Think you don’t have time for gardening? Plant perennial vegetables once in your garden and you’ll be able to reap harvests for years to come.
Root vegetables are especially prized because they are often ready to dig at a time when annual crops are already done for the year. Perennial roots can also be harvested as needed. Unlike annual vegetables, these root crops keep well in the ground until you’re ready to dig them.
Here are a few very easy perennials with edible roots or tubers. Click on the names for photos and more detailed information about each plant.
Sunchoke. Also incorrectly known as Jerusalem artichoke. This is a North American native plant, well adapted to growing across a wide swath of the continent. They produce showy sunflowers in late summer and the tubers are ready to harvest after the plant goes dormant. They can be eaten raw or cooked.
Arrowroot. This is another native of the Americas, and it has been in cultivation for 7,000 years. This crop has definitely stood the test of time! The pointed tubers are eaten after cooking and can be boiled, baked, roasted or fried. Arrowroot can also be processed into flour for gluten-free baking.
Yuca/cassava. The roots are prepared the same way as you’d cook potatoes, and have a similar texture. The processed starch from this root is known as tapioca. As an added bonus, the leaves are also edible after cooking thoroughly. There is archeological evidence this crop has been cultivated for at least 4,000 years.
Winged yam. This is a vining plant with a large tuberous root that is eaten after peeling and cooking. If not harvested, the root gets larger every year and may eventually weigh over 100 pounds!
Yacon. Often marketed like a fruit, this root is very sweet, juicy and crunchy. It’s edible either raw or cooked and makes a welcome change from the other potato-like roots. Yacon also has many health benefits.
Florida Betony. Despite the common name, this plant grows well throughout the southern U.S. The crunchy, pure white roots are usually eaten raw, but they can also be pickled or cooked. You may want to keep this one confined to a container or it will take over your garden!
At least one or two of these varieties should grow where you live, and some parts of the country can grow all of them. Try and include some perennial root vegetables in your next garden!
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