I love the cool weather vegetable season, because there are so many greens – ruffled red and green kales, a rainbow of chard, lettuces, broccoli (the leaves are delicious), and lots of Asian vegetables that cry out for stir fry. But when the weather gets hot, choices are more limited. How can I feed my craving for growing greens?
It turns out, there are lots of greens that can beat our Central Florida summer heat. Many are staples in tropical countries, but aren’t as well known here. To be fair, some aren’t easy to grow north of Central Florida, since they freeze easily. But we can take advantage of our warm climate to grow nutritious and delicious greens. Here are some top picks:
Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale – Curly Kale will melt by the end of June, but with a little shade, Lacinato Kale will keep going through the heat. Easy to grow from seed, or buy transplants in the fall from most garden centers.
Okinawa Spinach – Gynura crepioides. Okinawa spinach, with dark purple undersides on its leaves, is both beautiful and nutritious. This sprawling plant grows in sun or part shade and loves hot weather. Growth will slow in cold weather and it can freeze to the ground, but will come back from the roots. It is easy to start from cuttings. Find it on amazon, from hirts.com, or locally from Grower Jim.
Longevity Spinach – Gynura Procumbens. Also called Leaves of the Gods, Moluccan Spinach, and daun dewa, Longevity spinach is known in many cultures for lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. Like its relative, Okinawa spinach, it grows in sun or part shade but may die back to the roots in a freeze. It roots readily from cuttings. Find it on amazon, from hirts.com, or locally from Grower Jim.
Katuk – Sauropus androgynus. Also called Sweetleaf Shrub, Katuk is a shrub that grows to about four feet in height. In Central Florida, it prefers part shade. Find it on amazon, from hirts.com, or locally from Grower Jim.
Moringa – Moringa oleifera. Moringa is considered one of the most nutritious plants in the world, and may have anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties. Moringa is a large, fast growing, but brittle tree – unless you have a large space, keep it in a container. Prune to make it bushy, or it will grow tall and spindly without many leaves. Get seeds online (soak before planting), or potted trees at local nurseries.
Malabar Spinach – Basella alba, Red Malabar Spinach – Basella rubra. Malabar spinach is a heat loving, ornamental vine with succulent leaves. It is very easy to grow from seed; in fact, if vines are left to flower, seedlings will pop up all over the garden. Get seeds online from amazon or rareseeds.com.
Surinam Spinach – Talinum triangulare. Also called Jewels of Opar, waterleaf, and Ceylon spinach, among others. Related to purslane, Surinam spinach grows to about two feet and has lovely pink flowers. It likes part shade and hot weather, and will freeze to the ground. Grow it from cuttings or get seeds from amazon or southernexposure.com.
Holy Basil – Ocimum sanctum. Holy basil, or Tulsi, is related to Sweet Basil, but doesn’t have the spaghetti-enhancing flavor. It grows into a sturdy three foot high bush and reseeds freely. Get seeds online from amazon or rareseeds.com.
There are plenty of easy to grow options for summer greens – and you can’t get fresher food than picking a salad from your own yard!
This blog post was written by UF IFAS Extension Orange County Master Gardener, Mary Ann Pigora, class of 2017. The UF IFAS Extension Orange County Master Gardener Volunteers play a crucial role in the outreach of UF IFAS Extension.