By Erin Marissa Russell and Matt Gibson
Looking for something to grow in your area that is resistant to warm fronts and hot climate environments that won’t die in the summer? You can always count on these 27 crops to withstand the heat and produce through the summers, no matter how hot it gets.
Recommended Varieties: There are several varieties of amaranth that can be grown in hot weather climates, especially in humid areas, like the Florida coast. The best one for edible gardens is edible amaranth, which is also called Tricolor amaranth, tampala, elephant head amaranth, tassel flower, flaming fountain, Joseph’s coat, and fountain plant. Its scientific name is Amaranthus. gangeticus.
Other edible varieties include Purple amaranth (A. cruentus), Guernsey pigweed (A. blitum), Red Spinach, or Chinese spinach (A. dubius), and Green Amaranth, or slender amaranth (A. viridis) for greens. Varieties that are cultivated for grains include Love-lies-bleeding (A. caudatus), Purple amaranth (A.cruentus), Prince of Wales feather, or Prince’s Feather (A. hypochondriacus), and Red Root Amaranth (A. retroflexus). Wild amaranth is also considered edible, but it is not as consistent in flavor and texture as the more popular cultivars are.
Though normally grown as an ornamental plant in North America, amaranth is actually an edible food crop that is cultivated around the world for its leafy greens and grains. In the Caribbean, it is commonly boiled with onions and spices, in a dish called callaloo. Its leaves are either red, green or a variegated purple and green. For more information, you can read our article How to Grow Amaranthus Cruentus (Red Amaranth).
Most cucumber varieties wilt in significantly hot summer weather. However, Armenian cucumbers keep producing fruit and flowers all throughout the summer. Armenian cucumbers are loved for their melon-like flavor and are typically eaten with salads or made into pickles. Harvest Armenian cucumbers when they are 18 inches long. For more information, you can read West Texas Organic Gardening’s profile on Armenian cucumbers.
Arugula is a peppery-tasting green that works well in salads, sandwiches, soups, and wraps. It’s also commonly used in salad green mixes. To grow a continuous harvest, start direct sowing arugula in the springtime and continue every two or three weeks until the middle of August. For more information, you can read our articles How to Grow Arugula and Can You Grow Arugula in the Summer?
It can be a challenge to grow full-sized Swiss chard in hot, dry weather, but it’s much easier to grow chard and cut it while it’s immature and the leaves are in their baby stages. This green is also super nutritious—as nutritious as spinach, in fact—with 300 times your recommended daily allowance of vitamin K as well as plenty of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E. For more information, you can read our article How to Grow Swiss Chard.
Kale is traditionally a cold-weather green, but like Swiss chard, you can easily grow baby kale when the weather is hot and dry. To grow baby kale, you don’t need to space the plants out as widely as you would to grow the leaves to their full size. You can set up your plants for baby kale with one inch of space in between them, in rows that are four inches apart. Keep planting new seeds every two or three weeks until six weeks prior to your first expected frost of the fall for a continuous harvest.
Alternatively, you can use cut-and-come-again harvesting so the plant will grow new leaves to replace the ones you eat. Just trim the leaves from the plant at their base, using clean, sterilized shears, and make sure to leave at least a third of the foliage on the plant so it stays healthy. For more information, you can read our article How to Grow Kale: Including Three Favorite Ways to Prepare Kale. You may also be interested in our Q&A article How Do You Keep Kale from Bolting?and Does Kale Grow Well in the Summer?.
Bean varieties that are well suited to hot weather include green beans, pole beans, winged beans, lima beans, and asparagus beans/yard long beans. Phaseola Vulgaris, the most common green bean variety, doesn’t like much heat, but in addition to Southern varieties, like Southern peas or cowpeas, pink Eye, and purple hull, the varieties Chinese red noodle, green pod red seed, white acre, and whippoorwill are all well-suited to the heat.
Asparagus beans, or yard-long beans, are best grown with a trellis for support. Don’t let them mature to full size on the vine, as they will keep growing up to 36 inches long, and are no longer edible at that size. Instead, harvest them when they are between one foot and fifteen inches long. For more information, you can read LSU AgCenter’s article Give the Yardlong Bean a Try.
Broccoli (Sun King Hybrid)
Although in general broccoli is not a crop to count on in hot regions outside of the most temperate times of the year. However, the Sun King hybrid variety is an exception. This variety is also known for producing high yields of crops with exceptionally large heads. For more information, you can read our article How to Grow Broccoli.
Recommended Varieties: Black Aztec, Country Gentleman
Corn will actually grow more enthusiastically when it’s hot outside. However, you will need to provide the growing plants with lots of moisture, as they require generous hydration and consistently moist soil to cope with the heat and produce the tall plants, and eventually, those sweet, juicy kernels. For more information, you can read our article Growing Sweet Corn in the Home Garden.
You may be surprised to learn that you can eat the greens of dandelion plants. As gardeners in areas where dandelions are invasive are probably already aware, these sturdy and prolific little plants have no trouble persevering in the hottest, most arid conditions.
One caveat is that because dandelions are invasive, it will be difficult to prevent them from returning in future seasons and expanding their territory—whether you want them to or not. For more information, you can read the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program’s profile on dandelions. You may also be interested in the Michigan State University Extension’s article Five Ways to Eat Dandelions.
Recommended Varieties: Big Bertha, Cal Wonder, Cubanelle, Red Knight, Sweet Banana for sweet options; any kind of hot pepper
Hot peppers are from the warm countries in Central and South America, so they thrive in areas where plants that don’t love the summer sun tend to struggle. Any kind of spicy pepper can be counted on to provide bushels worth of hot peppers to season your food with even when the heat is at its highest. For more information about growing the different types of hot peppers, you can read our articles How to Grow Cayenne Peppers, How to Grow Ghost Peppers (Bhut jolokia), How to Grow Habanero Peppers, How to Grow Paprika Peppers, How to Grow Serrano Peppers, and How to Grow Tabasco Peppers (Capsicum frutescens).
Malanga is a tuber, like potatoes or sweet potatoes, and is the most popularly grown variety of cocoyam. Above ground, the plant resembles elephant ears, with leaves that grow to an average of two and a half feet tall to two feet wide. The overall plant can stretch to heights over five feet tall. The leaves and grayish brown to black lateral tubers, also called cormels, are both edible.
Be sure to harvest your malanga before frost arrives in your region, as frost and freezing temperatures will damage the plants. You must wash and peel the tubers before cooking. If the tuber is extremely hard, it may even need to be cooked before it can be peeled. You can prepare malanga much like you would a potato, by frying, baking, mashing, or roasting.
You can learn more at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension profile on malanga.
This leafy green native to Asia thrives when the temperature climbs above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) and when the soil is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Celsius). However, as it prefers rainy weather, it does best when the weather is warm but not too dry. Position the climbing plants next to a fence, trellis, or garden wall to give them a vertical surface to support them and provide at least a bit of shade if possible, though the plants will tolerate full sun.
Two plants are usually enough to feed an average small family during summer through fall. Like many other plants on this list, these greens are not actually related to spinach but work much like spinach in culinary applications and also have a similar flavor but a less slippery texture. Malabar spinach goes by many other names as well, such asacelga trepadora, bretana, Ceylon spinach, climbing spinach, gui, libato, Malabar nightshade, and vine spinach. Learn more in our article How to Grow Malabar Spinach.
Mizuna is an Asian leafy green with a flavor similar to baby chard, a bit sweet and vegetal. It’s delicious when grown as baby leaves and picked after no more than a month. In Asian cuisine, mizuna is often pickled before serving or added to soup and stir-fried dishes. It works well for continuous harvest when succession planting is used, even in the heat of summer. For more information, you can read Cornell University’s profile of mizuna.
Recommended Varieties: Green Wave, Golden Frill
Mustard greens are a staple of Southern cuisine, which means these plants are primed to perform well during hot weather. They also pair well with other heat-resistant veggies like Southern peas, okra, and sweet potatoes. Learn more in our article How to Grow Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea).
New Zealand Spinach
New Zealand spinach is another leafy green that thrives in hot weather, and this plant is almost invincible against pests and disease. The greens taste very similar to standard spinach when cooked and can also be used raw in salads. Plant lots of extra seeds, as it is normal for New Zealand spinach to have a low germination rate. Soaking the seeds immediately before planting can help alleviate this somewhat, though. Once they’re established, however, plants will thrive when the weather is warm even during times of drought. You can learn more at the Cornell University profile for New Zealand Spinach.
Okinawa spinach is a Japanese leafy green similar to spinach that grows as a low slung ground-cover. It’s also called dawn dewa, Gynura, handama, hung tsoi, leaves of the gods, Mollucan spinach, purple spinach, or simply “red vegetable.” The leaves are tasty raw in salads or blended into smoothies and juices, or you can serve them steamed as a side dish, add them to stir-fries, or mix them into quiches and egg dishes.
The Gynura crepioides variety is green while Gynura bicolor produces both green and purple leaves. The plants get fairly large—up to around three feet tall—and will eventually produce yellow flowers. The more heavily and often you harvest Okinawa spinach, the more the plants will produce. Take shoots from the top four to six inches of the plants, and also pick the leaves. Plants will spring back from being heavily trimmed. Propagate by stem cutting, as plants do not produce seeds. Learn more at the Florida Gulf Coast University Food Forest profile on Okinawa spinach.
Recommended Varieties: Beck’s Big Buck, Gold Coast, Stewart Zeebest
Any heirloom variety of okra with a long history of cultivation is a smart choice in warm weather because their deep root systems give them wider access to hydration when it’s hot and dry. But as okra is native to Ethiopia, the plants naturally prefer warm nights when the soil stays around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Celsius).
Harvest the pods while they’re still young for a tender texture, and choose spineless varieties to plant to avoid tough, fibrous pods. If sliminess, when prepared, is a concern, try crisp pickled okra, or roast the okra whole or sliced for a crisp, tasty way to eat them.
Learn more at our article How to Grow Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus).
Many varieties of onion tolerate heat well, especially those that come from Southern regions. You can always turn to varieties cultivated by universities and exchange departments to cope with the heat for good results. Even easier than waiting for onions to mature completely is growing onions to pick when they’re still immature and use as green onions. Learn more at our article How to Grow Onions.
It wouldn’t be the first option to spring to mind, but like its cousin amaranth, quinoa is a smart choice for gardeners in hot regions or those who struggle with dry weather. There’s a reason gardeners working in the heart of South America have been cultivating quinoa for literally millenia. Quinoa is also especially nutritious, consisting of a complete protein—which makes it an especially important part of the diet of many vegetarians or vegans. Learn more at our article How to Grow Quinoa.
Southern Peas (Field Peas & Black Eyed Peas)
The best style of beans to turn to when it’s particularly warm in your region is a Southern standard. The category of Southern peas includes both field peas and black-eyed peas, and as related plants their care needs are similar. These peas do their best under the warmth of the summer sun, and you’ll be able to bring in plenty of peas to cook with no matter how high the temperature climbs.
Stringless varieties are the most tender and easiest to cook with. You can harvest in two batches by clipping some early to use as green beans, then waiting for the pods to mature for a second harvest to the shell. For more information, you can read our article Guide to Growing Southern (Field) Peas.
All kinds of squash plants are a good bet wherever summers get warm or when droughts strike otherwise temperate areas. These plants thrive under climbing temperatures and will still provide a bountiful crop to harvest and use in the kitchen. Learn more at the University of Minnesota Extension’s profile on summer squash and zucchini.
Recommended varieties: Georgia Jet, Vardaman, Wakenda
Sweet potatoes grow underground where they are somewhat protected from the heat, and the green leaves at the surface love warm weather as long as they get a consistent supply of ample hydration. There’s a reason gardeners in the southern part of the U.S. have counted on this crop to get them through sweltering summers.
Sweet potatoes are originally a tropical plant and are native to the warm weather of Africa. Make sure to bring your harvest in before temperatures dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 degrees Celsius). Learn more in our article How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Your Garden.
Tokyo bekana is a pale green, ruffled Chinese-style cabbage first grown in Japan. You can harvest the greens at the baby stage or let them mature into a loosehead and harvest the whole things at once. Use cut-and-come-again style harvesting if you cut the greens early by trimming them at the base, and the plant will keep producing more greens as long as you leave at least a third of the foliage attached. Learn more at the Maryland Grows Blog’s profile on Tokyo bekana.
Tomatillos are a staple in Mexican cooking, where they take over for tomatoes as the main ingredient used in salsas and sauces. Tomatillos are native to such warm regions that they flourish in hot weather, and they produce tons of tasty little tomatillos. Learn more in our article How to Grow Tomatillos.
Recommended Varieties: Arkansas Traveler, Brandywine, Equinox, Heatwave II (cherry), Jasper (cherry), Neptune, Ozark Pink VF, San Marzano, Solar Fire, Sun Leaper, Sungold (cherry), Sunmaster, Tropic VPN
Any type of tomato that’s developed to be grown in the Deep South is a good bet for hot areas or times of drought. You can really count on varieties grown by universities or extension departments to be reliably healthy and produce well. Learn more in our article How to Grow Tomatoes: The Complete Guide.
Humans have been raising turnips for centuries, and while you wait for the tasty, nutritious turnips to grow underground, you can harvest the greens from the developing plants. As a bonus, trimming off the greens will encourage the plants to focus their energy and resources on developing the turnips themselves instead of their foliage. Learn more in University of Florida Gardening Solutions’ profile on turnips and turnip greens.
All kinds of squash plants thrive in the heat, and zucchini is no exception. You can count on zucchini plants to produce a hefty harvest even when the temperatures climb. If your area struggles with problems with squash vine borers, protect your plants while they’re young by starting them off inside, and wait to move them into the outdoor garden until June or July.
You can also use row covers to defend your plants until they flower and need pollination. Drawing the soil up around the stems of growing plants will help keep squash vine borers away, too. Learn more in our article Everyone Can Grow Zucchini.
Woody-stemmed herb plants also tend to do well during hot weather, and adding an herb garden is a good way to round out your harvest to max out its use in the kitchen. When coping with hot weather, it’s also a good idea to allow the nursery to raise plants while they’re young. The longer you wait to buy your plants, the more money and effort you’ll save watering your plants.
If you wait until plants are close to flowering to make your purchase, you’ll save between one and two months before you begin watering them at home. It’s also a way to guarantee your plants make it through this vulnerable time even during extreme weather.