Book Review: "Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles" by Eric Toensmeier

"Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles," by Eric Toensmeier

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (May 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931498407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931498401
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 7.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Price at (new) - $23.10

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. It includes a list of recommended reading, a list of recommended web sites, a list of sources for seeds and plants, a list of sources for garden supplies and equipment, a bibliography, an index by both scientific and common names, and a really valuable list of perennial vegetables that will grow in each of the various climate types in the USA (including Hawaii).

If you're at all interested in growing perennial vegetables - or in permaculture in general - I think you'll want to read this book and probably to own it. I think it's a very useful book and a pleasure to read. I recommend it most highly to all gardeners.

22 July 2007

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