In hot climates, not every vegetable will grow its best. Of course, with ingenuity and planning, it’s possible to grow virtually any type of vegetable or herb in any climate. Unless you’re willing to go to extremes, though, your gardening will by necessity be selective in its plants. Here are some common hot climate vegetables and herbs to try planting in the garden and a little about each.
Hot Climate Garden Vegetables
A part of the nightshade family, this vegetable has several names around the world: brinjal eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal or guinea squash. Other nightshades include tomatoes and potatoes. Eggplants are generally delicate by nature, but in good, warm climates with little freezing, they can come back year after year as a perennial. Most people don’t know that eggplants are actually, technically a berry. Native to India, eggplants have been cultivated in Asia for longer than historical records can track.
Also called Moench, okra is often called lady’s fingers, okro and gumbo as well. While okra’s origins are disputed, it was likely in South Asia, Ethiopia or West Africa. Most tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate regions can support okra varieties and gumbo is a staple food in parts of the American south. The word “gumbo” is the Spanish and Dutch/French term for okra (quimbombo, guigambo, or kingombo). Okra grows best where it can receive plenty of moisture and prefers mulching.
Despite its name, the sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato in which we are all familiar. These are the only widely cultivated plant in the Convolvulaceae family and they are literally grown everywhere in the world. While heat tolerant, they will actually grow in almost all climates where enough growing season exists (generally Zone 5 and above). Sweet potatoes may also be known as camote, kamote, goguma, man thet, ubi jalar, ubi keladi, shakarkand, and many others. In agricultural terms, they are usually called “sweet potato” or “l. batatas.”
Hot Climate Garden Herbs
A popular perennial herb associated with Italian food, oregano originates in Eurasia and the Mediterranean as part of the mint family. Also called wild marjoram, oregano also has a relative in the marjoran family called sweet marjoram. Oregano is a perennial herb, so it is often grown and re-grown in pots and containers annually. It is one of the most popular kitchen herbs worldwide.
A woody, perennial herb, Rosmarinus officinalis is grown the world over as one of the best-known culinary herbs. Native to the Mediterranean, it was one of the first spices commonly traded in the West. Rosemary’s name comes from Latin for “dew of the sea” (ros marinus). In its native climate, its only water is the humidity from the ocean. Rosemary is thus very heat tolerant and drought hardy.
The third of the triumvirate of Mediterranean herbs, thyme is a culinary and medicinal herb which has been used for everything from embalming (Egypt) to temple incense (Greek), to cooking (Romans). It has also been used to ward off nightmares (placed under a pillow), flavor cheese (Romans), spice liquor (Europe), to bring courage to those going to battle (Medieval Europe), and assure passage into the next life (Egypt, Southern Europe). Thyme has been found to grow nearly anywhere that can receive adequate water, regardless of the hot climate.