Now is a great time to start thinking of adding some tropical vegetables to your garden. At the same time, you are thinking of new vegetables to try, it is also an excellent time to add a few handy tools to your garden supplies.
You can get a head start planting seeds and giving them the chance to grow in a controlled environment with a Waterproof Seedling Heat Mat (10" x 20.75").
Once those seedlings are ready to go into the ground, protect your knees by using these Multi-Purpose Thick & Large Kneeling Pads to make the job much more comfortable, and your knees will thank you for it!
Finally, these Garden Gloves with Fingertips Claws will keep your hands and fingernails clean without having to scrub the dirt off.
Check out our list of 10 tropical vegetables that will be easy to grow in your garden this year. These seeds can be found at a nursery, through a seed catalog or on Amazon.
It is always fun to try a few new crops that you might not have tried growing in the past, and you might discover a new favorite!
Cow Pea (Black Eyed Peas)
Photo by Jasmine Waheed
This popular crop will produce a protein-rich legume used as a food source at any stage of development. It is easy to grow black-eyed peas in the garden and is simple enough for beginning gardeners.
There are many varieties of black-eyed peas, such as cowpeas, frijoles, cream peas, and purple-eyed. The plant can be a bush or a trailing vine. Some of these varieties will produce peas throughout the season or all at once.
You will be able to find seeds at your local feed, seed, or garden store. Only purchase seeds labeled "wilt resistant" to avoid the possibility of planting seeds that might be prone to disease.
Plant the seeds when the soil temperature is at a consistent 65 degrees. These peas will need a full sun location, an area that gets at least eight hours daily.
Use black-eyed peas wherever and however you would use beans. They can be used with rice, in salads, soups, stews, casseroles and to make a great cowboy caviar and even hummus.
Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț
Eggplant is a versatile and tasty plant that is easy to grow in your garden. Eggplant is a close cousin to the tomato and is a hot weather vegetable. You can start this plant from seeds, and knowing where to plant eggplant is important.
These vegetables will need full sun, and the soil should be fertile and well-drained. This plant will do best when the soil has a consistent amount of moisture. Water regularly, especially when the plants are young.
Eggplant can be used in a stir-fry; you can roast it and serve it over pasta; you can also bread the slices and bake. Eggplant parmesan is a favorite, and you can also add them to a kabob and grill it.
Photo by Hanxiao
Okra is a warm-season crop that requires plenty of sunshine; it will also need a spot in your garden with good drainage. Plant the okra seeds in well-fertilized soil, allowing the growing okra to absorb the most amount of nutrients.
Wait until about two or three weeks after the chance of frost has passed before you plant the okra in your garden. Water the plants every seven days.
Many people like okra that has been dipped in egg and then rolled in cornmeal before being fried to a golden crisp. Okra is good in stews and used extensively as the thickening agent in Louisana gumbo.
Okra can be flavored with olive oil, salt, pepper, and other spices and then oven-roasted or stewed. Some people also pickle okra into sweet and spicy "wickles."
Photo by theMEATMENchannel
The Chinese winter melon is primarily an Asian vegetable with many names, such as white gourd, Chinese watermelon, white pumpkin, and winter melon wax gourd. Each culture that grows the Chinese winter melon has a different name for it.
It is a variety of muskmelon and one of the largest grown, as it can get to be a foot or longer and eight inches thick. This melon needs a long growing season and will ripen in late fall. Sow the seeds in a sunny location in your garden when the soil is over 60 degrees.
The uses for Chinese winter melon are as varied as the names used for this plant. Its mild flavor makes it good in chicken soup, and in stir-frys with pork and onion. The skin from the vegetable can be made into sweet pickles or preserves.
It is also lightly steamed and seasoned with soy sauce. Sliced thinly or chopped into cubes, the Chinese melon is placed atop rice or in a vegetable curry. In China, they cook a rich broth inside a half melon with meat and other vegetables.
Photo by ©SchoolPhotoProject.com
The chayotes' relatives include cucumber and squash. The chayote is also known as vegetable pear, choko, and custard marrow. Native to Latin America, chayote has been cultivated since pre-Columbian times.
Grown in Louisiana, Florida, and the Southwestern United States, the chayote is a squash vegetable. It is sensitive to the cold, but it can be grown as far north as the USDA growing zone seven.
In the United States, this plant will not flower until the first week of September. After that, chayote will need a 30-day frost-free span of weather to achieve fruit.
You can purchase chayote seeds or sprout them from a chayote you have purchased at the supermarket.
This vegetable, fruit, stems, and young leaves are steamed or boiled in stews, baby foods, juices, or sauces and pasta dishes. Raw chayotes can be thinly sliced, julienned, or diced and added to salads, slaws, or salsa. They can also be deep-fried, mashed, roasted, or baked like a potato.
Chinese Long Beans
Photo by ©SchoolPhotoProject.com
If you can imagine a green bean that is about five times longer, you will have an idea of what a Chinese long bean looks like. These beans grow to about 3 feet in length and have bright green leaves.
They are related to cowpeas and string beans but taste more like green beans. Some compare their taste to asparagus, too.
You will start this plant from seed and plant them as you would regular green beans. They will germinate in about 10 - 15 days. These long beans prefer warm summers, and it can take two to three months before the plants will flower.
An excellent source for vitamin A, you will use the Chinese long bean just as you would any green bean. They are good in stir-fries and any other recipe that calls for green beans.
While this is not a true spinach, the Malabar spinach looks like a spinach plant. Also known as Ceylon spinach, climbing spinach, and vine spinach, this green leaf variety grows in India and throughout the tropics.
Even though it favors hot temperatures, the Malabar spinach will grow well in various soils, but it prefers moist soil with organic matter. This plant can be grown in part shade, but it will flourish in hot, humid, and full sun locations.
Once the seeds are up, the vine should be trellised. Just two plants will be sufficient for most needs through the summer and fall.
You will use Malabar spinach to be just like you would use the spinach you are familiar with. In India, they cook this spinach with spicy chilies and chopped onion. Throw a handful in soup, stir-fries, and curries. If you use the raw leaves in a salad, they have a hint of citrus and pepper.
Photo by Jasmine Waheed
This cool-season vegetable will allow you to plant a fall crop in late summer. Bok choy is frost hardy and will continue to grow after cold weather begins. Direct seed into rich, fertile soil that has good drainage.
You can plant bok choy in full sun. If you plant small batches of bok choy every two weeks, you will have a steady supply of this leafy vegetable.
Bok choy is great to incorporate in salads or added to stir fry. Use raw bok choy on sandwiches to add a slightly sweet flavor.
Anything you would use on a celery stalk, like peanut butter, you can use on a stalk of bok choy. If you cut bok choy in half, drizzle it in olive oil, you can toss it on the grill, and add a sprinkle of sea salt.
Often confused with green onions, shallots are quite different. They have a mild onion and garlic flavor is tasty in almost any dish. Shallots are made up of cloves, much in the same way as garlic.
You can grow shallots from seed in loose, well-drained soil. Add organic material to give them a good start.
Shallots will prefer to be in full sun and are often planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be turned. When you first plant shallots, they will need plenty of water, but they require less as they mature.
When you use your shallots, peel off the papery skin and slice off the course ends. Slice the shallot in thin rounds, or mince them. Add shallots to salads, dressings, or marinades, or cook them by themselves with a bit of butter or olive oil. Shallots will compliment vegetables, both raw and cooked, and meats and poultry or fish.
Also called rocket, rucola, and roquette, arugula grows very fast. It is a cool-season crop that provides a harvest just a few weeks after sowing. Arugula has been around for centuries.
Easy to sow from seeds, you can plant the arugula seeds as soon as the soil thaws in the spring. Full sun or partial shade will enable the seeds to germinate in just a few days. Keep your soil moist until the sprouts appear.
Arugula can be eaten cooked or raw. Use it in salads, on its own or in combination with other leafy greens. It has quite a peppery taste, so it is better to use it in blends. Arugula is also good on sandwiches. Toss arugula in casseroles, or toss some across a pizza as it comes out of the oven.
If you are unsure when to plant, most seed packages will tell you when to start planting according to the zone you live in. You can find your zone using the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, a map produced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Created in 2012, this map is the standard that garners and growers use to determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a particular location. Be sure to check your location before planting.