How to Grow Perennial Vegetables

Tim Harland | Sunday, 2nd March 2014
Perennial vegetables are perfect for the forest garden, taking little maintenace whilst providing a good range of year round vegetables.
Author: Martin Crawford
Publisher: Green Books
Publication year: 2012
RRP: £14.95

This is the latest offering from the prolific and encyclopedic Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon where he has tested a huge number of plants of all kinds in his two acre forest garden, established 20 years ago.

For a low maintenance, food producing design, such as a forest garden, perennial vegetables can provide an ideal understorey or ground cover accompaniment to a top storey of fruit and nut trees – and Martin has proved that there are a great many such plants available for all niches.

The book's design is elegantly straightforward with the first quarter covering the practical issues involved, such as: the reasons for growing perennial veg; how to design them into a garden, and how to grow and look after them. The rest of the book looks at many perennials that can be used productively.

As well as vegetables, also included are grains, tubers, aquatic plants and some vegetatively edible trees. Covering over 100 plants, each is documented with at least one colour photograph and full details of growing characteristics, hardiness, propagation, cultivation, maintenance and potential problems, and most importantly to my mind, the culinary uses including how to prepare the plant for use and descriptions of what it's actually like to eat.

The section on bamboos immediately gave me full confidence to plunder, prepare and eat the running shoots of one I planted in my forest garden 15 years ago, but never dared try before – delicious! Some commonly known plants are included such as: artichoke, asparagus, garlic and lemon balm, but there are many more unusual and exciting plants (some I've never even heard of before) including: ground plum, rakkyo, ulluco and the poisonous poke root (but not if you cook it right!).

This is exactly the sort of book you would expect from Martin: accessible, practical, informative and very useful. As such, it is an essential addition to any permaculturist's bookshelf and is highly recommended.

Further resources

Plants and recipes to bridge the hungry gap

Seasonal perennial salad

Edible Perennial Gardening

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