My interest in permaculture and food forests recently led to me picking up Eric Toensmeier’s lovely book, Perennial Vegetables. Not merely another explanation of why perennial crop systems are more sustainable than annual, here Toensmeier takes the unique extra step of providing a catalog of plants that can be used in this new gardening scheme. Like any good catalog he provides pictures, growing tips and descriptions of taste (very valuable for these unfamiliar specimens) – but the most valuable to me is his table sorting the species by climate requirements. As I learned with my quest for fruits, there are a good number of species that can be grown successfully even in my Zone 3 climate.
Some are familiar to me, but some are not. (I need to work out how to ask my neighbors whether I can taste their new boulevard Linden tree in the spring without making me seem even crazier than they already think I am…) I was entranced with Toensmeier’s description of skirret, Sium sisarum, a root crop that used to be in wide use in America in pioneer times but has since fallen drastically out of use. Supposed to taste like a mix of potato and parsnip, skirret isn’t really a true perennial but more a harvest-and-replant type, like the potato. I am excited to have procured three specimens of a superior non-woody clone maintained by the Perennial Pleasures nursery in Vermont, and anxiously await results next fall.