Saturday, May 30, 2009

Are There Really Only Two Perennial Vegetables?

Recently, many posters online have been perpetuating a myth about perennial vegetables: that there are only two perennial vegetables in existence. A quick google search for perennial vegetables will produce numerous examples of websites and blogs claiming there are only two perennial vegetable. (For easy examples of this myth in action, visit Wikipedia's Brain Teasers [third question and answer] or Yahoo Answers). The two perennial vegetables these posters are claiming are the only perennial vegetables, by the way, are asparagus and rhubarb.

This is, as my English husband would say, a bunch of rubbish. Vegetable rubbish, no less. Although it is true that asparagus and rhubarb are two of the more well known perennial vegetables, there are literally more than a hundred (at least) of different kinds of perennial vegetables you can grow. In fact, Eric Toensmeier recently published an entire book about perennial vegetables, and in it he lists over a hundred different types of perennial vegetables you can grow.

Granted, the kind of perennial vegetables you can grow are largely determined by the climate zone you will be gardening in. For example, rhubarb grows well in the Northern United States and Canada, but does very poorly in the southern regions. Artichokes, on the other hand, need warmer weather to be perennialized, and do well in California but need to be treated as an annual in the northern United States and Canada.

In my next post, I'll discuss what I consider to be the Top Five Perennial Vegetables for the Home Gardener. But for some examples of perennial vegetables other than rhubarb and asparagus that the home gardener can grow: horseradish is a perennial vegetable, as are artichokes, sorrel, cardoon, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), and seakale. Even vegetables that are known to most gardeners in the United States, Canada and Europe as annuals, may be perennials in their native environments. This is true of tomatoes and peppers, which when grown in a tropical climate can live for years (or, if brought indoors and placed in a sunny location, may be able to live through the winter even in colder regions).

So the next time someone tries to sell you on the idea that there are only two perennial vegetables, serve them some sunchokes with a laugh and a smile! For even more information and advice about growing and selecting perennial vegetables, please visit the Perennial Vegetables Home Page. Thank you for visiting!