The Backyard Larder

A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.

Perennial Vegetables

Greens for cooking

Sea Kale – A native European plant, harvested from shingle beaches and cultivated for its delicious shoots in spring. The shoots require forcing. Young leaves, flower heads and roots are also edible.

Perennial Kale var. Daubenton – A perennial kale with tasty leaves. Does not generally set seed so must be grown from cuttings.

Nine Star Perennial Broccoli – This perennial broccoli will give you 4 to 5 small cauliflower-type heads a year. Harvest all heads and replace plants after three years.

Good King Henry – Once known as Lincolnshire asparagus or markery, this unfussy plant will live in a corner of the garden and give young shoots in spring and leaves throughout the year with a pleasing spinach flavour. Use the seeds like poppy seeds.

Turkish Rocket – Turkish rocket develops into a large plant giving mustardy salad leaves in spring and tasty broccoli-like heads for steaming in summer and leaves for cooking all year.

Sea Beet – The ancestor of leaf beet and chard and a European native, sea beet gives tasty leaves all year round but leaves may become bitter after flowering.

Solomon’s Seal – Beautiful and productive, Solomon’s seal gives sweet young shoots in spring which can be cooked like asparagus.

False Spikenard – Another asparagus substitute, similar to Solomon’s seal in flavour but which also gives edible fruit.

Ostrich Fern – Not many ferns can be eaten but the fiddleheads of the ostrich fern can be eaten if boiled for 15 minutes and have a taste like broccoli.

Globe Artichoke – A well known perennial vegetable grown for its large flower buds which are boiled and served with butter and herbs.

Asparagus – This famous vegetable needs more care than most listed here, but rewards the grower with truly delicious young shoots which need only brief steaming.

Cardoon – A close relative of the globe artichoke but grown for its blanched stems.

Lovage – Known mainly as a herb in Britain as its celery-like leaves have a strong flavour but is used on the continent to make maggi, a concentrated stock, which gives a great flavour to soups and stews.

Caucasian Spinach – A rare but extremely useful plant this perennial vegetable is a climber and will grow in the shade.

See also chicory, Japanese parsley, sorrels and day lily.

Salad Leaves

Salad leaves and flowers

Scorzonera – This plant is usually grown as an annual for its roots but the leaves are tasty in salads. It is said to form only one taproot but as this does not go woody with age you can just harvest some of the roots from a patch of plants each year.

Chicory (perennial forms) – The slightly bitter flavour of chicory leaves is good in salads. The leaves can be blanched for a milder flavour. A useful bonus is the roots that can be dug in winter and roasted and ground for a coffee substitute.

Japanese Parsley – A clump-forming celery-flavoured salad ingredient. The leaves and stems can be used in quantity and may also be lightly cooked.

Garden Sorrel – A very easy and rewarding perennial vegetable, great in salads, lovely in omelettes and indispensable in sorrel soup.

Buckler-leaved Sorrel – Often known as French sorrel, this is less sharp than garden sorrel with pleasing shield-shaped leaves.

Buck’s Horn Plantain – One of several useful members of the plantain family and a useful, easy to grow salad vegetable.

Salad Burnet – The tender young leaves of this attractive clump-forming plant can be available even in the middle of winter.

Wild Rocket – A perennial extra-peppery form of this popular salad ingredient. The plants can get a bit ragged but can be revived by light pruning.

Siberian Purslane – Another perennial salad plant with crisp and tender leaves and stems.

French Scorzonera – A pleasant mild addition to salads and a good substitute for lettuce. May not survive very cold or very wet winters without protection.

Day Lily – Day lily flowers are a delicacy in China and give a sweet earthy flavour to salads and cooked dishes. They can also be dried and stored.

Golden Saxifrage – Crisp, mild salad leaves, good for shade and often available in winter.

Sweet Cicely – You can use plenty of sweet cicely leaves in a salad and also throw in the young green seeds. Even the roots can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted.

See also Welsh onion, garlic chives and wild garlic.

Onions, leeks and garlic

Tree Onion – Also called walking onion, as well as producing a clump of bulbs in the ground, this tall perennial onion will produce small bulbils at the top of the stem which can be picked for cooking and don’t need peeling when young.

Welsh Onion – Very hardy clump-forming onion. Leaves very useful as thick chives and small bulbs may also be useful.

Babington Leek – Native perennial ancestor to garden leeks. Harvest the leek in spring, cutting it off at soil level. It will re-grow producing edible bulbils on the flower stem in September. Leaves and soil bulbs may also be used.

Garlic Chives – Used mainly as chives but may also be blanched and used as a vegetable.

Potato Onion and Shallot – Known as multiplier onions these form clumps of decent sized bulbs. Harvest some and replant some every year or leave for several years to clump up.

Wild Garlic – Despite this plant’s strong garlic scent the leaves and flowers are excellent raw in salads or briefly cooked for a delicate garlic flavour. Invasive plant but gives good spring ground cover in woodland.

Root vegetables

Skirret – A clump-forming perennial which gives sweet, white roots excellent for boiling and roasting. Replant a few roots at harvest.

Chinese Artichokes – A spreading perennial giving crisp white roots with a lovely flavour, which can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.

Jerusalem Artichokes – Tasty root vegetable. Extremely useful if you can digest it well but quite commonly causes flatulence! Just dig what you need from a colony of the plants.

See also sea kale, scorzonera, chicory and sweet cicely.