Growing perennial vegetables in Scotland

Perennial Vegetables to Grow in Scotland

Growing food for your own table is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do. Whether you have a large garden or just space for a few pots, you can grow a wide range of edible produce across Scotland. In permaculture, there is an emphasis on obtaining a yield and this is often (though not always) in the form of things we can eat.

Permaculture, in theory and in practise, helps us to grow that food in a way which makes sense – which helps us to become part of the solution to the world's ills rather than part of its problems. While there is nothing at all wrong with growing some annual crops in a permaculture garden, permaculture also places an emphasis on plants that can form a resilient ecosystem and will not need to be re-planted each year. These perennial performers are the real stars in a permaculture garden and make it even easier for anyone to give gardening a go.

There are far more perennial vegetables to grow in Scotland and other cool temperate climates than you may imagine. Think beyond rhubarb, asparagus and globe artichokes. You can grow these to get an abundance of leafy greens year after year. There are several perennial members of the brassica family which can provide cabbage-like leaves throughout the year, such as 'ewiger kohl' (everlasting cabbage) and Daubenton's Kale. Other extremely useful perennial members of the brassica family include the 'nine star perennial' broccoli, which produces nine or so small white broccoli heads each year. This broccoli will flourish for round 5 years before it needs to be replaced.

Another group of plants which offers a number of perennial alternatives is the onion family. There are a number of perennial onions to choose from that do well in Scotland. Walking onions, bunching onions and shallots are examples of plants that offer the chance to harvest from one initial planting for a number of years. (By harvesting only some bulbs and leaving others in place. Ramps, ramsons or wild garlic is another great perennial choice and is ideal for shady forest garden areas.

A range of perennial plants that we think of as ornamental also offer edible choices to the permaculture gardener. For example, did you know that young hosta leaves are edible – some especially tender and tasty in a spring stir fry, for example. There are plenty more examples – though of course you should always take care and should not eat anything that you cannot positively identify.

Growing perennial food can be a real doddle. Often, these plants will more or less look after themselves for most of the year and harvested for food during the leanest times of the year. So, even if you also want to grow some annual vegetables, think about also giving some of your garden over to perennial crops – some perennial vegetables can do well in open shade below fruit trees and fruit canes or bushes and so make the perfect additions to the herbaceous layers of a forest garden, or included in a mixed perennial flower and vegetable bed.