In spring, while we wait for the snow to melt, we check on the chives to see if there will be enough for a taste.
Once the snow is gone we keep an eye on the rhubarb. This year I was also watching for asparagus to return.
Last year I seeded asparagus in a flowerbed close to our house. I didn’t plant much but I did want to know if it would overwinter here. I was pleasantly surprised when the delicate sprouts pushed out of the soil. I won’t be able to eat these asparagus plants for a couple of years — the roots need to build up before I start to take cuttings — but I can wait.
Chives, rhubarb, and asparagus are one way to have an early spring taste while waiting for the garden to start producing. These perennials also build up my own personal food security — I don’t have to rely on anyone else to truck them up the highway to enjoy them. I don’t even have to rely on the postal service to ship me the seeds to start indoors every year.
With time, I am able to divide the plants to either increase their production here on the farm, or to give away to others. Often these plants will continue on, year after year with little or no attention from a gardener.
On the prairies, finding a clump of rhubarb on the edge of a field is a sign there used to be a homestead there. People move on but the rhubarb still goes strong.
Berries are another good perennial food. Many are able to winter here in the North. Not only do they supply the wonderful experience of eating sun-warmed berries while picking, they also contain vitamins that help our immune systems withstand the cold and flu season.
We have raspberries that have survived several winters, and they are now putting out smaller shoots, which can be transplanted.
We have gooseberries and Saskatoons, but they haven’t done much. I see them flower and produce fruit, but then the fruit is gone; I suspect the geese are helping themselves to their namesake.
Wild strawberries are fruit that have no comparison in terms of taste. The geese tend to eat all these berries, too, before we can get to them.
There is a new berry plant that is becoming quite popular, it’s called by several names but “haskap” is one of the more common ones. The fruit of a honeysuckle plant, it’s a hearty berry that looks like a cylindrical blueberry.
I have yet to taste one, but the flavour is said to be on the tart side, but people say it’s hearty enough to withstand a Yukon winter.
The flowers apparently survive to -8°C, which means they should still set fruit even after a late spring cold snap. If I can get some this year, they’d make a tasty addition to the foods I already wait for every spring.