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Tropical Food Gardens: A Guide to Growing Fruit, Herbs and Vegetables in Tropical and Sub-tropical Climates
Leonie Norrington 2001 (AUS)
This excellent book is written in an informative, conversational style that is engaging and funny. Beautiful hand-painted graphics accompany the witty prose. This is easily the best book we have come across for northern gardeners. 160pp
Find more books on gardening in warm or hot climates here.
Tropical Vege Starter Collection
The best way to keep the vege garden producing through the hot, wet time of year is to make the switch - grow replacements that can take the heat, but are used in just the same way in the kitchen! Plant October - January, subtropical and tropical areas. Includes (5 seed packets): Amaranth 'Red', Angled Luffa, Kang Kong 'Bamboo Leaf', Tomato 'Thai Pink Egg' and Snake Bean 'Red Dragon'.
5 seed packets for the price of 4
Amaranth Leaf H syn. Leaf Amaranth; Chinese Spinach, Tampala, bayam
A nutritious, leafy green for warmer areas. It is a fast-growing and best to harvest the whole plant as older plants get tough and bitter tasting. Successive sowings will provide greens over a long period. The leaves have a sweet, tangy flavour and are best cooked, raw leaves should not be eaten very often, as they are high in nitrates and oxalic acid. In China and Japan it is the main vegetable used as a cooked green.
Leaf Amaranth prefers a fertile, well-drained garden soil, full sun to partial shade. Soil temperature needs to be at least 20°C to germinate seed, sow late spring and summer. Harvest is 30 days to baby leaf and 50 days to maturity, when they are about 20 cm tall. As they get older the leaves will get tougher.
Amaranth 'Red' H
'Red' is a very attractive, nutritious, red leafy green for warmer areas.
SA124 (500 seeds)
Amaranth 'Red Calaloo' H
Syn. Red Stripe Leaf
Red Calaloo has attractive green leaves with a red splash down the middle.
SA112 (500 seeds)
Amaranth Grain H
An ancient Aztec food grain that is higher in protein than wheat or rice; it is a rich source of the essential amino acid, lysine. It grows vigorously, tolerates drought and heat. It is pest-resistant. The flowers are vivid burgundy, feathery plumes, 1.5 - 3 m high. The pale blonde amaranth grains are shiny, slightly larger than poppy seeds. It is delicious cooked as a cereal, can be ground for flour or popped like popcorn. It is a warm season annual and germinates best at 20 - 27°C soil temperature. Sow seed from late spring to summer in temperate areas. In subtropical and tropical areas, sow all year (avoiding frost periods). It takes 4 - 6 months for a grain crop. Harvest the seed head once a few seeds drop, lay on a tarp and dry in the sun for a week until the stems are dry. Separate the seeds from the stems and winnow in a light breeze.
SA119 (450 seeds)
Angled Luffa H syn. Okra Vine, Okra Cee Gwa
Angled Luffa is a fast growing, vigorous annual vine that requires a trellis to grow on. The young fruits are similar in flavour to zucchini but slightly sweeter, it is a good substitute for zucchini in humid areas as it does not suffer fungal problems. The stem tops, young leaves and flower buds can be steamed as vegetables and the seeds from mature fruit roasted with salt and eaten. Plant it in a rich soil in full sun. Sow seed in spring.
See also Luffa - Loofah
Angled Luffa H
SA109 (12 seeds)
Angled Luffa 'Long Ridge' H
This is an F1 hybrid so is not suitable for seed saving.
SA106 (8 seeds)
Bitter Melon H syn. Fu kwa, Balsam Pear or Bitter Gourd
A tropical climber with small, fragrant flowers produces a warty fruit. It produces prolifically but may need hand pollination in cool climates. Sow next to a trellis, after all danger of frost has passed, soil temperature min. 22ºC, 2.5 cm deep, 30 cm apart. Early plants can be sown in seedling pots for later transplanting. Prepare well-drained soil with compost and well-rotted manure. To avoid excessive bitterness, pick the green fruit when young. Fruit is peeled, rubbed with salt and left for an hour then rinsed and the central spongy pith discarded. Seeds should not be eaten. Alternatively it can be parboiled in salted water before use. Used as a cooked vegetable and in pickles and curries. Young leaves and shoots are edible. Days to harvest: 60 - 70.
Bitter Melon H
A prolific, open-pollinated, traditional variety of bitter melon. The fruit weigh up to 20 kg but are best picked at 1.5 kg, bigger fruit is more bitter.
SM139 (15 seeds)
Bitter Melon 'Greenlife' H
An early and prolific smoother-skinned bitter melon. Fruit are 22 - 25cm long and weigh 300 - 400g. It has a high fruit set and continues to produce for several months. Days to harvest: 60. This is an F1 hybrid so is not suitable for seed saving.
SM132 (10 seeds)
Capsicum 'Perennial' H
'Perennial' is a tall, hardy, productive, bush capsicum that can live up to 5 years in the tropics. The fruit are 3 cm by 8 cm long and taper to a blunt point, ripening from green to red. It is resistant to wilt and can also be used as rootstock for grafting other capsicum varieties. Days to harvest: 70.
SC384 (35 seeds)
Ceylon Spinach H
syn. Malabar Spinach
Attractive climbing vegetable, leaves are rich in vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll, eaten raw or cooked; perennial in the tropics. Sow spring and summer. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas.
SC217 (20 seeds)
Cucumber 'Giant Russian' H
Excellent variety for humid areas, vigorous vine, fruits are very large, crisp, sweet and acid-free, keep for several months, much more resistant to mildew than Lebanese cucumbers.
SC373 (20 seeds)
Find other cucumber varieties here.
Egyptian Spinach H
syn. Molokhia, Malu Khia, Melokheya, Meloukia, Salad Mallow, Jew's mallow, West African sorrel
A very hardy, fast growing annual to 1m. The young leaves used in salad, older leaves and the shoot tips cooked as spinach and are high in protein. It self-sows readily. Sow spring and summer. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas.
SE113 (200 seeds)
Are you looking for Zaatar seed?
Jicama - Climbing Yam Bean H
Climbing plant from Central America, with delicious sweet, crisp tuber, eaten raw or cooked, flowers are removed, as seeds are toxic. Sow spring in the subtropics; sow all year in the tropics; in warm temperate areas do not sow before early summer as it requires a very warm soil to germinate. Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas.
Jicama growing information...
SJ101 (20 seeds)
Kailaan 'Kaliburi' H
syn Chinese Broccoli; Chinese kale; gai lum, gai lan (China); kol (Indonesia); kai lan (Malaysia); phak khana (Thai); cai ro (Vietnam)
Hardy and easy to grow; kailaan is harvested for its thick, succulent stems which are delicious cooked. Grow all year in most areas. Days to harvest: 60-70. This is an F1 hybrid so is not suitable for seed saving.
SK129 (150 seeds)
syn. Water Spinach
Ground-hugging, Thai vegetable that likes moist soil; young leaves, stems and tips are delicious cooked in a stir-fry or steamed. Sow spring and summer. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas.
SK119 (60 seeds)
'Madagascar' Bean H
A vigorous, climbing, tropical lima bean, it lives for many years and is excellent at coping with wet, humid conditions. It can be used as a tropical alternative to broad beans or as a dried bean. The dried beans cook quickly and make tasty vegetarian burgers! Suitable for warm temperate, subtropical and tropical areas. Madagascar Bean growing information.
SB111 (10 seeds)
Brassica rapa var. nipposinica
syn. Mibu greens
Very similar to mizuna but with smooth edged leaves. In warmer areas it is best planted in the winter, avoiding the peak caterpillar season of Feb-March. In cool areas plant from spring to autumn. Mibuna is a salad green from Japan, use while young; older leaves can be steamed as a spinach or eaten in soups and stir-fries.
SM134 (300 seeds)
Mung Bean H
Quick growing and hardy, adds nitrogen, builds organic matter; combine with buckwheat or Japanese millet; produces edible seeds. Sow in temperate areas November - February; in subtropical areas September - March and tropical areas during the wet season.
SM110 Inoculant included
SM111 (2.5kg) Inoculant included Not to TAS
SM131 (2.5kg) Inoculant included Organically certified Not to TAS
Are you looking for Organic Mung Bean seed for sprouting?
New Guinea Bean H
Syn. Italian edible gourd, gourd cucuzzi, Indian squash, bottle gourd, calabash gourd, doodhi, lowki
Not of course a bean at all, instead this is a type of squash. A traditional Italian vegetable, the light green fruits are cylindrical 60 - 100 cm long and can weigh up to 2.5 kg. The creamy white flesh is said to have a flavour and texture similar to green beans, which is probably where it gets its common name. The white flowers are large and scented. Sow next to a trellis, after all danger of frost has passed, with a minimum soil temperature of 22°C, 2.5 cm deep, 30 cm apart. Early plants can be sown in seedling pots for later transplanting. Prepare well-drained soil with compost and well-rotted manure. Pick the green fruit when young, 15-60 cm long. Prepare it in a similar way to squash.
SN101 (10 seeds)
Looking for Guada Bean?
There is a bit of confusion around this plant name. It is sometimes used as a synonym for New Guinea Bean Lagenaria siceraria which is a true gourd but more often refers to Serpent Gourd Trichosanthes anguina. Seed of Serpent Gourd is currently available here.
Welsh or Bunching Onion H
Also known as Welsh onion; Japanese bunching onion; evergreen bunching onion; taai tsung, qing cong, xiao cong (China); bawang daun (Indonesia); atasuki, negi (Japan); bawang daun (Malaysia); ton horm (Thai); hanh (Vietnam).
Welsh onions are a hardy, non-bulbing, often perennial, spring onion with a mild, sweet flavour. It has tube-like, hollow, green leaves above white stems; the white shaft plus a few cm of the green leaves are eaten. It is a versatile plant, extremely hardy and pest resistant, that will generally grow from cold regions right through to hot, tropical areas. The seeds can also be sprouted. Older varieties will form a clump; some modern cultivars are best grown as annuals and will fail to clump up very much at all. Welsh onions prefer an open, sunny site, with free drainage and a pH above 6.5. The flowers of Welsh onions are attractive to bees and other useful insects.
Sow seed in autumn or spring; it germinates best at 10 - 24°C soil temperature; in warmer areas try germinating the seed tray in the bottom of the fridge to get it started. Sow seed into a seedling tray, 5mm deep, cover with soil and firm down. Transplant the seedlings once large enough to handle. Space rows 30 - 70 cm apart with 15 - 30 cm between plants. Seed takes 7 - 21 days to germinate. Established clumps can be divided to for propagation material.
Onion 'Green Stem Welsh' H
A non-bulbing, open-pollinated, perennial, spring onion which readily forms a clump; this is a very useful addition to any garden. Bunching onions have a mild, sweet flavour; the green shaft plus a few cm of the green leaves are eaten. The seeds can also be sprouted. The flowers are attractive to bees and other useful insects. This is a versatile plant with tube-like hollow leaves; it will grow from cold regions right through to hot areas. Sow seed in autumn or spring; it germinates best at 10 - 24°C soil temperature. It prefers a neutral to slightly alkaline soil and is extremely hardy and pest resistant. Grow it in full sun. They can be propagated from offsets once clumps are established.
SO110 (200 seeds)
Onion 'Ishikura Winter Long' H
'Ishikura' is a popular variety in Japan for its long, white stems and excellent flavour. It has a very long 45 cm of white stalk; 75 cm overall in length. It is a vigorous, non-bulbing spring onion with tube-like, hollow, blue-green leaves. Use it in salads, stir-fries and soups. It will grow from cold regions right through to subtropical areas. It is hardy, frost tolerant and pest resistant. 'Ishikura' is best grown as an annual and is unlikely to form a clump. Sow seed in autumn or spring; it germinates best at 10 - 24°C soil temperature. 66 days to begin harvest. This is an F1 hybrid so is not suitable for seed saving.
SO154 (200 seeds)
Orach 'Ruby Red' H
syn. Mountain Spinach
An attractive plant, in the same family as spinach, that is native to Europe and Asia. It has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region as a garden vegetable for more than 4000 years. The young, tender leaves and sprouts are a luminous red and can be used in salads and salad mixes. It is relatively similar in taste and texture to spinach. Older leaves fade to green and are cooked as a nutritious leafy green. It is a good late summer pollen source for beneficial insects. Orach can grow to 1m in height, but begin picking once the plant is 30 cm tall as the older leaves will get tough. Orach will tolerate moderate frost and is also heat tolerant. Sow from early spring through to summer in temperate areas, sow in early spring and autumn in frost free subtropical and tropical areas.
SO124 (100 seeds)
Perilla is an easy-to-grow warm season annual to 80 cm high. Sow from spring through summer in temperate and subtropical areas, sow in the dry season in tropical areas. Soil temperature needs to be 20 - 22°C for good germination. Grow it in full sun; partial shade is better in hot areas. Prevent the plants flowering and setting seed to avoid weediness. Days to harvest: 80-85.
Perilla 'Green' H
syn. Green Shiso, Beefsteakplant
Green perilla is a popular Asian vegetable with a spicy, aromatic flavour between mint and basil. It has been used for centuries both as medicine and food. The seeds, leaves and flowers are used in salads and cooked with a wide variety of food including flavouring raw fish, bean curd, pickles and tempura.
SP201 (100+ seeds)
Perilla 'Tia To' H
syn. 'Tiet To', Vietnamese Perilla
'Tia To' has very attractive leaves, purple on one side and dark green on the other. Traditionally used in Vietnamese cuisine; the leaves are shredded and used in eggplant and seafood dishes and in rice paper rolls. It has a mild, aromatic flavour between mint and basil. The red colour contrast is more vibrant at cooler temperatures.
SP248 (100 seeds)
Pigeon Pea H
Pigeon Pea is an excellent chicken forage for warmer areas, providing high protein seeds, edible leafy greens and shelter. It is a perennial, nitrogen-fixing, drought tolerant shrub to 2 - 3 m. It is also useful for on-site mulch production and is an excellent animal forage. It is an important food plant in India; the seeds are 25% protein and can be eaten fresh or as split dried peas. The dried seeds are used for dhal in India and contain 5 times more Vitamin A and C than green peas. The leaves and young shoots can be eaten cooked, they are fibrous and have a strong spicy odour. Sow spring and summer into warm soil; autumn in frost-free areas only. Suitable for (warm) temperate, subtropical and tropical areas.
Find more information on pigeon pea here.
SP123 (30 seeds) Inoculant included
SP124 Inoculant included
SP244 Inoculant included
Rosella 'Red Drops' H
syn. Queensland jam plant, Jamaican tea, karkade
Rosella is an annual shrub to 2m with attractive yellow hibiscus-like flowers. The plants are vigorous and easy to grow. The calyx (fleshy cover surrounding the seed pod) is used to make jam, cordial and wine. Dried the red calyx can be used for herb tea and is high in vitamin C. To prepare it, strip off the red calyx from the seedpod and dry it in a food drier or a slow oven until crisp. Seeds can be roasted and ground into flour. Young leaves can be steamed and are known as Red Sorrel in the Pacific.
Sow seed in early spring, as it needs a long growing season and takes at least 5 months frost-free to fruit. Bottom heat will be required to get the seed germinated in cooler areas. Suitable for warm temperate, subtropical and tropical areas. See here for jam and cordial recipe and growing information.
SR108 (20 seeds)
Serpent Gourd H
Trichosanthes cucumerina var. anguina
syn. snake gourd, chichinga, padwal
Serpent Gourd is sometimes confused with Guada Gourd syn. New Guinea Bean but it is a completely different plant. It is widely grown as a vegetable in India and southeast Asia. It is a fast growing, subtropical plant with a growth habit similar to luffa. It is best to grow this vine on a trellis to obtain straight fruit.
SS166 (9 seeds)
Snake Bean Climbing 'Red Dragon' H
Vigna unguiculata var. sesquipedalis
syn. Chinese Long Beans, Yard Long Bean, Asparagus Bean
'Red Dragon' produces 60 - 70cm long, dark green slender pods with a small red-brown tip; seed is red coloured. Highly productive and can be picked for approx. 4 weeks. Snake beans are very nutritious and have a slightly sweet flavour and crunchy texture; use them steamed, in stir-fries or curries. Snake bean is resistant to Bean Fly and Rust that can make French or runner beans difficult to grow over summer. Sow all year round in tropical and frost-free areas. Elsewhere sow from spring to early summer.
SB296 (20 seeds)
syn. Garland Chrysanthemum
An aromatic annual, green, leafy vegetable to use in salads, stir-fries and sushi. Small, orange and yellow daisy flowers appear towards the end of the season on unharvested plants that can grow to 1m. It is best harvested at 10-20 cm tall. It will grow in full sun or semi shade in a rich well-drained soil with added compost. Sow autumn and early spring in temperate areas. Sow in winter in subtropical and tropical areas. Avoid sowing during summer as plants will bolt rapidly and become bitter. Harvest in 21 days (baby leaf) to 45 days.
SS161 (100 seeds)
Sweet Potato H
Not to WA
Sweet potato, including kumara, is not commonly available from garden centres, nurseries or mail order companies. You can try to grow your own by selecting a piece from the fruit shop or farmers market. Select one which is firm with no soft spots. Swollen buds are a good indication that the tuber has not been treated with a hormone to prevent growth. Look on the web or in garden books for more information on the specifics of growing this nutritious tuber.
Sweet Potato growing information...
Tamarind is an evergreen tree, 18 - 25 m in height, native to tropical Africa. It is a traditional shade tree of villages in Africa and India. It is grown for its edible pods, which are dark brown and sweet when ripe. The leaves and flowers are also eaten. The timber is strong and termite-proof, used for furniture and tool handles. Tamarind likes a dry, sandy soil and is tolerant of drought and coastal conditions. It needs a seasonal dry season to encourage flowering. Young trees are frost tender, however they develop more cold tolerance as they mature. Sow seed in spring, or during the wet season, soil temperature should be at least 25°C for good germination. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas.
ST132 (4 seeds)
Tomatoes can suffer a range of pest and disease problems in the tropics. Try these hardy types for a good chance
of success. Sow seed in the dry season and practice crop rotation.
Cherry Red Pear
Cherry Yellow Pear
Tomato 'Thai Pink Egg'
Vietnamese Balm H
Syn. Kinh gioi, Phak leuan, Vietnamese Lemon Mint (but not Vietnamese Hot Mint - Polygonum odoratum)
Vietnamese Balm is an easy-to-grow herb with bright green leaves that resemble mint but the leaves are saw-edged. It has a wonderful, aromatic, lemon-mint fragrance, similar to lemongrass or lemon verbena. The small, pale purple flowers appear in autumn. The young leaves are traditionally used in noodle dishes, egg rolls, fish and chicken dishes, salads, soups and tea drinks. It is suitable for container growing. Vietnamese Balm is a warm season annual in cool areas, and a short-lived perennial in frost-free areas. It grows to 60 - 100 cm tall. It germinates best at 20 - 25°C soil temperature. Sow in temperate areas from late spring to summer; in subtropical areas in spring; in tropical areas during the dry season. In the subtropics and tropics it will be prone to self-sowing. Cuttings will root readily in water for a future supply. Young leaves and tips can be harvested 30 days after transplanting.
SV106 (300 seeds)
Wax Gourd H
syn. Chinese winter melon, flour gourd
A fast growing, long season, warm climate vegetable producing very large fruit up to 20kg. The round gourds are green with a white waxy coating. The wax gourd keeps for many months off the vine and is eaten raw or cooked. The shoots, tendrils and leaves are also eaten as greens; seeds are edible and are tasty roasted. Use the white flesh of this giant fruit in a chicken and wax-gourd curry; serve appetizers of finely chopped stir-fried vegetables in bowls made from a hollowed-out melon. Sow after frost in spring; in tropical areas sow during the dry season. Sow direct into well composted soil, 1-2 cm deep, 1m apart on raised mounds, rows 1m apart. Days to harvest: 100.
SW121 (25 seeds)
Bean 'Winged' H
syn. Goa Bean, Asparagus pea
Winged bean is a vigorous, tropical climber with mauve-blue flowers and four-angled pods with wavy margins. The pods, leaves, flowers and tubers are all edible. It is high in protein: the seeds contain 34% protein and 17% oil; the root contains 20% protein. If you are growing it for pods, leaves or flowers, grow it on a trellis; a trellis is not needed if you are growing it for the tuberous roots - let it sprawl. Of course, you will need to replant annually if you are harvesting the roots. The young leaves (top three sets of leaflets on a shoot) are cooked and eaten. The flowers taste like sweetish mushrooms. It is among the world’s most effective nitrogen-fixers.
A short day length (11-13 hours of daylight) during hot weather is required to flower, so it is not suitable for temperate areas; it is also very frost sensitive. It grows to 3 - 4m. Wait for warm, humid weather before sowing; in the subtropics sow November - December; in the tropics sow October until January. It will grow on a wide range of soils but requires moisture to do well; it tolerates acidity. Plant rows 1m apart; with 30 - 60 cm between plants. To improve germination either rub seeds with sandpaper or soak in hot water until the seeds swell. Harvest the pods when 10 - 20 cm long; use like green beans. Days to harvest: 60.
SB113 (25 seeds)
Find other bean varieties here.
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