not include "novelty" plants or herbs for flavoring but only plants that can be considered a real food source.

I have some real likes and dislikes about this book.

I'll start with what I don't like.  This book outlines 100 perennial vegetables for United States gardeners.  However, unless you live in the far south of the U.S., only about a third of these plants will be truly perennial for you.  All the others will need to be grown as annuals.  So, in a sense, this book doesn't deliver as well as the marketing would have you believe.  However, I do think the main reason for this is that there are just not that many Temperate Climate perennial vegetables.

With that said, over 30 plants (other than asparagus) that can be grown as perennial vegetables is outstanding!  The other two-thirds of the plants that can be grown as annuals are also great. There is good information on the growing of these plants along with how to use them in your kitchen.

In Permaculture, diversity is one of the keys to success.  The addition of many of these plants will provide increased diversity to your garden and your table.  While I was hoping for a bit more, this book is really the first of its kind and a good read at that.

Here are a couple of the plants highlighted that really piqued my interest.  You may have heard of some of them before, but most people do not know you can grow them in your garden or Forest Garden.

Skirret (Sium sisarum)
Root Crop
Similar to a carrot, but you can harvest some of the roots and the plant keeps growing.

Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis) - this is not arugula!
Fresh/cooked greens, flowerbuds (like broccoli raab)
I've had this while in Turkey, and it has a strong flavor

Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)
Shoots, leaves, flowerbuds

Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
Greens
An Appalachian favorite.

Japanese Yams (Dioscorea japonica)
Tubers, shoots (like asparagus)
This plant has small arial tubers that are edible, too!

Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Shoots (called "fiddleheads)
A New England forager's delicacy.

1 comment:

  1. for temperate climate (UK) perennial vegetables you might want to read Martin Crawford 'Perenial Vegetables'.

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