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Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.
Mark Twain

Perennial Vegetables

Plant once, harvest for years

Trees and shrubs have woody bits that continue to grow. Here we have a few things for edible landscaping that are probably going to be tucked into the edges of the veggie garden.

Asparagus


Asparagus


Asparagus


Asparagus

Do NOT plant asparagus on a whim. There is significant prep to be done. Asparagus requires rich loamy to sandy, well drained soil, with a fair amount of nitrogen.

Asparagus is a long term commitment. It's awkward to deal with in the garden as it slowly spreads. Tilling close to it can result is small plants everywhere. Many people plant it in it's own bed, surrounded by a weed barrier or lawn.

Dig a trench 10 inches deep. Partially fill with rich loam. make a 4" high ridge in the middle. Put plants every 12-18" with roots spread out over the ridge, and just cover. Keep moist. After they sprout, graduallly add soil until about 2" below the top of the trench.

Do not pick this year.

In fall or early spring add about 2 inches of compost or well rotted manure to the trench. Repeat this every year. Top with leaves from your lawn to increase frost protection.(The bagged cow manure you get at the garden stores works well. Watch for sales.)

Putting down a walkway of used carpet fuzzy side down on either side makes weeding much easier. Roll up the carpet in winter, lay it back down in spring when weeds start showing. If the carpet is stored dry for winter it will last 2-3 times as long. Moving it breaks the roots of wannabee weeds that are working through it.

If you have heavy clay soils, use a raised bed instead. The roots will rot in heavy wet soils. A trench in clay soil tends to fill, unless on a slope.

Next year cut for one week. Cutting is a misnomer. You actually get down to the base of the spear and bend it so that it snaps. Check for new spears every other day. Spears can be stored in the fridge standing upright in water for a week, longer if they are going to be made into soup. This level of stooping is another reason to put in a raised bed.

Each year you can add one more week of cutting. Stop cutting in late July to let shoots grow to build root strength for next year.

A mature plant, (7 yr old) will give you about 1/2 pound of asparagus a year. 20 crowns is sufficient for a few feeds a summer. If you are wild about asparagus, plant more.

Watch for female plants, they will have berries in the fall. The put more energy into berries, and less into roots. Grub the females out.

We carry Millenium, a cultivar developed at the U. of Guelph in Ontario. It's better suited to our cold climate. Still, it's nominally a zone 4 plant. Try to arrange for extra winter protection. Do not cut the fronds in fall -- they will help collect snow to insulate the ground.

Be on watch for pocket gophers (vegan moles...) They will eat your entire row if they get into it. You will see mounds of dirt with no obvious hole.

Asparagus info at Farmer's Almanac

Rhubarb


Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of those simple plants that keeps on giving. For most of us, one plant is enough for the occasional pie, a batch of jam or sauce. But there are cookies, fruit bars, chutneys, wine !, soups.

Note: The leaves are poisonous. They contain oxalic acid, one of the same ingrediants used in radiator cleaner. Should be possible to make a stain remover from the leaves.

I stock Canada Red, a very cold hardy plant with moderate sized stalks. Usually we get a few crowns in each spring, plus I have a few in large pots for the impatient. It should be a good deck plant. Place on ground and surround with bags of leaves in the winter.

More than you ever wanted to know about growing Rhubarb]Rhu1 along with a zillion recipes for using it.

Sunchokes

Helianthus tuberosus

These are also known as Jerusalem artichokes. They are actually a member of the sunflower family. The roots have a carbohydrate called inulin instead of starch. Inulin converts to sugar much more slowly than starch, and so is better for diabetics.

The plants can be invasive, spreading beyond where they are welcome. Another good reason for doing them in pots.

Try to plant them on the south side of a wall. They need an early spring and long season to get decent yields.

Avoid wet soil. Tubers will rot. Remove flowers to encourage the plant to make tubers.

Cooking

The internet is your friend here. Raw they are much like water chestnuts, and can be used in stir fries that way. They roast well, but cook faster than potatoes or yams. They don't go 'creamy' at all, so if mashing them, you will want to mix with potatoes or yams. Once source says they pickle well.

Go easy on them at first. For some people inulin produces large quantities of gas.

Harvesting and Storage

Harvesting is done like potatoes, dig them up in the fall. Leave the smaller ones in the ground to grow next year's crops. They do not keep like potatoes however. They need to be refrigerated. You can however leave them in the garden and dig up as needed. This is tough in our climate. I'm thinking about trying to grow them in strawbales. Seems to me they would be easier to harvest mid winter. Or grow in 5 gallon pails, bring one in to thaw, then take back outside to dump and go through the dirt for the chokes.

Do not remove dirt before storing. Like potatoes they keep longer. One thing I've not found out: Should they be dried a bit to get a tougher skin, as spuds are?

They will keep 2 to 5 months in cold moist conditions. If you have a cold root cellar (near freezing) try layering them in damp sand or peatmoss. (This may be an alternate storage technique: Pack in pails of cold damp peat, and store on the north side of the barn with a lid. Dig out a pail and bring in as needed.

I have a small number of growing plants in large pots.

Sunchokes on Harvest to Table

Before you plant Sunchokes Article about the invasiveness of these guys. After reading this one: Give them their own garden, Mow around it.

Storage -- on Homesteading Today Good forum thread about storage.

Handout from Johnny Seeds This article says they can be frozen, and that optimum storage temp is just below freezing. Go figure.


Got something to say? Email me: sfinfo@sherwoods-forests.com

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Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.