The term permaculture initially meant “permanent agriculture” but this was quickly expanded to also stand for “permanent culture” as it was seen that social aspects were an integral part of a truly sustainable system.

Perennial plants are often used in permaculture design; a big reason for this is that they do not need to be planted every year so require less maintenance. Of course perennials will fit well into any vegan organic system and the odd one or two can easily be grown in a very small garden. Below are some ideas from Plants for a Future for woodland perennials. A woodland is not the only place in which to grow perennial crops of course, there are many other habitats in which they can also be grown.

Seeds

Araucaria araucana (Monkey puzzle); Caragana arborescens (Siberian pea tree); Castanea sativa (Sweet chestnut); Cephalotaxus drupacea harringtonii; Corylus species (Cobnuts and Filberts); Juglans regia (Walnut) and Quercus ilex (Holm oak) all bear well at least in parts of Britain.

Fruits

There is a wide range here, examples are: Actinidia deliciosa (Kiwi fruit); Amelanchier alnifolia (Juneberry); Cornus species; Crataegus species; Elaeagnus x ebbingei; Malus sylvestris domestica (Apple); Prunus domestica (Plum); Pyrus communis (Pear); Ribes species (Gooseberries and currants) and Rubus species (Raspberries and blackberries) will provide a succession of fruit through the year.

Leaves

Allium ursinum (Wild garlic); Campanula persicifolia (Harebell); Cryptotaenia japonica (Japanese parsley); Fagopyrum dibotrys (Perennial buckwheat); Montia sibirica (Miner’s lettuce); Myrrhis odorata (Sweet Cicely); Rumex acetosa (Sorrel); Tilia species (Lime trees); Urtica dioica (Stinging nettles) and Viola odorata (Sweet violet) are just a few of the species to choose from, to pick fresh leaves all the year round.

Roots

Erythronium species (Dog’s tooth violets); Lathyrus tuberosus; Lilium lancifolium (Tiger lily); Medeola virginica (Cucumber root) and Streptopus amplexifolius are some of the more interesting root crops that you could grow.

For more information on vegan permaculture see: Plants for a Future: Edible and Useful Plants for a Healthier World by Ken Fern, published by Permanent Publications ISBN 1856230112. Websites to look at: www.pfaf.org and www.spiralseed.co.uk

This article appeared in Growing Green International magazine Num 21 (Summer 2008), p37.