Sources of Plants and Seeds
Perennial vegetables can be hard to find. The nurseries and seed companies that stock them are usually small and run by highly dedicated enthusiasts. In some cases only one or two companies in North America offer the species you are looking for. Be prepared for some quirky or technical catalogs – but ones that are chock-full of fascinating plants.
Someday more perennial vegetables may be available through mainstream companies. While this will help many more people grow them, please don’t forget the pioneering companies and organizations that first made these crops available to you.
During the course of writing Perennial Vegetables, two of the finest perennial vegetable nurseries – Oregon Exotics and Future Foods – went out of business. This should be a lesson to us all not to hold back on ordering something rare, because it may be very difficult to find again if a company goes under.
Several books and organizations can help you track down rare plants and seeds. Check out:
Andersen Horticultural Library Plant Information Online.
Free online subscription service, helping you find sources for 88,000 species from over 700 sources. Online at http://plantinfo.umn.edu.
Cornucopia: A Sourcebook of Edible Plants. Steven Facciola.
Listing of 3,000 species and thousands more varieties of edible plants, cross-linked to over 1,300 companies and institutions that offer them. BUY THIS BOOK
Garden Seed Inventory: An Inventory of Seed Catalogs Listing All Nonhybrid Vegetable Seeds Available in the United States and Canada
Listing of commercially available vegetable cultivars, compiled by Seed Saver’s Exchange. Sixth edition features 8,500 varieties and over 250 seed companies and nurseries. BUY THIS BOOK
The Seed Search. Karen Platt.
Book and online resource with sources for over 43,000 species and varieties. BUY THIS BOOK
North American Sources
Asian vegetables including fragrant spring tree, water spinach, and winged bean.
J.D. Andersen Nursery
Tremendous banana selection for California.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Many perennial vegetables including such rarities as daylength-neutral winged beans, green hyacinth beans, and goldenberry.
Bamboo Garden Nursery
Excellent selection of bamboos for California.
The Banana Tree
Specializing in unusual tropical plants including many banana varieties as well as air potato.
Edible Plant Project
Volunteer-run nursery propagating useful perennials adapted to northern Florida. Sales through Gainesville farmers market.
Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO)
ECHO is one of the best sources for tropical perennial vegetables. Their seed company ships anywhere, but unfortunately to get plants from their nursery you need to go there in person. ECHO has a wider selection of rare useful plants that are shipped free to development projects in developing countries, but are not available elsewhere due to limited seed availability.
Evergreen YH Enterprises
Asian vegetable seeds including many perennials.
Sunchokes, shallots, good king Henry, and more.
Florida Bamboo Company
Clumping bamboos for tropical and subtropical Florida. Not mail-order.
Fascinating collection, including udo and fuki.
“Native plants from around the world,” including chufa and others. Authors of Invasion Biology: Critique of a Psuedoscience.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Wide range of vegetables, including many perennials.
Lilypons Water Gardens
Aquatic vegetables like water celery and arrowhead.
Moore Water Gardens
Fine selection of edible aquatic plants.
Large collection of useful plants.
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Many species adapted to California, including tree collards and Andean root crops. On-site sales only.
Hardy perennials, including a superior skirret clone.
Peters Seed and Research
Breed their own unique varieties. Perennial grains and brassicas.
Plant Delights Nursery
“Tropicalesque” hardy plants for colder climates.
Aquatic vegetables including water mimosa and water chestnut.
Fantastic catalog offering many perennial vegetables.
Specializing in spineless nopale cactus varieties.
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Many neat crops, including incredible diversity of sweet potato varieties.
Seeds of Diversity Canada
Sea kale, skirret, groundnut, and more.
Seed Savers Exchange
Grassroots network of seed savers, who share seeds and plants by mail. The “Miscellaneous” section of their annual yearbook includes many rare perennial vegetables. Joining SSE is highly recommended! SSE also has a much more limited commercial catalog of seed varieties for sale, don’t confuse this with their full listing of thousands of varieties which is only available to members. Listing an astounding 11,848 varieties in 2006.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Collection of varieties adapted to the hot, humid South, including multiplier onions.
Sow Organic Seed
Andean tubers and more.
Taro and Ti
Specializing in edible taro varieties, including low-oxalate “luau leaf” types needing only minimal cooking.
Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants
Crops grown by Jefferson, including edible hibiscus and heirloom lima and scarlet runner varieties.
Tripple Brook Farm
Great selection of cold-hardy useful plants, many perennial vegetables.
Many interesting plants, including cranberry hibiscus.
USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN)
National collection of plant materials for hundreds of crops and thousands of wild crop relatives. Free seeds and plants available for research purposes (including backyard research). Includes rarities like saltbush and earthnut pea.
Source for the daylength-neutral mashua cultivar ‘Ken Aslett’.
Van Engelen Inc.
Bulk bulb purchases; excellent camass prices.
Authors of the excellent Tropical Perennial Vegetable series (see Bibliography). On-site sales only.
Gaia Yoga Nursery
Breadfruit, bamboos, perennial leaf crops, and more.
Permaculture nursery featuring many perennial vegetables.
Agroforestry Research Trust
Research center with nursery and seed company featuring useful plants for cool temperate climates.
B & T World Seeds
Unbelievable seed company offering 35,000 listings. If no one else has it, B&T usually does, though it may take them a while to track it down.
Many species including good king Henry and sea kale.
Rare seeds available to members, including branching bush kales like ‘Dorbentons.’
Great bamboos, achira, taro, cassava, water chestnut, and more.
Herb Garden and Historical Plants Nursery
Many interesting plants, including saltbush and wild cabbage.
Poyntzfield Herb Nursery
Offerings include sea kale, oca, mashua.