Usually when we think of edible perennials roots, tubers and bulbs don’t come to mind, but there are some really great ones we can grow. I have to start by saying that I do not have a lot of experience growing roots, tubers and bulbs as edible food crops, I did a lot of reading and research and found a great selection.
Egyptian Walking Onions are quite interesting as they have their regular onion bulb and another at the tip of the stalk. Once the bulb at the tip of the stalk gets big enough it will fall over and that bulb will then take root and create a new plant. This is fantastic because it means you can get many plants growing for many, many harvests. As with any edible perennial they take time to establish and their first harvest will come in your second or third year. Once it’s time to harvest, treat them like any other onion You can grow Egyptian Walking Onions in zones 3 through 10.
Sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes are definitely an edible perennial that needs its own area for growing. Some say they do not grow well in a container. If you choose to grow them in your garden you need to dig in and add a barrier around the perimeter that is about 24 inches deep to contain them. I have heard from other gardeners that they are very hard to eradicate from the garden if they spread. They are best cooked to help with gas some people get when eating sunchokes. They will be ready for harvest from summer to autumn after the leaves die back. If you leave tubers in the ground they will grow again the following year.
Chinese Artichokes are from the mint family and act in the same way, spreading everywhere. They can take over and spread, so be mindful of where you choose to grow them. They do well in zones 5 through 9 as a perennial and can be grown as an annual in colder climates with more harsh winters. Though they can live for 15 years they usually only bear fruit for 3 to 4 years. This is where keeping a journal of your gardens comes in handy. I know I have said many times that I will remember what I planted and when, only to forget how long it has been. (I have no idea how many years it’s been since my oregano has been in it’s current spot.) Keep a log and it will help you learn sowing dates and average harvest dates over time.
I hope this has inspired you to try growing perennial roots, tubers and bulbs. Go slow, choose a good spot wisely in your yard that can be a good home for years to come. Since perennials are a bigger commitment than the traditional annual vegetable garden make sure you actually like what your are going to grow. I see this a lot with new gardeners, growing something because it’s popular, but they don’t actually like to eat it. I always say grow what you love, especially if you have limited growing space.
Let me know what you plan to grow in your garden. I’d love to hear about it! Also if you need help in your garden, I am here for you! Coaching sessions are available: Coaching