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!
Island Cabbage - Aibika
Mother of herbs
Sugar Snap Pea
Lima or Butter Bean
Chinese tea jasmine
Soursop, Custard apple,
Ice cream Bean Tree
“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