Food is a vital part of our lives. It nourishes us, gives us strength and energy, and provides us with many hours of pleasurable activities. Food plants are also the basis for clothing, housing materials, medicines, animal feed … almost everything we use from plants can be traced back to some food source.
Also linked with food plants are plants for medicine, fibre/fibre-producing plants, and plants for industry.
All of these uses are still very important to us today. However, one must also consider the fact that many food plants are annuals. Planting an annual crop means tilling the soil each year to prepare a new bed. And harvesting an annual crop means shaking the fruit tree to get the last ripe fruit or pulling up a carrot plant when it’s time to harvest. This requires work every year.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have perennial crops – plants that can grow for years without being planted?
Annuals are usually good weed competitors, but perennials are just as competitive. Think of a perennial as a weed that doesn’t mind being weeded. All those tender annual weeds that you have been nurturing, pulling up every week or two … now you don’t have to do it anymore!
In this article, I’ll tell you about 30 perennial fruits and vegetables. There are many more perennial foods out there, but this list will give you an idea of the possibilities. All these plants are delicious when ripe, and most can be eaten raw or cooked in one way or another.
Before starting to grow perennial fruit or vegetables, consider what site will offer these plants protection from wind, cold, ice storms/snowstorms … Also think about water drainage; don’t plant where the water will pool.
Planting fruit trees, berry vines, and other perennial plants is not hard … but it’s very important to get your spacing right. The first year after planting, keep them tightly spaced; this will keep you from having to do too much pruning or training the first few years. As the plants mature, they will spread to fill their allotted space.
For easy reference, the perennial fruits and vegetables in this article are arranged by type of plant: bramble fruit (blackberry/raspberry), small fruit vines (grapes, kiwifruit), grape-like fruit vines (vine tomato, cape gooseberry), tree fruits (apricot, peach, pear, nectarine), blue/black/purple fruit shrubs & trees (blueberry, huckleberry, elderberry), citrus-like fruit vines (passionfruit), and Asian pears.
After reading this article you may want to check out my other article covering perennial vegetables.
So let’s get started!
30 perennial fruits and vegetables
While not technically a berry, this plant produces large clusters of yummy fruit each summer. Berries can be dried or eaten fresh. These are great in pies, wine, syrup and jam.
2. Sea Buckthorn
This is a great plant for coastal regions and can grow in wet soils. The berries aren’t very tasty until they are dried, and they’re best known for their high vitamin C content. They also produce an orange-coloured juice that tastes like oranges [also, not sweet].
Growing blueberries can be tricky (and costly), but this evergreen perennial produces luscious fruit in the same area year after year without effort. They need acidic soil to thrive and will benefit from yearly applications of compost or manure at the base of the plant. If you live in zone 3 or above, consider adding some evergreen berry bushes to your garden for year-round fruit production.
There are wonderful varieties of black, red and white currants that produce in the summer until the first frost. These plants grow best in cooler climates (zones 3-5) and love growing along fencerows with other shrubs or in hedgerows with berries like raspberries or gooseberries.
Like currants, gooseberries grow well in hedgerows and produce abundant fruit that is tart and tangy. These can be eaten fresh or dried into a nutritious snack (try them with tea). They also make amazing wine and jams.
This is another delicious way to enjoy the benefits of elderberry without having to deal with all of those tiny berries! Harvest the flowers for jelly, syrup, wine and cordials. The leaves can also be made into a tasty vegetable saute with garlic, thyme and olive oil.
This is an amazing cross between a gooseberry and black currant that’s hardy in zones 4-8! It grows on a thorny bush 3-4 feet tall without much attention from the gardener but does best when fed some compost or manure each year. These plants are self-fertile, so you only need one to get a lot of fruit! In addition to eating fresh, I enjoy adding these berries to smoothies and preserves.
This popular modern hedgerow shrub produces delicious berries that can be harvested from early June until frost. They have a sweet, sub-acid flavour and are great fresh or dried. These are probably best known for their use in the Native American herbal medicine called ‘Osage Orange.’
Like elderberries, these have flowers that can be used to make syrup, cordials and jellies. You can also eat them fresh if you harvest them when they’re just barely open! Try eating the young shoots raw too…they taste like asparagus!
Like the juneberries listed above, these are other delicious berriesExcept that can be eaten fresh or dried, and they’re best known for their use in Native American herbal medicine called ‘Osage Orange.’
This amazing plant is a pioneer species – it breaks up hard soils to make room for long-lived plants like fruit trees and shrubs! It produces red berries popular with birds, but you can eat them too! The berries contain several times more vitamin C than oranges. You can also eat the leaves and flowers in salads, soups, sauces and teas.
Raspberries thrive best in cooler climates like zones 3-4 (although some varieties do fine in warmer ones) and love growing near other bramble plants like blackberries or cranberries for cross-pollination.
This popular bramble plant can be found all over the world! Many native species produce fruit eagerly, but this article is specifically about black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) which grow well in zones 3-7.
14. Summer Grape
This is an easy to grow perennial vine that’s very hardy (zones 2-8). It loves sunny areas and will produce grapes with beautiful colours like red, gold, purple or green! They make amazing jelly!
These grow on thorny bushes and produce delicious berries that can be eaten fresh, dried or cooked! They’re great in pies, jams and wines. This is another berry that grows well in most parts of the country (zones 3-7) and requires very little care once established.
16. Gogi Berry
Native to Eastern Asia, these plants produce Gogi berries similar to blueberries in both taste and nutritional value! They’re rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and can be eaten fresh or dried. They also make good jams. You can find them in zones 5-9, and they like full sun and well-drained soil.
17. Acerola Cherry
This is a small shrub that produces bright red cherries filled with 10 times more vitamin C than oranges! It’s native to the West Indies but grows best in zones 8-11 when planted near an evergreen tree for protection during winter months when it may burn back to the ground.
18. Strawberry Tree
This fast-growing tree can grow up to 20 feet tall and produces delicious red strawberries that taste a little like pineapple! Many birds and animals love them too, so it’s best to plant them in an area where this won’t be a problem. They thrive in zones 7-11 though, so get ready for some cold weather before you can enjoy your fruit!
19. Rose Hips
These are the part of the rose that most people throw away, but they’re filled with vitamin C and other nutrients. The flavour is similar to cranberries, so you can eat them raw or dried, steeped in tea or made into jelly. They grow well in many parts of the country (zones 3-8), are drought tolerant and easy to maintain once established.
Three species of strawberries produce fruit throughout all zones that have a temperate climate…so pretty much everywhere! They love the partial sun but can survive in the dense shade as well. You can grow them from seed or use runners to propagate, and they’ll come back year after year if you deadhead the flowers.
I know what you’re thinking, isn’t this a fruit that’s grown on trees, not bushes? Yes, it is, but there’s a bush banana called plantain (Musa acuminate)! This perennial produces yellow bananas like its fruiting counterparts during the summer months (zone 8b+) but will boast reddish flowers during fall (zone 9a+).
This fruit is native to China and Japan, but you can grow it in zone 7 or warmer! It loves full sun and, like a lot of other fruits on the list, grows as a bush rather than a tree. The unique flavour tastes a little like both apples and pears combined. Leaves are also edible and make good teas due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
23. Asian Pear
These pears come in many varieties, but two of the most common are Korean. They don’t require a lot to produce fruit, just some winter chill time. This makes them great for areas where trees need less chilling time than usual (zones 5-7), and they require only 600 hours of temperatures below 45˚F for fruiting.
24. Sea Buckthorn
Native to Asia and Europe, this berry produces a tart orange fruit that’s high in vitamin C. It can be used to make juices, rice pudding, jelly and even wine! In zones 4-9 you’ll only need one sea buckthorn shrub to provide enough fruit for a year’s worth of use. They grow best in well-drained soils but will tolerate clay.
These trees are popular in the tropics because they don’t require winter chill time like some other fruit trees. If you’re in zone 10 or warmer, you can grow them in your garden! They also produce flowers that are popular with bees and other pollinators during the winter months. It’s recommended that you plant at least two guava trees because the fruit is usually eaten fresh, not stored for later use.
26. Red Currants
These berries are often overlooked when it comes to growing an edible landscape, which makes them perfect for anyone who wants to be unique! They require full sun and well-drained soil to produce their dark red berries that taste like a cross between a raspberry and Concord grape (zones 4-9).
Another fruit that people tend to forget about, quince trees can produce a tart and aromatic yellow or red fruit in most temperate climates (zones 4b+). They require at least two different varieties of quince so pollination is successful and they’ll need regular water during the growing season.
If you live in zone 4 or higher, you can enjoy raspberries any time of the year – even in winter! This perennial plant produces beautiful white flowers in spring which are great for bees and other pollinators. They grow best when planted in full sun in well-drained soils (zone 3-8).
These low maintenance evergreens are perfect for growing around your garden edges! They have shallow roots that only need to be covered with mulch so they’re easy to care for without turning your whole yard into a boggy mess. Their tart and tangy berries make great additions to desserts (zones 3-8).
There are several varieties. homes of currants, but black, red and white currants produce the best fruit in most temperate climates (area 7b+)! These bushes can tolerate wet soils which makes them popular choices for berry patches in areas that get a lot of rainfall. Berries don’t require processing because they’re typically eaten fresh (zone 4-8).
Which fruits come back every year?
This question is usually answered along the lines of “Elderberries and grapes” with some mentioning figs. While most fruit trees are technically perennial, they don’t always survive our harsh winter weather and tend to bear less fruit after a few years (or even decades).
What are the only two perennial vegetables?
The only two perennial vegetables are asparagus and rhubarb.
Are any vegetables perennial?
Except for asparagus and seakale, vegetables don’t tend to persist from year to year. The exceptions are root crops such as Jerusalem artichokes and mangetout peas which generate new tubers each year.
Winter ground coverings such as Welsh onion, Chinese artichoke or mashua can provide a protective mulch for other vegetables in the winter and their leaves will regrow over spring/summer. These vegetables may be grown perennially but not necessarily left in situ for more than one year at a time, roots dug up and stored over winter could perhaps be returned to their spot come springtime, but there is no guarantee this would work.