The Miracle of  Growing Food Regeneratively

Creating Local Food Security & Healthy, Vibrant, Regenerated Living Soil, & Nutrient Dense Food

PERENNIAL VEGETABLES

 

Contents:

 

1. ARTICHOKE Chinese 

2. ARTICHOKE Globe 

3. ARTICHOKE Jerusalem 

4. ASPARAGUS

5. RHUBARB

6. SEAKALE

7. WELSH ONIONS 

8. YACON

‘ARTICHOKE’ is a name used for at least three very different plants, although all three have a similar nutty artichoke flavour. All three types of artichokes are perennials and are ideal to plant in flower beds, and forest gardens, or an odd corner of any garden, as long as it is free draining and in full sun. I seriously suggest you grow them as perennial crops in a permanent site.

 

 

ARTICHOKE Chinese (Stachys affinis)

 

The Chinese artichoke is the same family as mint, with a very similar habit and appearance, growing about ½ metre (20in) high. The part you eat is the white squiggly tubers that look a bit like witchetty grubs, but don’t let that put you off! The flavour of the stem tubers is delicate, with a nutty artichoke-like flavour. With their unusual shape, sweet fresh flavour and crunchy texture they make an exciting addition to stir-fries.

Chinese Artichoke roots

Chinese Atichoke plant

Soil & Feeding:

They prefer well drained, but water retentive soil in a sunny position. They will also need good feeding and the ground weeded thoroughly, especially getting rid of nasty perennials like couch grass, convolvulus and oxalis bulbils. Fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

 

Varieties:

They are only known as Chinese artichokes.

 

Planting:

In a forest garden, or odd corner where you can grow them in a clump or clumps, set the tubers 2.5-3.5cm (1-1⅜in) deep, 30cm (1ft) apart, and if you are planting more than one row, space the rows 1.5 metres (5ft) apart.

 

Growing:

Mulch down with spray-free straw, or a good layer of grass clippings. Keep weeded and regularly watered.

 

Harvesting:

The tubers discolour if they’ve been out of the soil for any length of time, so they’re best left in over winter and harvested when required and eaten as soon as possible after harvest. In colder areas cover the roots with a thick layer of spray-free straw to protect them from the frost.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Chinese Artichokes are largely problem free.

 

Recipes:

Chinese artichokes are impossible to peal, but it may be necessary to use a soft brush to gently scrub soil out of the spirals before cooking, and then place coarse salt and the artichokes in a towel; rub between your hands and rinse.

 

Chinese Artichokes Sautéed in Butter & Garlic

Feeds 6

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 kg (2 pounds) Chinese artichokes

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 tablespoons salted butter

• 2 tablespoons coarse salt

• ½ teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon black pepper

• 1 lemon, freshly squeezed

• 2 tablespoons chervil, chopped

 

Method:

 

1. Gently brush the artichokes, carefully removing any dirt. Place coarse salt and the artichokes in a towel; rub between your hands and rinse.

2. Place a steamer basket over a little water in a pot. Add the artichokes to the basket. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for about 5-8 minutes.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottom pan. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Add butter and the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until tender.

4. Garnish with chervil and drizzle with lemon juice.

ARTICHOKE Globe (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)

 

The globe artichoke is a member of a genus of thistle-like perennial plants in the aster family, Asteraceae. They are native to the Mediterranean region, northwest Africa, and the Canary Islands.

 

The name Cynara comes from the Greek kynara, which means "artichoke". The bit you eat is part of the flowers heads before they open which are one of the most nutritious vegetables we can eat.

To quote from Sally Fallon’s excellent book – ‘Nourishing Traditions’:

 

“Like all members of the thistle family, artichokes concentrate iodine when it is in the soil. Research indicates that the artichoke can benefit the intestinal tract and the heart; it has been shown to reduce blood-clotting time and to neutralize certain toxic substances. Studies in Japan and Switzerland show that artichokes can lower blood cholesterol."

 

Soil & Feeding:

As they come from the Mediterranean, so they want full sun in a well-drained soil. As they are decorative plants they will look good in any flower boarder, and are ideal plants to grow in a forest garden. They can become very large, so allow a one metre (yard) square area for each plant. As this is a gourmet vegetable, usually one plant is enough for one family.

 

The plot will need to be weeded thoroughly, especially getting rid of nasty perennials like couch grass, convolvulus and oxalis bulbils. If the soil is heavy, add some sharp sand to help lighten the soil + fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

 

Varieties:

Purple de Jesi: Purple globe artichokes have a sweet exquisite flavour.

 

Green Globe: is a good old tried and tested variety.

 

Sowing:

You can grow them from seed, or you can buy plants, or get a friend to divide some ‘suckers’ for you to plant. If you grow from seed, sow indoors 6 weeks before the last frost in 7.5cm (3in) pots in a temperature of about 18oC (64oF). When the seedlings appear, put them in full sun in a glasshouse, conservatory or well-lit sunny window.

 

Planting:

Plant out after the last frosts in its permanent position already prepared as above – 1 metre (yard) apart.

 

Growing:

Keep weeded. Globe artichokes need plenty of water. After watering mulch with spray-free straw, or a good amount of grass clippings topped up from time to time.

 

Harvesting:

If picked regularly and not left to seed they will crop over a very long period from early spring to early winter, just cut flower stalks back after harvesting the globes and new shoots will come up from the bottom.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Slugs: can be a problem in wetter areas. Use beer traps – (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’Traps).

 

Recipes:

 

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Butter Sauce

 

Ingredients:

 

• As many artichoke heads as you require

 

For the Sauce:

 

• About ½ cup clarified butter, melted

• Juice of 1 lemon, strained

 

Method:

To make sauce:

 

1. Mix the clarified melted butter and the lemon juice and whisk

 

Preparing the artichokes:

 

1. Cut the stems off the artichokes and place with the leaves up in a vegetable steamer, or in a large pot containing about 2.5cm (1in) of filtered water

2. Steam covered, until tender, about ½ hour

3. Remove with tongs and place artichokes, face down, in a colander to drain

4. Remove the outermost leaves and serve face up and warm, drizzled with the lemon and butter sauce

ARTICHOKE Jerusalem (Helianthus tuberosus) 

Not many people know that the Jerusalem artichoke is a species of sunflower, and if you let it flower it has small sunflower like flowers. It is native to eastern North America, found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. 

Jerusalem Articoke roots

Jerusalem Artichoke flowers

The plants can grow from 1½-3 metres (5-10ft) high, but it is the tubers that are the edible part.

 

Jerusalem Artichokes are often grown as annuals, but they will grow indefinitely in one place quite happily. Just fossick around in the soil in the autumn and pick out the tubers you need, leaving the plant and its roots intact for next season. The tops will die off in the winter and can be cut back to re-grow in the spring.

 

Jerusalem Artichokes also act as a prebiotic, which benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aids digestion.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Whether you are growing them as annuals or perennials, they will need good feeding and the ground weeded thoroughly, especially getting rid of nasty perennials like couch grass, convolvulus and oxalis bulbils. Fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

 

Varieties:

They are generally just sold as just Jerusalem Artichokes. You can buy them from a super-market, but if you do, choose the least knobbly ones and hopefully this trait will be handed on.

 

Planting:

Plant as early as possible, to give the plants a long season, planting in late winter, or early spring. Set the tubers 15cm deep (6in), 30cm (1ft) apart, and if you are planting more than one row, make rows 1.5 metres (5ft) apart. Plant in a forest garden, or an odd corner where you can grow them in a clump or clumps.

 

Growing:

Weed regularly and mulch every year in early spring with garden compost, then mulch on top with spray free straw, or a good layer of grass clippings. In expose areas you might need to support the plants by banging in stakes or waratahs at the corners of the rows and tying strong garden string around to hold them up.

 

Harvesting:

You can cut down the stems in mid autumn and dig up the roots and tubers leaving some behind for next year. We prefer to leave the clumps in and dig around, taking the majority of the tubers leaving the cut off stems and the roots to grow next season.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

They are so vigorous; I’ve never known them suffer from pests or diseases.

 

Recipes:

 

Artichokes with Bay Leaves & Garlic

Feeds 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 600g (1 pound 5oz) of Jerusalem artichokes

• A few bay leaves

• 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

• A splash white wine vinegar

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• A good pinch of hing (Asafoetida)

 

Method:

 

1. Peel the artichokes, and then cut them into chunks

2. Place them in an oiled frying pan and fry on medium heat until golden on both sides

3. Add a few bay leaves, crushed garlic, a splash of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and hing – and place lid on top

4. After about 20-25 minutes, when the artichokes have softened up, remove lid and take out bay leaves

5. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes to crisp the artichoke slices up one last time, then serve straight away 

ASPARAGUS (Asparagus officinalis)

 

This is definitely a gourmet crop, but to my mind it is a ‘must have’. It certainly takes up a lot of room for what it gives, and it will take three years before it is producing a good harvest, but its unrivalled unique flavour is well worth all the effort, time and space it requires.

 

Soil & Site:

 

Asparagus is a perennial crop that will be in the same place for up to 20 years, so choose the site carefully. Good drainage and lots of sunshine are essential. It is best to start work on the bed in the autumn by forking it over several times to remove all (and I do mean ALL) perennial weed roots plus any oxalis bulbils if there are any. Then dig in a good barrowload of manure or compost to every three square metres and leave it rough through the winter. 

The trick to clearing land like this is to dig out every root and bulbil you can, then leave the ground bare for three or four weeks, and the bits of roots you left will start to shoot, so you can have another go at digging them out – then leave again and do the same several times during the winter.

 

You will need about 20 plants to serve a family, or 10 plants for a couple planted at 40cm (16in) apart in the rows with 1 metre (yard) between the rows, so you can work out the size of your bed before buying the plants. If you have a light or sandy soil, make your bed on the flat. If you have heavy or clay soil raise the bed up by adding plenty of organic matter and piling the soil up from the edges.

 

Planting:

In late winter dig out a trench, or trenches 15cm (6in) deep and 20cm (8in) wide where the rows are to be, with the bottom slightly raised in the centre. In late winter, early spring, buy one year old roots (“crowns”) and soak them in water for an hour and then plant them out 40cm (16in) apart, spreading out their roots before covering them with 8cm (3in) of top soil, worked and firmed between the roots with your fingers. Fill in the trench slowly as the plants grow.

 

Growing:

Do not pick any shoots in the first year, but you can grow radish and lettuce in-between the rows through the summer. Cut the ferny foliage down in late autumn and clean up the weeds, being careful not to fork deeper than 10cm (4in), so as not to injure the shallow roots. This is the time to spread a 5cm (2in) deep layer of manure; chicken manure is ideal to supply the phosphorus that asparagus loves. The following year spread compost and/or seaweed so as not to over-feed the plants. Fish or seaweed fertiliser is always good, because wild asparagus grows in sand dunes by the sea.

 

Harvesting:

The second year cut a few shoots, but no more! The third year when the shoots are 13-15cm (5-6in) above ground and the tip is still tightly closed – cut below ground down to the tough base. Always leave some shoots and continue cutting for no more than four weeks in the third year, and six weeks in following years, to give them time to grow into ferny foliage and recover their energy before autumn. We stopped cutting them in mid June in the UK, and we stop cutting in mid January here in New Zealand so they can recover for a good crop next year.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Fusarium wilt: Growing in free draining soil and sourcing clean stock is the best way to control this fungus.

 

Recipes:

We tried this for the first time last season and found it very tasty.

 

Asparagus & Olive Quiche

 

Ingredients:

 

• 250g (9oz) wholemeal pastry - made with 175g (6oz) wholemeal flour +      88g (3oz) butter + a little cold water

• 3 eggs • 285ml (9½floz) single cream

• ½ teaspoon sea salt

• Pinch nutmeg

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 1 tablespoon flour

• 12 asparagus spears

• 88g (3oz) green de-stoned olives

• 1 onion, finely chopped and sautéed in a little butter until soft

• 38g (1¼oz) Cheddar cheese, grated

• 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese

• 25g (1oz) butter

 

Method:

 

1. Set oven at 200C (392F)

2. Line a 25cm (10in) flan case with the pastry and blind bake for 10 minutes.

3. Reduce the oven to 190C (374F)

4. Whisk the eggs with the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

5. Mix a little of the mixture with the flour until smooth, then add to the cream mixture.

6. Peel the asparagus spears from about a third down from the tips and chop into 2cm pieces.

7. Arrange the asparagus pieces, olives and sautéed onion in the pastry shell and pour the cream mixture over the top.

8. Sprinkle with grated Cheddar and Parmesan cheese.

9. Dot with the butter and bake at 190C (374F) for 25 minutes until the quiche is golden.

RHUBARB (Rheum rhabarbarum)

 

As a perennial, rhubarb needs its own semi-permanent bed. A rhubarb bed is past its best after 15 years, after this there will be rotten black hollows on the surface roots, which is the time to make a new bed with new plants.

 

We have always grown ours at the end of a vegetable bed, but they can have a corner to themselves, or can be planted in a forest garden. Traditionally they were grown next to the compost heap, so they could get regular helpings.

Soil & Feeding:

As they are going to be in the same place for a long time as well as being regularly cut, they need heavy feeding. Scatter 1kg (2 pound) of bone meal and ½ a barrowload of well-rotted manure or garden compost per square metre and if you keep chickens and have some feathers from the last plucking, dig in a barrow load of those as well, which is a slow release Nitrogen fertiliser.

 

Varieties:

Hawkes’ Champagne: is the variety we used to grow in the UK for forcing in the spring. It is very tender with a good flavour and the best for jam making. It dies down through the winter.

 

Glaskin’s Perpetual: I am guessing this is the variety we obtained locally, because we noticed that here in Nelson it does not die back in the winter, unless it’s very frosty – hence the name. It is very disease resistant as well. It might be difficult to get hold of, so you might have to grow it from seed. This is also another tender pink variety, and like Hawkes’ Champagne is tender with a good flavour. Both these varieties should be grown for quality rather than quantity.

 

Sowing:

It is easier to buy divided roots with a growing tip, or get some off-cuts from friends; but if you are keen to grow them from seed, go ahead. Most seed catalogues have rhubarb seeds. Sow very thinly in 1cm deep furrows and 1 metre between the rows if you’re growing a lot. Thin them to 30cm leaving the best and mulch down with leaves down the rows. Remove every other plant after the first year for re-planting, selling or giving away. They will be ready to pick in their third year.

 

Growing:

Give them a good feed each year in late winter with manure (chicken manure is good), or compost and Eco or Organic Fertiliser, at 2 handfuls per square metre (yard). Weed if necessary, and then mulch down with spray-free straw 15cm (6in) deep for the season.

 

If you can get a 20 or 30cm (8 or 12in) diameter plastic or clay pipe, or a large bucket (nappy buckets are good), cover the crowns in late winter and place a brick on top to stop them blowing over. Forced rhubarb, grown in the dark like this, not only comes early, but tastes the best.

 

Often they will try to flower, sending up a stem 2 metres (6½ft) high with creamy flower heads, catch them early and cut them off at near ground level to stop them stealing energy from the plants.

 

Harvesting:

Pull the thickest sticks when they are long enough, but don’t strip the plants. The leaves have oxalic acid in them and are mildly poisonous so don’t eat them or feed to livestock! (See: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides for a home-grown insecticide spray made from boiled rhubarb leaves).

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

They can get virus, and as already said they can get a black rot of the roots after 15 years, but like most people we have found rhubarb to be largely bomb proof.

 

Recipes:

 

Rhubarb Fool

Feeds 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 350g (12oz) rhubarb

• 55g (2oz) caster sugar

• 1 orange, juice only

• Water

• 150ml (¼ pint) cream, whipped

• 1 egg white, beaten until peaked

 

Method:

 

1. Place the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and enough water to cover the rhubarb in a medium pan. Boil rapidly until rhubarb is soft.

2. In a bowl, fold the egg white into the whipped cream.

3. When the rhubarb is soft, fold it in to the egg white and cream mixture. Reserve a little rhubarb for decoration.

4. Spoon the resulting fool into a tall dessert glass. Top with the reserved rhubarb and serve.

SEAKALE (Crambe maritima)

 

Sea Kale is a perennial European brassica that grows by the sea.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Seakale likes a rich soil, so dig in 2 buckets of garden compost, or well rotted horse manure + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard), before planting.

 

Sowing:

The seeds need to be fresh and will not keep after the first year. Sow in seed compost in a pot, in early spring. Alternately, grow from root cuttings if you have a friend with a plant.

 

Planting:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart when 5-6cm (2-2¼in) high, although one plant should be enough for one family.

 

Growing:

Weed, and mulch down with 8cm (3in) spray-free straw.

 

Harvesting:

Leave the plants to grow for the first two years. In the third year cover the crown with a large black plastic pot in late winter and pick the blanched shoots when about 10-15cm (4-6in) long.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Possible cabbage white butterfly grubs – see CABBAGE for control.

 

Recipes:

Seakale has edible leaves when young, raw or cooked. Old leaves can get very tough and bitter. They have a kale-like flavour. The blanched shoots have a crisp texture with a fresh, nutty flavour and a hint of bitterness. Cook like asparagus. The flowering heads can be eaten raw or cooked like a small broccoli head, and a broccoli-like flavour. The roots are also edible. Boiled or roasted they are starchy and a little sweet. 

WELSH ONIONS – Japanese Bunching Onions (Allium fistulosum)

These onions are perennial onions, and are the ones traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese cooking, and for some reason have been traditionally grown by the Welsh, instead of spring onions. If you like spring onions, you will like these. They are much more convenient and will even survive mild to cold winters. If they do die back in a hard winter they will reappear in spring. Grow them in your herb bed or forest garden. 

Soil & Feeding:

As Welsh onions are permanent, find a sunny spot and prepare the ground well, by digging in 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre, plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

Sowing:

Sow in 7mm (¼in) deep grooves 3cm (1in) apart in seed compost in seed trays in early spring, thinning seedlings to 2cm (¾in). You can expect the seedlings to appear in a week to ten days.

 

Planting:

Plant out the seedlings when around 7-8cm (2¾-3in) high 30cm (1ft) apart each way. Plants grown from seed should not be harvested until the January of their first year. Also remove any flower heads as they form. This will give the young plants a chance to establish their root system before harvesting. You can also propagate them by digging up some of the individual onions from an established bunch in spring or autumn and planting them in a new position.

 

Growing:

Water regularly through dry weather, and keep well weeded. Mulch down with 2cm thick grass clippings, or as in the photograph, the well-watered ground was covered with corrugated cardboard, pierced all over with a fork and covered in bark mulch. A 15cm (6in) diameter hole was cut through the cardboard to provide fertiliser and to plant the onions through.

 

Harvesting:

I just cut some leaves off when needed, but you can pull up one or two plants, as you would spring onions, allowing enough to survive till next year, by which time the bunch will have grown more little onions.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

I have never had any pests or diseases with Welsh onions. If they get leaf rust, see ONIONS.

 

Recipes:

Use, as you would spring onions. 

YACON (Smallanthus sonchifolius)

Like its close cousin, the Jerusalem artichoke, yacon is a perennial and is best grown in a permanent site or a forest garden. 

Like Jerusalem artichoke, Yakon is a close relative of the sunflower. It grows tall like a sunflower with 4cm (1½in) diameter yellow sunflowers in the autumn. It is the tubers that are eaten. Fresh out of the ground the yacon tuber is very much like a baking potato to look at. 

However the flavour has been described as a sweet cross between early apples, watermelon and very mild celery, with a touch of pear, and the crisp texture is like water chestnuts (sounds like a wine aficionado waxing lyrical about a wine)!

 

Yacon is also refreshingly juicy. "Yacon" means, "water root" in the Inca language and its tubers were historically highly valued as a wild source of thirst-quenching refreshment for travellers. 

As with Jerusalem artichokes, yacon tubers are rich in an indigestible sugar – inulin – meaning that the syrup they form has all the sweetness of honey or other plant-derived sweeteners like maple syrup, but without the calories. Like Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon also acts as a prebiotic, which benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aids digestion. It is also a natural source of sweetness for diabetics without the calories. Like Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon also acts as a prebiotic, which benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aids digestion. It is also a natural source of sweetness for diabetics without the calories.

 

Soil & Feeding:

They are hungry plants so dig in at least 2-3 buckets of either compost and/or rotted manure per square metre (yard) and add more every winter.

 

Varieties:

There are varieties, but usually they are just sold as yacon.

 

Planting:

Usually one buys the tubers to plant about 12cm (4¾in) deep and 30cm (1ft) apart, or if you know someone who has them you can divide the crown including the smaller roots that grow above the main tubers.

 

Growing:

Yacon is a perennial plant, so once you have planted it, so long as you look after it, you will have it forever. Grow in full sun in a permanent bed.

 

Yacon is pleasingly easy to grow in most soils where there is reasonable rainfall and moderate heat. The plants do require a long season to grow – forming their tubers in autumn – but anywhere that parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes thrive will suit yacon perfectly well.

 

Yacon can be slow to get growing in spring but quickly puts on lush, leafy growth through the summer to a height of 2 metres (6½ft), occasionally a little more once established. It flowers some years towards autumn.

 

Harvesting:

In late autumn, rather than dig up the tubers, just fossick around below the surface picking the large edible tubers, leaving the smaller propagation roots (resembling Jerusalem artichokes), which grow just under the soil surface and are the ‘seeds’ for the following year's growth. Snap the large tubers from the crowns. They're crunchy, tasty and refreshing immediately, but a few days left out in the sun will add to their sweetness.

 

Yacon tubers develop into autumn, and as the frosts approach it's worth putting a good layer of spray-free straw around the plant to protect the tubers in colder climates. The top growth will die off in frosty weather, re-growing the next spring.

 

If the tubers are left in I have found that some will rot over winter. So it’s best to store them in a cool, dry shed or garage until you're ready to eat them. They may well sweeten a little over time, and if you're lucky they can last many months in storage.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Yacon is very rarely troubled by pests or diseases.

 

Recipes:

Yacon has a crunchy texture, and a sweet flavour, so it's rather good simply peeled, sliced and eaten as a snack.

 

It's great in fruit salads too, peeled and sliced, though its tendency to brown means that you should sprinkle the slices with a little lemon juice to prevent it discolouring.

 

Yacon also has a delightful tendency to absorb sauces and dressings, which make it a fantastic vehicle for other flavours. Try it grated with carrots dressed in a mustard vinaigrette with a handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, or in the traditional South American fruit salad – ‘Salpicón’. Combine peeled, chopped yacon with chunks of pineapple, chopped papaya and mango and dress in freshly squeezed orange juice and a spritz of lemon.