Growing Vegetables and Fruit - Part 4

December 16, 2008

Long Lived Plants

There are some very pleasing and long lived fruits and vegetables which may take a lot of preparation (and a deal of patience) but which are so delicious when brought in fresh from the garden to your table. As everyone reading is probably in a different climate I cannot, of course make a detailed growing plan to suit everyone, so I haven’t given full growing instructions for these interesting plants – please email if would like further information – or if you have any suggestions as to other unusual perennial (long lived) vegetable or fruit plants.
Many vegetables are sown fresh, to grow, harvest and die off in one year, but a few will reward you with many seasons of crops, so if you like that idea, try one or two of these:

Asparagus(Asparagus Officinalis)
Asparagus grows best near the sea or ocean, (it is supposed to like the fresh sea air) and does take a couple of years to crop at its best but if you have the space and the patience to wait for the plants to crop fully, is probably the most delicious vegetable possible. You literally buy roots from a specialist grower and plant them in a carefully prepared bed... then wait! My husband Peter and I planted a whole 10’ x 12’ bed of them and then sold the house four years later when they were just beginning to crop really well.
Seal Kale(Crambe Maritima)
Seal Kale planting is rather similar to Asparagus – you order root ‘crowns’ from a grower, plant them in a carefully made bed and then grow them for a full season before (at the end of their second autumn) covering the plants with straw, dry leaves, flowerpots, or even boxes, so that when the shoots grow in spring they will grow pale and tender and very welcome on the table.
Rhubarb(Rheum Rhaponticum)
Here, you buy plants from a grower (one delicious variety is called Champagne Rhubarb) and plant them, not too closely, as they form large beautiful plants. When they begin to grow, the flowering stems are removed and the plants are allowed to grow through the summer. Early in the following spring, some plants can be ‘forced’ into growth by covering them with boxes and leaf litter, then after a few weeks when the box is removed the stalks will be pale and delicious when cooked in pies and tarts. Do not consider eating the leaves as these are poisonous and must be discarded.
Kiwi Fruit/Chinese Gooseberry (Actinidia Deliciosa)
This is bought as a small bush, no, correction, two small bushes, (they say that there are self-fertile varieties, but all the kiwis I have seen seem to fruit best when there is both a male and a female bush). Kiwi Fruit are easy to grow, needing no special care, just good soil and cultivation, sun and warmth (in cooler areas these will do well in a greenhouse if you can spare the space). The nice thing about Kiwi fruit, if you happen to like them, is that one fruit is your whole RDA of vitamin C!
As always,
Happy horticulture,