Archives for May 2013

10 Reasons To Grow Edible Perennials YCH#26


10 reasons Everyone Should Grow Edible Perennials

And 15 Great Perennials to Grow


  • After initial planting perennials are less work.   Once established perennials can survive neglect, whereas annuals with their shallow roots need much more care and attention.  This is great for “lazy” or “busy” gardener like me.  Perennials don’t need much watering (once established) due to their deep roots.  These roots can be 8-11 feet deep.  Perennials also store energy in their roots making them healthier and more resistant to pests.
  • A beautiful, edible landscape can be created with perennials.  The shoots, fruits, leaves, seeds, pods, beans, and roots or tubers can be consumed as food.  The flowers and foliage can beautify your landscape.  For instance groundnut (Apios americana) have a beautiful pink and white flower with green foliage and produce an edible tuber similar to nutty flavored potatoes.  The tubers are high protein.
  • The growing season can be extended with perennials.  Perennials often produce much earlier than annuals.  In colder climates some perennials produce as soon as the snow subsides.  Also during different periods of growth a variety of edibles can be found.  For instance:  the shoots may be eaten first, then the fruit, stalk or root.
  • Perennials can add variety to our diets with exotic, new (to us) edibles.    Varieties such as edible lotus, oca, canna lily.
  • Perennials can be used to create microclimates to grow plants that normally couldn’t be grown in a specific area.  Perennials deep roots mine water and nutrients. Their large foliage can block out light and prevent weeds.  This makes for a cooler, moister environment – a micro climate…
  • Perennials improve the soil.  Their deep roots pull water and minerals up from the earth which benefits their neighbors.  The extra foliage from trimming or pruning can also be used as mulch.
  • Perennials can help you save money.  First you don’t have to buy so many seed every year.  Less watering, compost and other amendments are needed.  And they are easy to reproduce.  An example is artichokes.  Cut the plant at the end of the season.  Dig up part of the root system and replant.  Tubers can be grown from tubers.  Some plants shoot out runners.  And we can plant seeds.  Some even self seed. Of course you can grow from cuttings, such as elderberries.
  • Perennials can produce more fruit or products than you could use.  Some may think this is a negative thing.  But I believe it is a positive.  As I mentioned before all the trimmings and extra foliage can be used for mulch.  This will help hold in moisture and provide nutrients to plants.  Any extra food products can be processed for storage, fed to livestock, or used as compost.  So for me perennials are a must in my Homestead Design.
  • Perennials have multiple uses in a polyculture. Many of the beans and tubers are nitrogen fixers. Some are nutrient accumulators such as chicory, dandelion, the sorrels, stinging nettle, and watercress.  Some make excellent edible ground covers, many with nectar filled flowers attract beneficial insects.  They can be used as hedges.  Vining types can make good shade in the summer and then die back in the winter to let the sun shine in.
  • Perennials Sequester Carbon.  Perennials use CO2 from the air use it for long term storage in soil and plant parts.  With so much deforestation today, this is important for the environment


  • So What Perennials to Grow?
  • Well as they say in Permaculture – it depends.  You have to decide what you like and what will grow in your climate.  But I am more than happy to give some ideas.
  • Groundnuts (Apios americana):  As mentioned above they are a potato like tuber with a nutty flavor…yum!  Beautiful pink showy flowers green foliage and food.  It’s a winner in my book. These are hardy to zone 3.  The Native Americans grew them near a shrub used for support as they are a vining plant.  They need moisture and full sun or partial shade. Here is a link to more info:

    Groundnut Flower




    Beautiful Groundnut


  • Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis): Probably one of the best known perennials grown in America. It needs full sun and well drained soil.  It is hardy to zone 3.  
    Asparagus Plant

    Asparagus Plant




  • Ramps, or Wild leeks (Allium tiococcum):  Ramps are a relative of onion.  The leaves and bulbs are edible.  Ramps thrive as a shady border and they do well  in moist loam  They are hardy to zone 4.

    Wild Leek

    Ramps / Wild Leek


  • Jerusalem Artichoke or Sunchoke (helianthus tuberosus) Another plant grown by Native Americans.  They have beautiful sunflower like blooms and edible tubers.  The stalks are 6-12 ft high.   The raw tubers are sweet and crisp.  They contain inulin, so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar. As a bonus they attract beneficial insects. Plant in spring, harvest in fall and winter.  Hardy to zone 2.
    Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers

    Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers

    Jerusalem Artichoke

    Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers from my own


  • Crosnes, or Chinese Artichoke (Stachys affinis):  A relative of mint also called mintroot  forms a dense, foot high ground cover.  It produces small, white, crunchy, sweet tubers.  They are great in salads.  Tubers need to be harvested annually. They grow in partial shade with well drained soil.  They are hardy to zone 5.  

    Chinese Artichoke Tubers


    Chinese Artichoke


  • Rhubarb (Rheum x cultorum):  Most people have heard about rhubarb pie.  But the red stems are also used as vegetables for soups in Asia.  The leaves and roots are poisonous.  Rhubarb likes full sun and rich well drained soil.  Rhubarb is hardy to zone 5.  Rhubarb is harvested in spring.



  • French Sorrel (Rumex acetosa): The edible leaves have a lemony tang, great for soups and salads.  Sorrel can be harvested early spring to late fall.  It grows in sun or shade and is hardy to zone 3.  

    french sorrel

    French Sorrel


  • Good king Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus):  It has tasty edible shoots, leaves, and flower buds harvested in spring.  It is a relative of spinach and thrives in sun, or partial shade in well drained moist soil. Good King Henry should be planted in composted soil.  It is hardy to zone 3.  


    Good King Henry

  • Lovage (lefisticum officinale):  This 6 ft. tall perennial is an excellent substitute for celery.  It is often used in soups.  The seeds and roots are also edible.  It has umbel flowers that attract beneficial insects.  It can grow in sun or partial shade and is hardy to zone 4.




  • Sea Kale (Crambie Maritime):  It is a coastal native sometimes grown as an ornamental.  The plant is 3 ft tall with gray-blue leaves and white flowers.  The shoots have a hazelnut flavor when harvested at propagate from seed – nick the seeds and plant in moist, well drained soil in full sun.  It is hardy to zone 4.
    Sea Kale

    Sea Kale



  • Tree Collards (Brassica oleracea):  These were originally grown as animal fodder.  The tall stalks were actually treated and used as walking sticks.  Most varieties do well in the Pacific Northwest.  But some varieties as B.o. acephala (Tropical Tree Kale) can tolerate the heat. This is actually a kale closely related to tree collards. They can be trimmed like a tree or can get up to 20 ft tall.  They are grown from cuttings taken before they get woody for best results.


    Tree Collard


  • Air Potato (Discorea bulbifera):  Native to Africa and Asia and considered invasive in Florida.  Air potato is a true yam. It forms bulbils in the leaf axis and underground tubers.  They are often bitter but this can be removed by boiling.  They reproduce from the bulbils and can grow 8 ft.  a day and up to 150 ft.  Some uncultivated varieties can be poisonous. 

    Air Potato

    Air Potato


  • Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus):  Hyacinth bean is believed to be native to Africa and Asia.  It is often grown as an ornamental.  The young pods, flowers, young leaves and tubers are edible.  The young pods are said to taste like sweet green peas. The dry seeds contain toxins that are deactivated by cooking.  

    Hyacinth Bean

    Hyacinth Bean


  • Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea):  Sometimes called German turnip.   The taste and texture is similar to a broccoli stem or cabbage, but much sweeter and milder.  The young stem can be as juicy and crisp as an apple. The leaves have a spinach color and taste like bok choy crossed with Swiss chard.




  • Edible Canna Lily (Canna indica var. edulis):  Also called Queensland Arrowroot is related to garden canna.  It can grow 6 ft. tall and has beautiful red flowers. It grows well in dry conditions, but also tolerates moist boggy soil.  The thickening agent arrowroot powder can be made from the roasted tubers.  The bottom of the first foot of stems can be peeled and used in stir fry dishes.  Flowers can be used in salads.  The leaves can be used to wrap food for roasting or grilling – similar to using banana leaves.  Here is a wonderful article on Cannas:
    Canna LilyCanna indica

    Canna Lily
    Canna indica


    Canna Rhizome

    Canna Rhizome


Baby Goats, Honey Locust, Edible Ostrich Fern YCH#25



After getting this adorable 8 week old Dwarf Nigerian goat, we had to learn fast.  He was supposed to be weaned.  However when my son went to pick him up he noticed him sucking the fingers of the man selling him.  When we got him home, he wouldn’t eat, but he would nuzzle for milk.  So we decided to bottle feed him a while in addition to hay and goat good. I also discuss what to do with baby goats:  how to get them tame, bottle feeding vs attention,  what to look for and what is normal, castration methods, dehorning, and when to separate from the mother. My son reminds me he is not a dog.  I want him to be tame like a dog.

Artichokes and asparagus  


I also talk about artichoke, which I repeatedly call asparagus.  I did talk a little about asparagus too.

photo (1)

 I talk about honey locusts

We discuss honey locust trees and why they are great for the homestead.  They are good mulch for homesteader, good fodder for animals and wonderful wood for fence posts and such.  But will they grow where I live. These are pics of my  2 varieties and one ready to flower.

Hop teas as medicine

And we talk about hop teas as medicine.  Good for all kinds of ailments, especially for menopausal symptoms.  And much safer than hormone replacement therapy.

 Ostrich fern

We also discuss ostrich fern – a wild edible.  I loved eating this in Hawaii and you have to be careful as there are inedible look a likes.

 And as always farm updates.

Spring is in the air and here are pics of 3 baby cardinals on a gardenia tree by my front door.

photo (7)

Latin For Botany, Growing Kiwi, Artichoke YCH#24



One may ask, “Why bother to learn any Latin?” I would like to learn it to help identify plants. Latin names give information about plant histories, native habitats and how to grow them.  A plant may have many common names, but only one Latin name.  This is it’s true botanical name.  One thing  like about Latin names is since Latin is a dead language, you don’t have to worry so much about mispronunciation.  So no one can pick at me about my “Redneck Latin”.  If one obtains a plant with the botanical name, you could be sure you have the correct plant. There are two parts – the GENUS (genera is plural for genus) is the family name.  It is capitalized.  An example would be ALLIUM.  This would be the family of cultivated onions.  Another is CUCURBITACEAE –  squash family.  This family (collection of related genera) contains CUCUBITA (squash and pumpkins), CITRULLUS (watermelons), and CUCUMIS  (melons and cucumbers).  The genus (family name) is abbreviated ( ALLIUM would be A.) if mentioned a times in a series.  The second name is the species.  Where  as the GENUS is noun, species would be a descriptive adjective. Sometimes a third name is added for further description.  For example: Acer palmatum dissectum _ Acer is maple;   palmatum describes it as ” shaped  like a hand”; dissectum is finely dissected.  This is the name for Japanese maple.  A capitalized name in quotation marks represents a hybrid plant.


Kiwi or Chinese gooseberry is native to southern China, growing wild in the hills and bushes.  kiwi was brought to the US, UK, and New Zealand around 1900-1910.  In 1930 they were grown commercially in New Zealand.  The genus is Actinidia and they have over 50 species.  Some examples are:

A. deliciosa – A commercial variety also known as ” Hayward – the female variety”  It is fuzzy brown with good fruit that keeps up to 6 months.  It is tart sweet and commonly grown in California.  It is hardy to 10 degrees F.

A. aruguta is hardy to -25 degrees F. it is commonly grown in the west by home gardeners.  This is known as the hardy kiwi.  It is a cousin of A.chinesis; and native to northeastern Asia. A. chinesis is native to southern China.  It is smaller, about  the size of a cherry.  The skin is smooth and edible.  Fruit is green yellow and acidic when unripe.  When ripe, it is considered superior.  A. kolomita is another cold hardy fruit.  Neither of these are grown commercially.

All actinidia are sensitive to frost when young.  They can be damaged by even 30 F.  Spring frost can damage the flower buds.  The trunks can also be damaged by frost and need protection. They need 220 days of a frost free growing season.  Kiwis often die the first season due to poor drainage or frost damage. They can, however be grown in 5 gallon buckets the first year.  This would solve the drainage problem and they could easily be tented for frost protection.  The roots must also be protected from freezing.  A planting site must have protection from wind and good drainage.  Ph needs to be around 6.5 and they can be planted 15-18 ft apart.  A male pollinator is needed for  8 female plants.  Fertilize with 2-4 oz slow release 10-10-10 fertilizer at planting time.  After that twice a year in spring and early June. One kiwi plant can  produce up to 200 pounds of fruit, so a  strong trellis is needed.  6 inch posts 6 ft high are good.  You will need strong 18 -12 guage wire. They need to be cross braced for added strength.  Young plants need to be trained up the trellis. A single shoot running up.  Don’t allow it to wrap around the post.  On top of trellis train to center in one direction.  Next year train a long center wire in the opposite direction.  “Permanent leaders”of the lateral canes will produce fruit the following year.  When pruning leave the main leaders, replace all other wood yearly for better production.  Plants usually fruit in their 4th year and reach full production by the eighth  year.  They can live 50  years or more,

Kiwis can be propagated from hard wood cutting – after 500 chill hours, softwood cuttings in July, by air layering, and from seed.

Hardy Kiwi fruit matures in October, so may be picked earlier to avoid frost.  They may be ripened in the refrigerator, but with a shorter storage life than the fuzzy kiwi.

Kiwi is considered a very healthy food.  High in vitamin C, beta carotenes, a variety of flavenoids carotenoids and phytonutrients.  It has an ability to protect DNA from oxygen related damage.  It’s fiber is good for decreasing cholesterol, preventing heart disease, stabilizing blood sugar, and preventing colon cancer by removing toxins.  A published study of 18,00 children showed improvement from asthma after 5-7 servings of kiwi per week.  Of course the one you grow at home would be fresher with much better with more antioxidants.

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