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Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Edibles Paperback – June 1, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Part of the allure of perennial gardening is the fact that a gardener can plant something once and enjoy it for several years, a benefit that has rarely been extended to vegetable gardeners. Save for such stalwarts as asparagus and rhubarb, most edible crops can be used only annually. Thanks to Toensmeier, gardeners need no longer be frustrated by such limitations. From air potatoes to water celery, Turkish rocket to Malabar gourd, there are more than 100 new species of edible plants. After addressing such cultural basics as site selection and preparation, Toensmeier explains why each plant is an excellent perennial vegetable crop. Now that such items are making their way onto trendy restaurant menus and health-store shelves, Toensmeier's groundbreaking guide is destined to become the bible for this new class of edible gardening. Carol Haggas
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Review

Booklist-

Part of the allure of perennial gardening is the fact that a gardener can plant something once and enjoy it for several years, a benefit that has rarely been extended to vegetable gardeners. Save for such stalwarts as asparagus and rhubarb, most edible crops can be used only annually. Thanks to Toensmeier, gardeners need no longer be frustrated by such limitations. From air potatoes to water celery, Turkish rocket to Malabar gourd, there are more than 100 new species of edible plants. After addressing such cultural basics as site selection and preparation, Toensmeier explains why each plant is an excellent perennial vegetable crop. Now that such items are making their way onto trendy restaurant menus and health-store shelves, Toensmeier's groundbreaking guide is destined to become the bible for this new class of edible gardening.

(Carol Haggas)

"This book is itself a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants. Toensmeier's adventurous yet sober palate blends with his observant eye and plant-geek mind to yield a varied harvest that should produce for years to come. He is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide for explorations of this largely unmapped territory. Let's hope gardeners everywhere follow his lead and join the fun!"--Dave Jacke, coauthor Edible Forest Gardens



"That there are more perennial vegetables than asparagus is no surprise, but that there are more than 100 species we North American gardeners can choose from is news. Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables, the first comprehensive guide to growing them, will have all of us reexamining our plans for next year's vegetable plot." --Karan Davis Cutler, author of Burpee―The Complete Flower Garden



"Eric Toensmeier has comprehensively filled a huge gap in the sustainable landscape. Perennial Vegetables lets you put away your tiller, and covers everything you need to grow, harvest, and eat vegetables and greens that will keep coming back year after year."--Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden



"Toensmeier's knowledge of edible plants is impressive and inspiring. His excitement for a sustainable landscape helps us focus away from buying food to harvesting it naturally. Perennial Vegetables offers an excellent range of edible plants for long-term cultivation and enjoyment."--Ellen Ecker Ogden,co-founder of The Cook's Garden seed catalog, author of From the Cook's Garden



"Growing perennial vegetables is a true pleasure. This fine book gives the knowledge to successfully add variety to both the garden and the table while also enhancing the home environment."--Miranda Smith, author of The Plant Propagator's Bible and Complete Home Gardening

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publications; Later Printing edition (June 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931498407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931498401
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Meadows on July 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I very seldom buy new books, and even more seldom buy books as expensive as this. But I had a $25 Amazon gift certificate, so I went ahead and bought it, and I'm very glad I did.

The first section of the book is useful information on growing perennial vegetables (and other perennials, for that matter), and on landscaping using these plants, many of which have great ornamental value.

Part Two is a listing of each of the more than 100 (I didn't count) perennial vegtables, with information on each species. About half the listed plants have quite extensive growing information, and about half have shorter descriptions. A map is included for each species, showing where it will grow as a perennial and where it can be grown as an annual. Toensmeier has not included plant 'thugs' such as kudzu or Japanese knotweed, and warns the reader if any of the other plants may naturalize.

The author's inclusions of certain species (as vegetables) may be slightly questionable: we are more apt to think of them as fruit or as herbs, for example, rhubarb and lovage. (However, my daughter cooks a lot of Persian food, and uses rhubarb as a vegetable in a meat and vegetable stew.) Also, this book will be of even more use to people who live in a warmer climate than I do (northern Pennsylvania in the mountains, with Zone 4 weather). I actually already grow four of the vegetables in the book: rhubarb, lovage, Good King Henry, and sorrel. I discovered some others that I'll definitely try - two of which I had never even heard of before. Those who live considerably further south than I will find a wealth of species to try.

The book is well written, and carefully edited.
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As other reviewers have noted this really isn't that helpful a book if you live in a cold climate gardening zone. For my zone, 7, I counted only 38 perennials and many of those were actually from the same family, for example two different kinds of sorrel.

Anyone with gardening experience probably knows most of the common vegetables listed, like asparagus, rhubarb, jerusalem artichoke and many of the perenial herbs.
If you want a coffee table book about interesting or exotic species that will grow in Hawaii or parts of Florida then this is the book for you but for serious 4 season gardeners it just wasn't that useful.
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If you are a gardener interested in sustainability, the "holy grail" must be a more-or-less stable perennial polyculture. (See Wes Jackson's work with perennial grains at The Land Institute: e.g., Becoming Native to This Place or Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture, for example.) In other words, you want a garden that mimics nature. The problem is that most of our food gardens are the opposite: we grow lots of annuals, mostly of a very few varieties. That is why, if you are anything like me, you already know what artichokes are--and even the difference between artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes--but you may never have heard of 'Zuiki' Taro or any of the "Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles" heralded by Eric Toensmeier's subtitle. His goal is to introduce people who garden for food to 100+ new food crops, all perennials. He wants to ring the changes on perennial vegetables from A to Z! Does he succeed? Yes, in my opinion he does.
Most of these plants I have never grown or tasted, or even seen with any recognition! And that is what is so exciting. I cannot wait to devote sections of my garden to this new (to me) kind of vegetable next year. Already I grow lots of perennial fruit, so the addition of perennial vegetables is only natural. The key questions, it appears, will be where to find good varieties of the vegetables Toensmeier names ("Only a small number of nurseries and seed companies offer even the best perennial vegetables!") and whether I agree that they are palatable.
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I have spent a lot of time with this book. It is very well done and the standard of excellence is very high. Like many, I think we face the real possibility of having to be largely self-reliant as many different global crises converge, water, oil, climate change, etc. The antidote to despair is getting busy and one of the very best core strategies is to plant perennial vegetables and do edible landscaping.

As noted above, not only is this book very thorough and very complete, it will point the reader to seed, plant, and other resources to implement their ideas. I consider it a master work and far more valuable than its very reasonable price. Get it, it will be one cornerstone of your self reliance toolkit.
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This book is full of useful information. There are more than 100 different species profiled in this volume, with details ranging from history to cultivation to growth habit to how to prepare the food you harvest. Finding it, however, is a chore.

Unfortunately, the plants are listed alphabetically by latin name. That's it. There's not even a separate section for water garden plants. If you're specifically searching for perennial vegetables for your water garden (or trying to avoid them), you've no choice to but read each plant summary until you determine whether it grows in water or dirt.

Even the index makes life unnecessarily difficult. Say you're trying to find out what page Oca is on. You leaf through the index to Oca, and does it give you a page number? Nope, it tells you the latin name. Then you look up the latin name in the index, and it gives you the page number. I can't fathom why they couldn't be bothered to provide the page number along with the latin name on each common name in the index. It wouldn't have taken up any more space.

While most of the information in the book is pretty solid, the map of climate types should be taken with a grain of salt. The entire San Francisco Bay Area (even the scorchingly hot and dry East Bay) is listed as 'Cool Maritime', just like Seattle and Portland. Anyone who's familiar with the Bay Area can assure you that the climate is wildly different from the coastal Pacific Northwest, with a near inversion of the ratio of sunny to cloudy days, and very different heat and cold patterns. More simply, you can grow tropical plants in the bay area pretty easily, but it takes skill and patience to grow sub-tropicals in Seattle. Yet this book would have you use the same list of well-suited plants in Danville, CA and Bellevue, WA.
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