Feature

3 of the best: perennials to plant now

Green Lifestyle online

We're hoping that our August issue is inspiring you to get out in the vegie patch. So here are our tips for what you could be planting now - and edible perennials are our favs as they just keep giving!

perennial-okra

Okra is also often called lady's fingers, bhindi or gumbo.

Credit: thinkstock

perennial-cape-gooseberry

Cape gooseberry produces aromatic yellow fruits with lots of little seeds encased in reddish brown, papery husks.

Credit: thinkstock

perennial-fennel

Aniseed-flavoured fennel is prolific in most gardens, even those with poor soils.

Credit: thinkstock

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You might not normally think to plant anything in your vegie patch other than the stock standard herbs and vegetables you see in the supermarket. But while many of these are suited to large-scale growing, they may not be what’s best in your small-scale garden. Planting perennials (that is, plants that don’t die after just one season or year) is a great idea because they continue to give year after year. The three perennials below make interesting and unique additions to the kitchen, so go for the ‘wow’ factor and grow something different that will impress both you and your friends.

Okra
It’s not common to see okra (also called lady's fingers) in supermarkets because the insides have a gooey texture that puts some people off. But this is a super-hardy plant that will yield lots of fruit even in nutrient-poor soils. It needs warm to hot soil temperatures to germinate, so start seeds on trays undercover or inside in August, then plant out and enjoy the lovely cream-coloured flowers that develop into juicy pods within a week. Okra can be added to stir-fries or stews.

Cape gooseberry
You won’t suffer guilt or regret planting this shrub in the garden as it’s very hardy and will bear loads of fruit year-round. It is even resistant to a little frost. Cape gooseberry grows about one metre tall, producing aromatic yellow fruit with lots of little seeds encased in reddish brown, papery husks. Eat them fresh off the shrub, in salads or stewed for dessert. You can also make them into a jam.

Fennel
Aniseed-flavoured fennel is so prolific that you’ll need to be careful not to let it overtake your entire garden! Pick the seeds for saving rather than letting them bolt in the garden if you want to control where they grow. The seeds are the perfect seasoning for pickled vegies if you don’t want to plant them all, while the green feathery leaves can be chopped and sprinkled in stews and on fish. A great way to enjoy the crisp white bulbs is to simply slice them and dress them with vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.