Perennial Vegetables: Get the Book Directly from Author Eric Toensmeier

Recommended Readings

Useful Plants


Bamboo World: The Growing and Use of Clumping Bamboos. Victor Cusak.

Very thorough guide to production and use of tropical and subtropical clumping and moso bamboos. BUY THIS BOOK

Conserving and Increasing the Use of Neglected and Underutilized Crops Series. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute.

Very detailed and informative, including publications on: aibika (edible hibiscus), chayote, breadfruit, mashua, and “Andean tubers” (incuding arracacha and yacon). Available online from the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute at

Food Plants of the World. Ben-Erik Van Wyk.

Great descriptions of over 300 cultivated plants from around the world, with beautiful photos. BUY THIS BOOK

Fruits of Warm Climates. Julia Morton.

A compendium of tropical and subtropical fruits, with tons of useful information on papaya, banana, goldenberry, pepino, and more.

Global Gardening: Increasing the Diversity of Plants in Your Own Garden While Feeding a Hungry World. Hank Bruce and Tomi Hill Folk

Fantastic guide, mostly to tropical perennials. Available from

Growing Unusual Vegetables: Weird and Wonderful Vegetables and How to Grow Them. Simon Hickmott.

A wealth of practical information for the British (cool maritime) climate, from the former owner of the late lamented Future Foods nursery. BUY THIS BOOK

Hardy Bamboos for Shoots and Poles: Thirty Varieties of Bamboo for Farms in USDA Zones 7, 8, 9. Daphne Lewis.

Guide to production of hardy edible bamboos. BUY THIS BOOK

How to Make a Forest Garden.. Patrick Whitefield.

In addition to being a great guide to forest gardening, this book has excellent writeups on temperate perennial vegetables based on the author’s own experience. BUY THIS BOOK

Lost Crops of Africa Volume II: Vegetables

Outstanding new resource featuring many perennial vegetables not profiled in my book.

Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. National Research Council.

A classic featuring many perennials for temperate to tropical climates. Viewable online at

Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective. J.E. Hernando Bermejo and J. Leon.

Focuses on New World crops; nice section on New World beans, including perennial beans.

Oriental Vegetables: The Complete Guide for the Gardening Cook. Joy Larcomb.

Features many perennials, including aquatics. BUY THIS BOOK

Plants for a Future: Edible and Useful Plants for a Healthier World. Ken Fern.

Excellent guide for temperate climate useful perennials. BUY THIS BOOK Also check out the fantastic PFAF online database at

PROSEA: Plant Resources of Southeast Asia.

Incredible multivolume set on crops of Southeast Asia. Volumes on vegetables (#8) and starch plants (#9) are fantastic resources. BUY THIS BOOK

PROTA: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.

Similar to PROSEA but focused on Africa, some volumes incomplete but incredible vegetable database online at

Specialty and Minor Crops Handbook.

Coverage of a wide range of herbs and vegetables for U.S. market gardeners. BUY THIS BOOK

The Tropical Perennial Vegetable Series. Jay Ram.

Very informative and practical series, covering celery stem taro, chaya, chayote, moringa, Okinawa spinach, Sissoo spinach, sweetleaf bush (katuk), and tropical tree kale.

The Vegetable Garden. Vilmorin-Andrieux.

Written in the 1880s, this guide to vegetable crops includes many rare perennials and much lost information (six pages on sea kale production, for example). BUY THIS BOOK

Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini. Elizabeth Schneider.

Cookbook featuring recipes for a great many perennial vegetables. BUY THIS BOOK


Permaculture and Edible Landscaping


The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping. Rosalind Creasy.

Nice overview of design and implementation of edible landscapes, with coverage of useful species, including some perennial vegetables. BUY THIS BOOK

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally. Robert Kourik.

Hard-core manual for edible and ecological landscape design. BUY THIS BOOK

Edible Forest Gardens: Vision, Theory, Design and Practice for Temperate Climate Permaculture. Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier.

Food production modeled on the ecology of the eastern forest. Very detailed design process for developing permaculture and edible landscape systems, and coverage of a great many major and minor hardy perennial vegetables. Order direct from co-author Dave Jacke at

Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Lawn into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community. Heather Flores.

Guerilla gardening, seed saving, biodiverse gardening, and much more from another socially engaged plant geek. BUY THIS BOOK

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. Toby Hemenway.

The first permaculture guide for North America. BUY THIS BOOK

Introduction to Permaculture. Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay.

Excellent overview to an essential practice for the 21st century. BUY THIS BOOK

Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future. Bill Mollison.

Comprehensive guide to permaculture design, including perennial polycultures of useful plants. BUY THIS BOOK

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. David Holmgren.

The co-originator of permaculture’s 12 principles of permaculture design: practical, insightful, as based in decades of experience. BUY THIS BOOK


History, Ecology, Native and Non-Native Species


The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. Tim Flannery.

History of the last 65 million years of North American history. Sets a proper context for the “invasive species” debate. BUY THIS BOOK

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Jared Diamond.

Remarkable book, including fascinating history of origins of agriculture and crop domestication in different regions. BUY THIS BOOK

Invasion Biology: Critique of a Psuedoscience. David Theodoropoulos.

Fascinating, controversial take on non-native species issue. Read it with an open mind. BUY THIS BOOK

Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion. Alan Burdick.

Eloquent and nuanced take on the invasive-species issue. BUY THIS BOOK

Stalking the Wild Amaranth: Gardening in the Age of Extinction. Janet Marinelli.

Thought-provoking examination of conservation gardening and non-native species. BUY THIS BOOK

Weeds or Wild Nature? David Holmgren.

Forthcoming book from co-originator of permaculture on “ecosynthesis” of native and non-native species. A short article by the same title is available on his website at


Garden Climates and Microclimates


Canadian Climate Map

Much more sophisticated than USDA maps, and similar to the Sunset Garden maps profiled below. A valuable resource for Canadian gardeners.

Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains: A permaculture approach to home gardening above 6,500 feet in Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colorado and southern Utah. Lisa Rayner.

This guide should be required reading for gardeners in its region. Includes recommendations of a number of perennial vegetable species adapted to this unique climate. BUY THIS BOOK

Hot Plants for Cool Climates: Gardening with Tropical Plants in Temperate Zones. Susan Roth and Dennis Schrader.

Guide to growing tropical and “tropicalesque” plants in northern gardens. Not focused on perennials or food crops, but contains highly relevant information for those wishing to grow tropical perennial crops in the North, and profiles of some perennial vegetables like taro. BUY THIS BOOK

Palms Won’t Grow Here and Other Myths: Warm-climate Plants for Cooler Areas. David Francko.

Great ideas for growing a wider range of tropical and “tropicalesque” plants in the North – highly relevant and very practical. BUY THIS BOOK

Sunset Garden Books

This series features detailed climate maps and gardening recommendations by region. The maps far surpass USDA Hardiness Zone maps, and incorporate heat, seasonal rainfall, length of growing season, and other factors, in addition to winter minimum temperatures. The series includes Sunset National Garden Book, Southern Living Garden Book, Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset Northeastern Garden Book, and Sunset Midwest Top 10 Garden Guide: I recommend picking up the national guide or the appropriate regional edition. BUY THIS BOOK

The Weather-Resilient Garden: A Defensive Approach to Planning and Landscaping. Charles Smith.

Great ideas for garden design and microclimate utilization to protect plants from heat, cold, rain, fire, and more. BUY THIS BOOK



General Gardening Techniques



See also the Sunset Garden Books listed above, as well as many of the other books profiled here.

Amaranth to Zai Holes: Ideas for Growing Food Under Difficult Conditions. Laura Meitzner and others.

Collection of articles from the ECHO newsletter, covering a wide range of low-tech sustainable practices. Focuses on warm climates, but full of many great ideas for any garden. BUY THIS BOOK

Drip Irrigation for Every Landscape and All Climates. Robert Kourik.

Guide to a water-saving, disease-preventing irrigation technique ideal for perennial vegetables. BUY THIS BOOK

How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. John Jeavons.

The guide to bio-intensive gardening, which produces very high yields through (labor-intensive!) double-digging and other practices. Double-digging is a great way to prepare soil for long-lived perennial vegetables. BUY THIS BOOK

Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! Patricia Lanza.

Outlines the steps to crating a sheet mulch garden – a technique to turn lawns or parking lots into instant gardens. BUY THIS BOOK

Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls. Nigel Dunnett and Noel Kingsbury.

Remarkable book covering techniques for gardening on the surfaces of buildings. The section on working with vines is highly applicable for use with perennial vegetable vine crops. BUY THIS BOOK

Start with the Soil: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Improving Soil for Higher Yields, More Beautiful Flowers, and a Healthy, Easy-Care Garden. Grace Gershuny.

An excellent guide to building and caring for organic soil. BUY THIS BOOK