13 Perennial Vegetables to Grow in Cold Climates

Perennial vegetables are a good addition to food forests or your home vegetable garden. If you live in a cold climatic region like zones 1-7, there are a variety of vegetables you can grow to sustain your family through the harsh winters. It is best to plant vegetables adapted to your microclimate. You can plant a combination of leafy green and bulbous perennials to increase the variety of your yield. Most perennials will take a while to establish, but once they do, they provide a consistent annual harvest. 

The 13 perennials listed below are great vegetable options for the winter:

1. Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
Donald Hobern/Flickr

Sorrel is a leafy green perfect for the winter garden. Garden sorrel grows to a height of 3ft at full maturity. The leaves can be used as a fresh addition to salads. The plant contains oxalic acid, which gives it a light, tart, lemon-like flavor.

You should plant sorrel in full sunlight, ideally 2-3 weeks before the last frost in spring. It grows as a perennial in warmer climates and as an annual in colder areas. Garden sorrel requires little maintenance. It is however vulnerable to aphids. You can harvest sorrel usually within the first year of planting. 

  • USDA climatic zones 3-8. 
  • Ideal soil pH, 5.5 to 6.8. The soil should be well-drained and rich in organic matter. 

2. Ramps/Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum)

Ramps/Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum)
Eric Toensmeier/Flickr

Leeks are native to the woodland areas of the Appalachians in North America. They are cold-hardy and will continue growing through sensitive temperatures in the winter. The plant takes a while to establish, but once it matures, it provides a bountiful harvest.

Grow leeks in shady areas during the summer. The leaves can be harvested during spring. They mature at 18-24 inches high. The first harvest for the leaves of wild leeks is the 2nd year, while the bulbs can appear later. Leeks can survive in temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  • USDA climatic zones 4-7.
  • Grows well in moist, well-drained soils. The seeds will stay in the soil for a couple of years before germinating. 

3. Egyptian Walking Onions (Allium proliferum)

Egyptian Walking Onions (Allium proliferum)
Tony Alter/Flickr

These are onions that develop small bulbs referred to as bulblets on top of the stem and in the roots. The name of the plant originates from the tendency of the stems to bend from the weight of bulblets and start new plants nearby.

They are cold hardy and will provide a harvest within 2 years of planting. You can harvest these onions throughout the entire growing season. The greens can be harvested in the spring and the bulbs in late summer and fall.

Egyptian walking onions mature at 2ft tall. They quickly spread in your garden once they are established.  The bulbs of the walking onions can be eaten fresh. 

  • USDA climate zones 3-10.
  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. 

4. Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus)

Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus)

A cold hardy perennial vegetable native to North America. It is characterized by green leaves and brilliant yellow flowers. The flowers blossom in late summer or early fall and produce seed heads which are a favorite food for birds.

Sunchokes were a vital food for native Americans. They can be eaten raw, or roasted like potatoes. They contain no starch, as opposed to potatoes. They are fast spreading and relatively low maintenance. Jerusalem artichokes mature at 6-10ft high and spread 3-5ft wide. They spread by rhizomes and are also self-seeding. 

  • USDA climatic zones 3-9. 
  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Requires well-drained, dry or medium soils. 

5. Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)

Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)
Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr

A herbaceous perennial vegetable characterized by large, lobed, powdery-blue leaves. They resemble cabbage leaves. Sea kale produces fragrant creamy white blossoms in the summer. This vegetable is popular in parts of Europe.

The shoots are harvested in the spring and can be used as a replacement for asparagus. The plant matures at 30-36 inches high and 24-30 inches wide. It is unaffected by frost but can be killed by sufficiently low temperatures of around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  • USDA climatic zones 4-9. 
  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Requires deep, fertile, well-drained soils. 

6. Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
Edsel Little/flickr

This perennial vegetable is full of flavor and low maintenance. It has a strong flavor that resembles celery thus making it a great addition to salads. The plant can reach up to a height of 6ft within a year of planting.

The leaves can be harvested weekly from spring to winter. It can be difficult to grow, as seeds take up to 20 days to germinate. 

  • USDA climatic zones 3-8.
  • Requires full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Grows well in well-drained soils, ideally spacing plants 18 inches apart. 

7. American Arrowhead (Sagitarria latifolia)

American Arrowhead (Sagitarria latifolia)
Udo Schmidt from Deutschland, CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a perennial vegetable native to swamps and marshy areas of North America. It is characterized by arrow-shaped dark-green leaves. It produces white blossoms in the summer, which give way to tiny seeds which attract water birds.

It spreads through rhizomes and is also self-seeding. The underground tubers are edible and was a favorite food for native Americans. The tubers have a taste similar to sweet potatoes or yams. You can harvest arrowhead 2 years after planting, mainly around October or November. Arrowhead matures at 2ft high and wide. 

  • USDA climatic zones 3-10. 
  • Grows well under full sunlight. 
  • Requires clay-loam, moist, poorly drained soils. 

8. Scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica)

Scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica)
Andy Roberts/Flickr

A root vegetable, similar to asparagus, and harvested during the winter months. It is characterized by long, smooth roots with a dark color. It produces yellow blossoms around July and June.

The plant grows best in temperatures between 18-20 degrees Celsius. Scorzonera has a long growing period of around 28 weeks and should therefore be planted around March or early April. It can be eaten similarly to lettuce. Typically, the plant matures at 3ft tall and 2ft wide. 

  • USDA climate zones 4-9.
  • Requires full sunlight or partial shade. 

9. Rutabaga (Brassica napus)

Rutabaga (Brassica napus)

This plant is a cross between cabbage and turnips. It takes 3-4 months to fully mature. It is grown as an annual, ideally planted 4-6 weeks before the last frost. If planted at the right time, rutabagas develop improved flavor and texture.

It is characterized by edible bulbs and green foliage. It occurs naturally in mountainous regions in Scandinavia. Rutabaga has a sweet, savory taste when cooked and can be used as a substitute for potatoes. It tolerates lower temperatures compared to turnips.  Rutabaga has yellow flowers that bloom during the summer. 

  • USDA climatic zones 3-11.
  • Grows well in full or partial sunlight. 
  • Thrives in loamy or sandy, acidic or neutral, well-drained soils. 

10. Collards (Brassica oleracea)

Blue Max collard variety is best for winter climates. It can remain hardy to temperatures of up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Collards are high yielding and a better alternative to kale due to their freeze resistance.

They propagate by self-seeding. They are characterized by thick edible leaves with a slightly bitter taste. The leaves are typically harvested after the first frost. They make a perfect addition to vegetable salads in addition to kale and spinach. Collards are vulnerable to nematodes.

  • USDA climatic zones 8-10. 
  • Grows well under full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Requires moist, well-drained soils. 

11. Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)
Timo Newton-Syms

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable native to China. It is easy to grow, drought tolerant and high yielding. It is characterized by dark green, heart-shaped leaves and elongated green or white flowers that grow in clusters.

Rhubarb propagates by seeds and should be best planted 4-6 weeks before the date of the last frost. Germination begins at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It grows to a height of 2-4ft at full maturity.

The succulent leaves are a great addition to vegetable salads. It is best to harvest rhubarb between May and July for the best flavor. The plant is also of ornamental value and can be used to add color to your spring garden. Rhubarb can be toxic if eaten in large quantities. 

  • USDA climatic zones 2-6. 
  • Grows well in humus-rich, well-drained soils. Plant in raised beds to prevent crown rot. 

12. Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)

This cold hardy plant is best grown when soil temperatures are approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the plant is established it can survive at least 0 degrees. It is a great addition to vegetable salads.

It propagates through seeds and should be typically harvested 1 year after planting. Miner’s lettuce matures at 8 inches high and wide. It self-seeds as an annual in cold climates. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and are a good source of vitamin C. 

  • USDA climatic zones 6-9. 
  • Thrives under full or partial shade. 

13. Common Camas (Camassia quamash)

A cold hardy perennial vegetable. It produces a bulb that is edible when cooked. The bulbs are rich in protein and are best harvested from mid-late summer. Camas should be planted in the fall.

The plant produces star-shaped, deep blue flowers that attract pollinators to your vegetable garden. It matures at 1-2ft high. The first harvest is at 3-5 years after planting. 

  • USDA climatic zones 3-7.
  • Grows best in full sunlight or partial shade. 
  • Requires humus-rich, moist, well-drained soils. 


The above-mentioned perennial vegetables are a good addition to your garden through the winter months. Most of these vegetables grow in the wild, so they are already adapted to your climate. They are nutritious and will provide a consistent food source through the cold season. You can get easy vegetable harvests year after year without needing to replant.