Edible perennials are plants that produce their seeds year after year without any special care or attention. They do not require much space, they don’t need water and most importantly they provide food for animals. There are many varieties of edible perennials available today. Some of them have been cultivated since ancient times while others were discovered only recently (and even then it was through genetic engineering). However, all of these types of plants share one thing in common: they are cold hardy.
Cold Hardiness Of Edible Plants
A plant’s ability to survive extreme cold conditions is called its “hardiness” level. All plants fall into two categories: warm-blooded and cold-blooded. Warm-blooded plants are those which depend upon the sun for energy. These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, peas and beans.
Cold-blooded plants are those which rely on internal heat sources such as roots or flowers. Cold-blooded plants cannot survive in very cold temperatures because they lack the necessary warmth source from within themselves.
Plants can be cold-blooded as a result of their environment. For example, water plants such as cattails or lotus are cold-blooded because they rely upon water for their heat-sources. These plants cannot survive in areas where the water freezes and is covered by ice.
Cold hardy plants on the other hand can survive extreme cold temperatures because of their internal heat-sources. Most of these plants spend a majority of their lives in a dormant state. This means that they do not require as much energy as their warm-blooded counterparts. In addition, these plants survive on very little water.
For this reason, some cold hardy plants can actually grow just fine in an environment where the soil is frozen solid.
More About Edible Perennials
Most edible perennials will provide you with both seeds and roots (or tubers). They can be eaten either raw or cooked.
Roots can be harvested all year round. Most edible perennials have a long growing season. This means that you can eat their roots even during the colder months of the year. Edible perennial roots are very nutritious and beneficial to your overall well being.
Some edible perennials have flowers which are also edible. Some of these flowers are also very colorful and attractive to bees and other winged insects. However, keep in mind that not all flowers have sweet nectar or honey inside them. It is always best to collect flowers that you are familiar with and consume them responsibly.
Some edible perennials have seeds that can be consumed. Some of these seeds are viable even after going through the digestive tract of an animal or human. It is a good idea to locate plants that produce edible seeds because they grow very quickly and you can always replenish your stock by planting the seeds. Edible seeds can either be eaten raw or cooked.
Most edible perennials require no special preparation. However, some can be toxic if not prepared correctly. It is always best to prepare these types of plants with someone who knows about their potential dangers.
Most edible perennials grow in large clusters or colonies. For this reason, it is always best to only remove a small portion of the colony so that the remaining plants will continue growing. Remember: leave nothing but footprints and take only photographs!
Some edible perennials are very difficult to locate. In these instances, it is always a good idea to take a few leaves from the plant so that you can locate it again in the future.
Most edible perennials are available year round. However, their taste and nutrition value certainly varies depending on the time of the year. For example, the leaves of a plant in the wintertime might not taste as sweet as its leaves in the late spring.
A good rule of thumb is to eat the locally available plants because your body will have developed immunities to whatever grows in your immediate environment. This could be very helpful in times of need!
If you don’t have access to plants that grow year round, then it is best to stockpile as many roots, tubers and nutritious seeds as you can during the times of plenty. You can then use these stockpiled plants to supplement your nutrition during the lean times of the year.
Edible Perennials vs. Edible Annuals, Bacteria and Fungi
Even when you know what plants are safe to eat, there is still the question of which plants have edible components. Some plants are edible all year round. Other plants only have edible components for part of the year. Still other plants contain poisonous elements and some of these may be edible under certain circumstances.
Every plant is unique and can provide nourishment in its own way. It is up to you to learn about as many plants as possible and become familiar with their differences. One thing is certain: if you are eating wild plants for survival, it is always best to eat a varied diet of several different plants to make sure you get a balanced intake of nutrition.
Some plants are basically inedible but can be eaten if prepared in the right way. For example, cowpeas that are not yet ripe can be eaten if they are boiled for a very long time. Another example is quinine, which is used to treat malaria and is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree. However, the raw bark is extremely bitter and not very nutritious at all.
One thing that many people do not know is that certain types of bacteria and fungi are edible. In fact, many types of mushroom are edible, but some can be deadly poisonous. It is up to you to learn what mushrooms are safe to eat and what ones will kill you.
Sources & references used in this article:
Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles by E Toensmeier – 2007 – books.google.com
Heterogeneous grazing causes local extinction of edible perennial shrubs: a matrix analysis by LP Hunt – Journal of Applied Ecology, 2001 – Wiley Online Library
Building a botanical foundation for perennial agriculture: Global inventory of wild, perennial herbaceous Fabaceae species by C Ciotir, W Applequist, TE Crews, N Cristea… – Plants, People …, 2019 – Wiley Online Library
100 Cold Hardy Trees, Perennials, and Shrubs for Kittitas County by P Andersen, M Gardener, M Vathauer – extension.wsu.edu