Perennial plants for the tropics…

Opting for long lived perennial plants for the tropics...

Want to know what the best plants are for tropical gardening and eating?

I prefer to integrate the following perennial plants into landscapes because they generally need only planting once and provide food and function for the landscape all year long. They are deep rooted, minimises digging each season and so, once planted they are a long term producer!

These plants fit nicely into a food forest system rather than the classic vegetable patch – although we love to see annuals appear each season and delight in the nooks and crannies where they pop up - simply through the compost that we apply.

The lists below group together perennial plants in order of their ease to grow well in tropical climates. Jo Martin from our home town of Kuranda, Cairns,  put together a detailed book listing them with consideration to importance…if you can grow list one, then you will have enough diverse food for a healthy diet. Start with one and work your way through the next lists in order. Of course this is just a guide so be intuitive about what foods you want to eat...then grow them!

Eating in season is the best thing you can do for your health and the soil. If some of these are new to you, I suggest that you do a quick search to investigate how these wonderful foods are nutrient-rich and find the culinary ways to prepare for their flavour sensations.  Check out this website tropicalcuisine.com to sight Clare Richards award winning cookbook ‘Tropical Cuisine’, made with many recipes that make specific use of the produce below.

Sourcing organic seeds or seedlings and saving seed heirloom varieties is fundamentally the goal for a superior taste and resilience, not to mention artistic diversity! Join your local seed savers network or start with Eden or Greenharvest seeds for open pollinated or seeds to start with the best plant stock possible. 

Depending on your available gardening space, skill and labour/maintenance, you could introduce species from the following lists to expand your culinary and medicinal needs.

I wrote a guide called the “Incredible Edibles Tropical Superfoods’ to support people in the tropics to grow nutritious gardens easily and eat in season. It’s even got recipes to make the most of your abundance! Here’s the link to buy if your interested!

For the hands-on people, you are welcome to attend the 1 day workshop full of practical activities to grow, sow and know these super foods and feast on the recipes that you’ll prepare and cook with participants! Here’s the link to the event if you want to attend! 

List 1

Arrowroot

Banana

Basil

Capsicum

Cassava

Ceylon Spinach

Citrus

Cucumber

Island Cabbage - Aibika

Mother of herbs

Mushroom Plant

Passionfruit

Paw Paw

Pineapple

Pumpkin

Snake Bean

Sweet Leaf

Taro

Tomato

List 2

Aloe vera

Asparagus

Avocado

Bay

Beans

Beetroot

Brazilian Spinach

Chili

Chinese greens

Cilantro

Coconut

Comfrey

Dragon Fruit

Eggplant

Garlic Chives

Ginger

Turmeric

Galangal

Spring Onion

Squash

Strawberry

Sugar Snap Pea

Sweet Potato

Vanilla

Watercress

Winged Bean

Yacon

Zucchini

Hibiscus

Jaboticaba

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jicama

Kang Kong

Lemongrass

Lettuce

Long Bean

Luffa

Lima or Butter Bean

Mango

Mint

Mulberry

Parsley

Radish

Rocket

Snow Pea

List 3

Agrimony

Amaranth

Bamboo

Black sapote

Brahmi

Cabbage

Calendula

Cardamom

Carambola

Carob

Chia

Chicory

Chinese tea jasmine

Cinnamon

Citronella grass

Coffee

Corn

Curry leaf

Dandelion

Dill

Moringa

Feverfew

Fig

Gotu kola

Gourds

Herb Robert

Horseradish

Jackfruit

Jobs tears

Kaffir lime

Lemon balm

Lemon Myrtle

Lychee

Macadamia

Malabar Chestnut

Melons

Miracle fruit

Monstera Deliciosa

Mushroom

Neem

Okra

Oregano

Patchouli

Pandan

Peanut

Peanut tree

Pepper

Perilla

Pigeon Pea

Pinto peanut

Plantain

Purslane

Rambutan

Rosella

Rosemary

Scullcap

Soapwort

Soursop, Custard apple,

Rollinia

Stevia

Sugarcane

Tree Mugwort

Vetiver grass

Wormwood

Yarrow

List 4

Abiu

Air Potato

Allspice

Barbados cherry

Breadfruit

Cashew

Cocoa

Durian

Davidson Plum

Goji Berry

Gramichama

Grandadilla

Guava

Ice cream Bean Tree

Jujube

June Plum

Locquat

Longan

Malay Apple

Mamey sapote

Mangosteen

Persimmon

Pitanga

Pomegranate

Rose apple

Sapodilla

Star apple

Star Gooseberry

Tamarillo

Tamarind

Tamanu

Tree Spinach

Yellow sapote

Velvet apple

Wild raspberry

Wongai plum

Water apple

White sapote

“To grow them is to know them, to know them is to use them, to use them is to love them, then happily, herbs become your way of life”Bertha Reppert
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