Ah, the scent of a just-picked, sun-ripened tomato — there’s nothing like it. Ditto the crunch of a crisp, juicy lettuce leaf or a sweet, warm strawberry. But all good things come to an end, and once the garden is put to bed in autumn, it’s back to ho-hum supermarket produce until the spring awakening has us starting all over again, from scratch.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even here in Long Island’s horticultural zone 7, where frost nips the life out of most of our beloved plants, there are plenty of perennial vegetables you can plant now and harvest for many years to come. Consider adding them to your garden this year.
Asparagus is an exercise in patience — but good things come to those who wait. Plant in spring, but don't harvest until the third year. When those third-year stalks are 6 to 10 inches tall, carefully cut each slightly below the soil line using a sharp knife. Harvest from spring through July 1, then allow plants to rest up for next year's production.
Onion, garlic and Chinese chives are winter-hardy. Simply plant in spring or fall, harvest flowers in early summer and stalks all season long. Divide clumps every two or three years.
Egyptian walking onions
Small bulblets form at the top of stalks and weigh them down until they land on the ground and plant themselves to become next year’s plants. Harvest most small bulblets from stalk tops in late summer, leaving some to “walk,” and dig up the large underground onions under each plant in fall. Bulblets can also be manually planted to grow more plants.
The greatest success comes from planting root divisions of this worthy-yet-high-maintenance plant. First-year flowering is not common, but plants can live and produce for more than 15 years with proper care. Cut back to 12 inches and mulch well in autumn.
Good King Henry
Good King Henry is a European green reminiscent of spinach but not often seen in vegetable gardens on this side of the pond. Plant in early spring and harvest beginning in its third spring. Plants readily self-sow and can be divided every three years. A heavy application of mulch in late fall will ensure tender spring shoots.
Plant year-old crowns in early spring or late fall, and allow them to establish for two or three years before harvesting, as with asparagus. Then cut stalks and discard the leaves, which are toxic and should never be eaten.
Scarlet runner beans
Sow directly into the soil in spring and provide a climbing support or trellis. Green-bean-like pods can be harvested and eaten when young, or let them mature on the plant to dry for use in soups and stews (or consume freshly shelled). The more you pick, the more the plant produces, so check plants several times a week. Mulch in fall after top growth has died.
Find more gardening advice specific to Long Island at newsday.com/JessicaDamiano.