Gardening – With Emphasis On Florida & Survival Stuff

I mentioned on the W.O.O.D. open thread that we’ve got a house under contract and will be closing in a few weeks. At that time, I get to do a big Road Trip to bring my stuff from Storage in California. It’s also a lot bigger bit of land and house.

Over 2000 square feet for the house, and about 1/3 of an acre of dirt. That I intend to use as some kind of garden in the back yard.

It has a LOT of fencing around about 1/4 of an acre, so I figure I’ll start with things that like to climb on a fence (chain link). So some heat tolerant bean (I think Christmas Lima ought to work OK), a squash (There’s a Florida Squash, the Seminole Pumpkin, that looks promising – more on that below), and then I’m thinking a Sweet Potato or similar. (Remembering that sweet potato leaves are edible as a green).

But I’m a novice at Florida Gardening, so some experimenting will be needed. I’m pretty good at Cold Bay Area gardening. No rain for 8 months (usually until November 1), No humidity, often has trouble reaching 50 F at night to set tomatoes in spring… But Florida is high humidity, rains a lot (so soil ends up sand as the goodies get washed out), and can be hot and sultry for weeks on end in summer.

This will require some re-education on my part. So, OK, I did a search that turned up Just The Place, I think. University of Florida. I’m already expecting to grow some of my usual stuff, but in fall / winter / spring instead of middle summer. But I’d also like to have something that I can grow when it’s hot and wet.

Heat Tolerant Vegetables

Seasonal rains, humid summers, and sandy soils make edible gardening in Florida a challenge. Choosing the right crops, and the right varieties, can make all the difference in your vegetable garden.

For some crops there are Florida-appropriate varieties to choose from. Molds and mildews are a persistent problem during our rainy summers. Crops that advertise themselves as disease- or fungus-resistant make a difference. For crops generally grown up north, look for “low chill hour” varieties. If the space between too-early-to-plant and harvest time is small, consider an early-maturing cultivar.

Some crops, however, just aren’t adapted to Florida gardening. This is particularly true if you live in the lower half of the state. But don’t despair! What Florida lacks in traditional crops it more than makes up for in vibrant and delicious tropical fruits and vegetables.

Below are some “better for Florida” crops that will make you glad to garden in the Sunshine State.

I’m going to be just about in the middle of the State, so don’t really need things that survive in Miami, but it’s nice to know what choices exist. Some of these things are just varieties of The Usual that are heat adapted. Others are kind of Space Alien plants I never heard of before.

Root Vegetables
Potato-like tubers

Truth be told, carrots, potatoes, beets, and turnips can’t take Florida’s summer heat. Up north they may be staples in the June veggie patch, but here they’re winter crops. For some summer alternatives, consider sweet potato, boniato, and cassava.

Boniato is a relative of sweet potato
and very popular in South Florida. It can be used as a sweet potato substitute in recipes. The main differences are color and texture. Boniato’s flesh is white and fluffier than sweet potatoes.

also called yucca or manioc, produces edible starchy, tuberous roots. They’re prepared after boiling and then baked, mashed, or fried, like potatoes.

I’m familiar with tapioca, and I know there’s an issue with the cyanide in them (so cooking mandatory), but I’ve never grown a Cassava at all, and never heard of Boniato.

From that “heat tolerant” link:

Despite its name, “summer squash” doesn’t thrive in Florida during the summer. But long after it’s too hot to plant zucchini, tropical squashes thrive.

Calabaza, Seminole pumpkin, long squash, chayote, and luffa could be the stars of your summer garden instead. Stored indoors, Seminole pumpkins and calabaza will last long enough to be used at Halloween and Thanksgiving. And if your luffa grows too tough to eat, let them dry out and you’ll have sponges for months.

I’ve always thought Luffa were just for the sponges… Edible too, eh? Then Chayote are basically like a big single seed summer squash IIRC. “Long squash”? Calabaza? Things to look into…

I grew a small chayote in California, but it really wanted more heat than I could supply there. Easy to grow and very productive, even if a bit bland.

Green, wrinkled, pear-shaped fruit

Chayote is a heat-loving, tropical vegetable, perfect for Florida’s steamy summers. It’s also known as the vegetable pear, mirliton, and mango squash.

Native to Guatemala, chayote (Sechium edule) is a cucurbit. It is closely related to melons and squashes. Chayote leaves, in fact, look a lot like cucumber leaves. The growth habit is very different, however. Chayote vines climb and require support. Gardeners often trellis them on an arbor so they can harvest in the shade.
Like other climbing vines, chayote bears its fruits above ground level. The light green, pear-shaped fruit weighs between six ounces to three pounds. Each holds a single, flat, edible seed. Sometimes the fruit is grooved and prickly, but those grown in Florida are usually smooth. ‘Florida Green’ and ‘Monticello White’ are the most common varieties.

Planting and Care
To sow chayote seed, gardeners plant an entire fruit. Dig a hole as deep as the fruit is wide. Lay the fruit in the hole, on its side, with the narrower end sloping upward. Leave the stem end exposed in Central and South Florida. In North Florida, covering the fruit completely will protect the bud from unexpected cool weather.

Sow chayote in the early spring anywhere in the state. In South Florida you can also plant in the fall. Fertilize the plants 30 days after planting, once the vine is a few feet tall. You may need to fertilize again in mid-summer and when the fruits are small. A soil test can help you decide what amendments are necessary. Compost and other organic soil amendments are also helpful.

Harvest chayote fruits young and the seed and rind will be soft and edible. The fruit is still edible but tougher when it begins to sprout. Once established, chayote will come back every year. Like many perennial vegetables, the best yields happen after the plant is 2-3 years old.

Chayote has a texture similar to mature zucchini. To cook this vegetable, treat it as you would winter squash. Cooks prepare it roasted, creamed, buttered, fried, baked, frittered, boiled, or mashed. It is also served in salads, pies, and pickles.

Seminole Pumpkin

Traditionally grown by the Calusa, Creek, and Miccosukee peoples, Seminole pumpkins remain one of the tastiest and most reliable pumpkins for Florida gardens. The Seminole people gave the name “Chassahowitza” to a region on the gulf in Southwest Florida. The name means “pumpkin hanging place.” It’s likely that the pumpkins they were referring to were Seminole pumpkins, or a related variety.

Seminole pumpkins are a cultivated variety (cultivar) of Cucurbita moschata. Other notable cultivars of this species include butternut squash and calabaza. While generally rounded and dull orange, Seminole pumpkins come in a variety of shapes and colors. Sometimes this is the result of cross-pollination with nearby butternut squash or another member of their species. Regardless, the inner flesh of Seminole pumpkin is orange, similar to butternut squash, but sweeter. The flesh is firmer and less fibrous than that of a traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo). Mature fruits generally weigh 6 to 12 pounds.

To preserve their harvest of Seminole pumpkins, aboriginal Floridians sliced and dried the fruit. Thanks to their thick skin, Seminole pumpkins can be stored whole for a couple of months, even in Florida’s humid climate. In a dry location with good ventilation, they can be stored for up to a year.

Seminole pumpkin makes an excellent substitute for pumpkin or butternut squash when cooking. You don’t have to limit yourself to eating the flesh of these pumpkins, either. Young, green fruits can be harvested and eaten without peeling. The beautiful yellow flowers are also edible raw, stuffed, or even fried.

So that’s a pretty good set of edibles. Young ones treated as a summer squash, mature keeps for many months or can be dried for longer storage. Flowers edible. I’d expect the seeds can also be eaten as with most squash & pumpkins.

Planting and Care

Gardeners in frost-free areas of the state have the opportunity to plant Seminole pumpkin between August and March. In North and Central Florida, seeds can be planted in the spring. This is usually between February and April, but could be as late as July if you can commit yourself to vigilant pest management. Many gardeners choose to plant late, knowing that it is one of the few veggies that can survive a harsh Florida summer. Some gardeners also plant in the fall, but only do so if you have 120 days left before the first frost is expected.


Seminole pumpkins take the summer heat and humidity in stride and require little maintenance; some gardeners even claim they thrive on neglect. As your vines grow, they may become weighed down by the pumpkins — this is normal for fruiting vines and not something to worry about. Pumpkins that grow hanging from the vine are usually tear-drop shaped, while fruit that develops on the ground more closely resembles a traditional pumpkins.

Not sure what a “Long Squash” is, so maybe in a future year. Seems to have some medical claims:


Guodong Liu, Yuncong Li, David Dinkins, Bonnie Wells, Qingren Wang, and Yuqi Cui

Long squash (Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standl.) is a dicotyledon species and a member of the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae). It is also known as birdhouse gourd, bottle gourd, calabash gourd, hard-shelled gourd, dolphin gourd, long melon, opo squash, trumpet gourd, and white-flower gourd (Lim 2012). Long squash is indigenous to Africa, but it reached Asia thousands of years ago, possibly by floating across the sea (Kistler et al. 2014). The domesticated long squash fruit were found to still contain viable seeds even after floating in seawater for more than seven months (Decker-Walters et al. 2004). DNA sequence analyses of archaeological fruit specimens suggest that long squash was domesticated for approximately 10,000 years and long before any other documented food crops. This crop was brought to the Americas by Paleoindian populations from Asia before the arrival of Columbus, approximately 8,000 years ago (Gibson 1984; Erickson et al. 2005).

Long squash is an annual, vigorous, and herbaceous crop, bearing fine hairs on vines, petioles, leaves, and young fruit. The hairs gradually fall off the plant. The leaves are heart-shaped and can measure between 4 and 14 inches in both length and width. The vine has tendrils for climbing and can be up to 30 feet in length; hence, trellis support systems are needed for high yields of good quality (Figure 1). The plants of this monoecious species bear separate flowers of both sexes, which are usually white in color. The fresh fruit has smooth, light green skin with white flesh and should be harvested young for culinary use (Figure 2). If harvested when mature and dried, the fruit will not be edible. The dried, buoyant, hard-shelled fruit have long been used as water and food containers, musical instruments (drums and flutes), fishing floats, apparel, etc. The fruit of this crop have a variety of shapes: round (called calabash), high round, cylindrical, bottle or dumbbell, slim and serpentine, or long. Most of the long squash varieties grown in Florida have long fruit (Figure 2).

Additionally, because the long squash fruit are called calabashes, they are easily confused with the unrelated calabash tree (Crescentia cujete L.) that has stiff and hollow fruit which are also used to make containers, musical instruments, and utensils (Price 1982; Gilman and Watson 2014).

Long squash can be grown by direct seeding or transplanting of 15- to 20-day-old seedlings. The plants prefer well-drained, moist, and fertile soil. Irrigation is necessary during the growing season for a good crop. They also like a warm and sunny climate without excessive winds. Florida’s climate is suitable for growing long squash for commercial purposes or in backyards and gardens. In Florida, after seeding or transplanting, this crop grows very rapidly. Cutting the vine tips when the stem is between 6 and 8 feet long can force the plant to produce more fruitful branches and set fruit much sooner. Because long squash is a relatively new crop with small acreage, IFAS currently has no standard fertilizer recommendations. Growers can temporarily use the fertilizer recommendations for cucumber: N, 150 lb/A; both of P2O5 and K2O, 120, 100, and 80 lb/A for very low, low, and medium levels of the nutrients, respectively.

Long squash is a good source of vitamin C, zinc, and potassium (Table 1). Its fruit is reported to have these medical active components: triterpenoid (biochemical compounds with 30 carbon atoms found in various plant species), cucurbitacins (a class of biochemical compounds found in some cucumber family plants) B, D, G, and H, 22-deoxy cucurbitacin (“the bitter principle of cucurbitaceae (cucumber family)”), etc. It is used as a folk medicine for its cardioprotective (heart-protective), cardiotonic (having a tonic effect on the heart), general tonic, diuretic (increasing excretion of urine), and aphrodisiac properties in certain Asian countries such as India (Upaganlawar and Balaraman 2009). Different extracts of the fruit and seeds reveal various pharmacological attributes, such as anticancer and antioxidant activity, and potential medical applications (Lim 2012).

They have a whole page devoted to various “Tropical Squashes” Moschata type, so they recommend only growing one of them at a time to avoid hybrids if you plan to save seeds from them:

Tropical squashes are adapted to growing in hot, humid climates, and tend to be less susceptible to the diseases that affect many other types of squash. These pumpkin-type squashes have hard, thick rinds that help protect them from insects.

All of the tropical squashes listed below have different shapes and sizes, but all are in the same family (Cucurbita moschata). They have yellow or orange, sweet, smooth-textured flesh and are delicious eaten cooked in a variety of ways, including mashed or in soups and stewed dishes.

Calabaza: There are several varieties available; all produce large, green, smooth pumpkins. Calabaza is popular in Caribbean dishes like sancocho stew; they also make a great pumpkin pie. Seed sources: Seedway. Calabaza is available in local stores (also one way to obtain seeds), but the next two are specialty squashes that you may need to grow yourself if you want to try them.

Seminole pumpkin: This small tan-colored squash was an important food of Native Americans in Florida for hundreds of years. It is now considered an endangered food because it isn’t commercially cultivated and may be in danger of disappearing entirely. Pumpkin frybread is a popular Seminole recipe. Seed sources ECHO; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Moranga squash: These adorable little pink pumpkins are used to make “shrimp-in-squash”, a traditional Brazilian dish. Seed sources: Urban Farmer.

Again, back at that Heat Tolerant link:

Beans and Peas
Beans and peas are among the easiest plants to grow and saving seeds is a breeze. Southern peas, winged bean, long bean, and tropical pole beans are good choices for summer gardens. Heat-tolerant varieties of pole and bush beans are also available.

As legumes, these beans and peas also fix nitrogen in the soil. They make good summer cover crops, enriching the soil for your cool-weather plantings. Climbing beans like those above are also a component of the iconic American planting: the three sisters.

Oddly, they don’t talk about Lima Beans as much as I expected.

Pole and Climbing Beans
A row of green vines growing up clearly handmade trellis
Pole beans climbing creative, homemade trellises. Credit: UF/IFAS

Climbing beans like pole beans, winged beans, and long beans, are popular plants in Florida vegetable gardens. They’re easy to grow, even in poor soil. And, as the name implies, these beans love to climb. You can trellis the lovely vines in your vegetable garden or plant them along an existing fence to create a foodscape.
Other species of climbing beans include long and yard-long beans (Vigna unguiculata subs. Sesquipedalis), winged beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), and some varieties of broad bean (Vicia faba). Scarlet runner (Phaseolus coccineus) and hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus) are both so beautiful that they are often planted as ornamentals. The seeds of these species are less commonly sold, but many gardeners agree that they are well worth the search.

I like runner beans, and also liked the Yard Long beans I grew in California, so may try them too:

Guodong Liu, Qingren Wang, Yuncong Li, David Dinkins, Bonnie Wells, and Kshitij Khatri
Food diversity, nutritional food supply, and profitability are the priorities of agricultural and horticultural industries. To diversify vegetable products and increase the Florida vegetable industry’s competitiveness, several new vegetable crops are rapidly emerging in the state. For example, there are more than 40 ethnic vegetable crops, such as luffa (Luffa cylindrica (L.) Roem), shalihon (Brassica juncea (L.) Czern), yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius (Poepp. and Endl.) H. Robinson), and tahn ho (Chrysanthemum coronarium L.), grown across Florida. Due to Florida’s favorable climate, these vegetable crops grow well and have high market potential. The objective of this article is to provide a general overview on one of the Asian vegetable crops, long bean grown in Florida.

Long bean (Vigna unguiculata subs. sesquipedalis, Family: Fabaceae) is a leguminous vegetable crop with climbing vines that produce long pods consumed as a cooked vegetable. It is a popular crop in Asian countries such as in China. The subspecies name, “sesquipedalis,” means “one-and-half-foot long” and approximates the pod length. It is also known as asparagus bean, Chinese long bean, long-podded cowpea, and yardlong bean. Long bean is called as bora, bodi, pea bean, and snake bean. This vigorous annual crop is a member of the genus Vigna, which is different from the common bean, which belongs to the genus Phaseolus.

This crop was recorded in Chinese literature as early as the Song Dynasty in 1008 CE, though China as the origin of long bean is not completely established. This crop is also considered to have originated from tropical Africa because wild species of Vigna can be found there (Yamaguchi 1983).

James M. Stephens 2
Yard-long bean has such other common names as asparagus bean, Peru bean, and snake bean. It is closely related to Southern peas or cowpeas. As the names imply, the pods are quite long, often reaching 36 inches in length. These long, immature pods are often used as snap beans.

Because of my corn allergy, I’ll not be planing corn as the last part of the “Three Sisters”

Three Sisters for Florida
Corn, beans, and squash are called the “three sisters,” a winning combination discovered by Mesoamericans thousands of years ago. The corn provides support for climbing beans, the beans fertilize the soil for the corn, and the squash leaves suppress weeds. Best of all, gardeners build zero trellises and pull very few weeds.

If you’d like to mix a little history in with your gardening, who not give the Three Sisters a try using Florida-Friendly varieties?

But instead, I think some kind of starchy root (some with the added dividend of edible greens too, like sweet potatoes). But a couple of these I’ve never heard of before.

As warmer weather approaches, it can be difficult to find vegetables that can survive through the heat of Florida summers, particularly in South Florida. Boniato (Ipomoea batatas) is one choice for gardeners looking to grow something tasty year-round. Also called tropical sweet potato, batatas, or camote, boniato is a member of the morning glory family. This relative of sweet potato is quite popular in South Florida. And just like sweet potato, boniato originated in Central America, and has been cultivated as early as 1000 BC in Columbia and Peru.

You may have noticed that the Latin name for boniato, Ipomoea batatas, is the same for sweet potatoes. Boniato is considered a cross between a baking potato and a sweet potato in terms of flavor and color. You can distinguish boniato from other potatoes by its pink to burgundy-colored skin and creamy white flesh. In terms of taste, boniato is much fluffier, drier, and less sweet than the orange-fleshed sweet potato. With a flavor some find similar to chestnuts, boniato can be used as a sweet potato substitute in almost any recipe.

Harvested boniato is sensitive to cold, so it’s best to store in a cool, dry pantry. Refrigeration is generally too cool for these tubers that do best when stored above 55 degrees.

Supposedly sold in some grocery stores, I’ll try looking for it and see what I think of it. Sounds like it ought to be OK. I’d expect the leaves to be edible as well, but will look for confirmation before trying it ;-0

It does look like folks like them:

Cassava looks interesting, but likely as a “next year or two” trial. Don’t see the need to jump right into toxic plant parts at the first step…


Finding edible plants to grow in the summer garden can be a real challenge. Turning to some of the less well-known vegetables can be just what Florida gardeners need to keep their edible gardens producing through the summer heat.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is a shrubby perennial with smooth, erect stems and reaches heights of 6 to 8 feet tall. Also called yuca, manioc, manihot, mandioca, tapioca plant and sweet potato tree, this plant produces edible starchy, tuberous roots.

While the roots are the most valuable part of these plants, it does also have ornamental value as well. The large, palmate leaves are dark green with reddish veins.

Roots develop in clusters of four to eight at the base of the stem. They’re 1 to 4 inches in diameter and are generally 8 to 15 inches long. The pure white interiors are firmer than potatoes and have a very high starch content. The roots are also covered in a thin, reddish brown, fibrous bark. This bark contains the toxin hydrocyanic (prussic) acid, which must be removed by washing, scraping, and heating. It’s easier to peel the bark off with a knife than a traditional vegetable peeler.

There is both a bitter and a sweet type of cassava. The roots of the sweet type contain only a small amount of prussic acid and are prepared boiled as a vegetable. Leaves can also be boiled and eaten; they should not be eaten raw because they also contain the toxic prussic acid.

Cassava roots are also used as animal feed, and are processed for glue, laundry starch, and tapioca pudding.

I’m much more likely to start with regular old sweet potatoes where I know it’s OK to eat the leaves.

Sweet Potatoes

Native to the Americas, sweet potatoes are known for their colorful and tasty tubers. Their flesh can be yellow, orange, or even purple. They’re an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C.

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are a great warm season crop for Florida. They require a long growing season, but will reward you greatly for your patience.

Something you may not know about these popular potatoes is that the leaves are edible as well! Not only are they nutritious, the young leaves and shoots can provide you with a source of tender and mild-tasting leafy greens through the hot Florida summer.

Then the Warm Season page goes on to look at some more unusual (from a Northern perspective) things to grow.

Uniquely Florida
Florida’s subtropical climate lends itself to fruits and vegetables that you rarely find elsewhere in the continental US. To make the most of our warm weather, try summer crops like okra, roselle, sugarcane, and tropical fruits. Exotic plants like these help Florida gardeners celebrate and enjoy what makes our state unique!

Not fond of Okra, so it’s not happening. I’ll include a link for “roselle” below, whatever it is…

It does look really pretty,, so hit the link to see the rosy colored flowers!


Looking for something a little different for the garden? Why not try roselle? A relative of hibiscus and okra, this plant was once a very popular edible. While not native to the state, it seems that most Florida Cracker homesteads grew it (more on this term).

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is also called Florida cranberry, red sorrel, or Jamaica sorrel, although it is actually native to Central and West Africa and is grown around the world. The part of the plant that is edible are the calyces of the roselle flower which can be used to make a variety of jams, sauces, and teas.

Roselle produces attractive foliage and flowers and will reach a height of about 7 feet. Many parts of the plant, including the seeds, leaves, fruits, and roots, are used medicinally or in foods. The leaves are lobed and reddish-green and can be used as a cooked green or added raw for a nice “zing” to a salad. Appearing in October, the flowers are typically yellow with a dark center and about 3 inches wide. The part of the plant most popular however, is found at the bottom of each flower. This fleshy, bright red cup-like structure contains the plant’s seeds and is called a calyx. The color and tart taste of the calyces makes them a good replacement for cranberries.

Florida “Cranberry” Sauce
Roselle can be used to make a cranberry sauce alternative. Try using chopped roselle calyces in place of cranberries. Sauces should kept refrigerated and consumed within a few days.

In the Caribbean, roselle is used to make a festive Christmas drink. Bakers can substitute roselle for rhubarb when making a fruit crisp or pie. The seeds, which are high in protein, can be roasted and brewed like coffee, or ground and added to soups and salads. The nutrient-rich calyces can either be stored frozen or dried for making cordials, punches, and jams. The calyces can also be used to add color and flavor to herb teas. Be sure to harvest calyces before they turn brown on the plant and separate them from the seeds before using them in recipes.

A Tomato Of A Different Kind? Yup! I’d never thought you might have too much heat for tomatoes…

Tiny, but tough – the Everglades tomato
By Ralph E. Mitchell

If tiny tomatoes smaller than the classic cherry tomato are of interest, then Everglades tomatoes may be what you are looking for! Apparently this wild tomato has worked its way into our summer vegetables gardens and onto our plates. I grew one this spring and was surprised by the results!
Then it began to produce in abundance – lots of tiny (dime-sized), rich-flavored fruit. The skin is very tender and I squished many as I tried to pick these tomato pearls with my sausage fingers. Beyond a few tomato hornworms and something eating a few fruits at night, this tomato out-performed itself. In other words, I could not keep up with it!

An interesting fact about the Everglades tomato is that it is a different species than our normal garden variety types. While we normally grow Solanum lycopersicum, the Everglades tomato is Solanum pimpinellifolium, a wild type ancestor originating from Ecuador and Peru. More commonly called a currant tomato due to its small size, this species is very durable and indeterminate – it grows at least twelve feet long/tall.

The Everglades tomato will hybridize with other species and is considered important in tomato breeding for disease resistance. Otherwise, it has naturalized in places outside its range including the Galápagos Islands and Florida. You cannot find the seeds or plants at most local garden centers, but they can be found with an Internet search at specialty seed companies. Propagation can also be performed with rooted cuttings directly from the plant.

Then there’s greens. I’ve grown the first one before and it was easy.

James M. Stephens 2
Malabar spinach is also known as Ceylon spinach, climbing spinach, gui, acelga trepadora, bretana, libato, vine spinach, and Malabar nightshade. The red leaf form belongs to the rubra species, while the green form is classified in the alba species.

Malabar is not a true spinach, but its leaves, which form on a vine, resemble spinach and are used in the same way. It comes from India and is distributed widely in the tropics, particularly in moist lowlands. In Florida, it is rare, even in home gardens.

Here and in the tropics, it grows well in a variety of soils, seemingly without regard to fertility. Moisture is important, and the plants make their best growth during warm, rainy periods. A small amount of shade seems to be beneficial, although open-sun culture does not present a serious problem.

Malabar spinach can be grown from seeds or cuttings. While not essential, the vine should be trellised. Two vines are sufficient to supply a small family all summer and fall. Vines are somewhat ornamental, so they can be trained to climb over doorways for easy accessibility. The thick, fleshy leaves are cut off together with some length of stem to keep the plant pruned to a desired shape. Stems that are too tough to eat can be put back in the soil and rerooted. Plants started in Gainesville in August made excellent growth during the fall months.

When cooked, Malabar spinach is not as slick in texture as many greens, such as spinach. The Bengalis cook it with chopped onions, hot chilis, and a little mustard oil.

IIRC it was a rather bland green flavor when just boiled. I can see why they hotted it up. It does want to just grow and grow, so as a “prepper” food source the bland with lots of volume is fine.

Not sure what to think of this one:

James M. Stephens 2

In Florida, malanga is the most popular form of cocoyam, which is a general name applied to several species of Xanthosoma. Many of the common names are confusing because of the interchangeable usage within the various forms and varieties. Malanga, yautia, tannia, and tanier appear most often in common usage, especially in trade circles. Leafy types not grown for tubers are called belembe and calalous.

Generally, malanga resembles dasheen (taro) and the elephant-ear plant, with large green leaves about 2 feet wide by 2½ feet long. The upper leaf surface is rather smooth and sometimes waxy, and the lower surface is ribbed. The main difference in leaf shape between dasheen and malanga is that the dasheen’s petiole (leaf stem) joins the leaf blade away from the edge of the leaf, whereas the malanga’s petiole attaches at the notched edge of the leaf. The malanga plant may attain a height of 5 feet or more. Edible tubers (cormels) are formed in the soil at the base of the plant. A central large tuber (corm) is formed, with a cluster of cormels, grayish brown to black lateral tubers, around it.

Malanga is widely grown and used in the tropics. In South Florida, it has been grown in small patches for many years, and on a limited commercial sale since 1963 to meet the demands of Latin Americans living here. There were about 2,500 acres of malanga grown in Dade County, Florida, in 1985. Malanga, along with calabaza and boniato, made up most of the 14,000 acres of tropical vegetables grown in Dade County in 1991.

In Florida, malanga should be started in the spring since the crop requires 9 to 10 months to mature. It is injured by frosts. It can be propagated by several methods: (1) plant the top (head), (2) plant the whole main tuber, (3) plant pieces of the main tuber, or (4) plant individual secondary tubers. Propagative materials should be set 3 to 5 inches below the surface. In Florida, plantings have been successful on low-lying marl and rockland soils. Other soil types may be utilized as long as adequate moisture and good drainage are provided.

Harvested malanga tubers can be kept in good condition at room temperature (79°F) and humidity (76%) for just a few weeks. They keep longer if refrigerated at 45°F. Tender tubers are washed and peeled before cooking. Some are so hard that cooking is required before peeling. They may be baked, mashed, fried, or otherwise used as potatoes. Leaves are also eaten as greens.

Looks like a fun plant, but where to get one? Looks like I’ll need to prowl the local Latin Grocery Stores ;-)

They also have a general Florida gardening advice page:

Sydney Park Brown, Danielle Treadwell, J. M. Stephens, and Susan Webb

Vegetable gardening offers fresh air, sunshine, exercise, enjoyment, mental therapy, nutritious fresh vegetables, and economic savings, as well as many other benefits (Figure 1). Vegetables can be grown year-round in Florida if attention is paid to the appropriate planting dates (Table 1). Planting times are also available on any device from To use, simply enter your zip code and a list of vegetables is generated for the time of year and your location in the state.
Gardeners often plant on whatever soil type is available, but it is usually worthwhile to improve the garden plot with additions of organic matter (see below). Spade or plow the plot at least three weeks before planting. At planting time, rework the soil into a smooth, firm surface.

Most Florida soils are low in organic matter and therefore benefit from the addition of organic matter such as animal manure, rotted leaves, compost, commercial soil mixes, and/or cover crops. Composted organics may be applied at planting time; un-composted organics (such as fresh grass clippings) should be mixed into the soil at least a month before seeding. Due to low and inconsistent levels of nutrients in compost, accompanying applications of inorganic or organic fertilizer may be beneficial (See “Fertilizing” below). Thoroughly mix liberal amounts of un-composted organics in the soil well in advance of planting, preferably at least a month before seeding. Animal manure if used should be spread at a rate of 25–100 pounds per 100 square feet and should be worked into the soil 90–120 days before harvesting any vegetables.

Well, now I know what I’m going to do with all the clippings and mowing product…

Between planting “traditional” northern garden plants in winter / spring, and these that grow well in summer / fall, it looks like I can have year round productivity of “something worth eating”. I like that idea!

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in cooking, Emergency Preparation and Risks, Favorites, Food, Plants - Seeds - Gardening. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Gardening – With Emphasis On Florida & Survival Stuff

  1. H.R. says:

    Now THAT was one fine gardening post, E.M.

    We are looking to become Florida residents for the tax break. The Florida sales tax has been pretty much static at 7% or so for years and is what, on the backs of tourists and along with the bed tax, negates the need for a Florida State income tax.

    Well, our State has caught up to Florida and, depending on location, is 7% or 7.25% sales tax. So, there’s no savings there anymore. Our State used to be at 4% – 4.25% for many years.

    For reasons too lengthy to bore everyone with, we are going to stay 6 to 8 months in Florida next year in the RV park which we love.

    We are container gardening here at home base, as well as the small garden I put in. Given that we will be in Florida for a minimum of one grow/harvest season and the RV lots are large and have zero restrictions on container plants (encouraged! if kept neat), I have been interested in what I can grow and harvest in Florida in 90 to 160 days.

    So……… I’ll be “watching this space.” I think you’ll be reporting in long before we make our Winter trip to Florida, and I’ll have a good base to ‘grow’ on. 😜

    P.S. Ther cassava and squashes sound really interesting.

    P.P.S. I already know Ossqss is not anywhere close to ‘Farner Green’. No how no way, never ever. Near as I can tell, he is counting on surviving on fish, gators, turtles, and beer.

    Ummmm… not a bad plan, really. The odd squirrel, racoon, and rattlesnake will provide some variety to the diet. 😉

    P.P.P.S. – Don’t let anyone know he has purchased an obsoleted missile silo and filled it with Busch Light. Mum’s the word. If you tell anyone, he’ll have to k!ll you. 🤣🤣

  2. Chuck J says:

    A good help is to look up David the Good on youtube or online. He has been a big help for my wife here in the panhandle. But he has gardened all over Florida.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Remember, too, that plants start off very slow. It can be 2 weeks from seed in the ground to starting to sprout, and then another 3 or 4 weeks to “big enough to notice it”.

    I got a large jump on “time to harvest” from any chunk of dirt just via 2 things:

    1) Soak seeds over night in water prior to planting. (No sense waiting a week for a dry seed to soak up enough water to sprout while sitting in barely moist dirt).

    2) Plant those seeds in 1 quart Styrofoam cups ( cheap in bulk at Smart & Final) in potting soil. I poke a few holes in the bottom with a pencil and then stand them in about an inch of water in a big plastic pan / tub. Sprinkle water from above and the excess gets caught in the tub. About 1/2 concentration of hydroponic fertilizer mix can speed them up a bit too, but isn’t mandatory. Different plants grow at different rates, but they get big enough to “plant out” in just a few weeks. Meanwhile they are not taking up a giant pot or space in the garden… VERY easy to either dump the plant into your hand and put in the dirt, or peel off the styrofoam if needed. You can also do this step indoors before it is warm enough outdoors. (A shop light is your friend especially with grow lamps in it, or an LED grow light).

    So you can start your garden before you even hit the road. Arrive here with a stack of pots and a collection of styro-cups in the shower bottom, and then “plant out” here using local potting soil. Then have your “garden” producing about 2 to 3 months faster than starting it after you got here.

    (Yes, you can just buy the plants already big in pots from the nursery, but where’s the fun in that?…)

    Basically, I tend to run a little “nursery of my own” but with different and more interesting plants than you find at Home Depot… I’ve even started some plants in stryo-cups from the coffee station at work… when I was 9 floors up in San Francisco and desperately craving nature… Office desk fluorescents did a fine job getting them going… kept a gallon baggy of potting soil in my desk drawer. When City Sterility got too me too much, I’d plant a couple of styro cups of some seeds… then about 3 weeks later (or whenever big enough) I’d take them home, one at a time, and plant them out. Very therapeutic.


    Since you are talking “Winter trip”, that’s more likely to be OK for the “Summer vegetables” from a normal northern garden. In that case, look up “8 Ball” squash (or “Ronde de Nice”). A very nice small compact zucchini squash that makes spherical zukes about the size of, well, an 8 ball.

    I planted 4 of them in one tub of about 10 gallon size and had more squash than we could eat once it was at full production. Even though they were seriously over crowded. Nice small compact plants compared to regular monster squash. Really wants about a 2 foot diameter per plant. (hybrid) (heirloom ie seeds stable)

    Also had beans in a similar pot with a wire “tomato cage” type trellis for them. Nice crop, but likely could have used 2 or 3 tubs worth. There’s also a neat little pea I grew. Tom Thumb:

    75% of100 28 Reviews Add Your Review
    50-55 days. Tom Thumb is absolutely the best pea variety for container planting! Reaching only 8 to 9 inches in height, it’s grown mainly as a shelling type, but the pods are also sweet, tender and delicious when harvested very young. This variety excels when tucked into small spaces around the garden, and for cold-frame production very early or very late in the season. This unusual heirloom originated in England and was first introduced in the U.S. by Landreth Seeds, Philadelphia, in 1854. Even more frost tolerant than most other pea varieties, and, naturally, it requires no staking!

    6-12 hrs of Sun
    Sprouts in 10-30 Days
    Ideal Temperature: 45-80 F
    Seed Depth: 1″
    Plant Spacing: 4″
    Frost Hardy: Yes

    So you could have a big pot of small peas in your winter garden ;-) I grew mine in a plastic square tub that had holes drilled in the side about 1 inch up (so that it retained some water) since California is so dry. I’d likely put the holes in the bottom in Florida ;-)

    Had a smaller pot with a test grow of sweet potatoes in it that also did well. Nice flush of greens very early, and made sweet potatoes too. Not a huge yield as it was just a test, but worked nicely. (Size for desired quantity of production TBD…)

    I’d likely start with that. Just having fresh squash and green beans was nice.

    I’ve had Runner Beans grow back from the roots for a couple of years. If you avoid frost they can produce for at least a few years. So get one started early in a pot, grow it to size in your location in a big pot, then bring it down here until frost threatens. Put the tub with stem / root ball somewhere cold but not frozen, then next year just set it out in the sun again when frost is past.

    Remember too that bean leaves are edible as a cooked green. Not thrilling but decent nutritional value.

    Other small size vegetables for small / container gardens:

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Chuck J:

    Thanks for the pointer!


    Oh, and consider that Chayote being basically perennial and a vine that makes a lot:

    Consider (if you have one of those pop up Patio Canopy / Gazebo things) having a Chayote that you start and get growing in a big pot. Then set it next to that patio metal frame thing. In no time you ought to have 10 foot long vines growing up it and making chayote. Next time I see one being dumped because the canvas cover is toast, I’m snagging it for a Trellis.

    When a winter frost takes the leaves, just cut it back to a big stem in the pot and set in a frost free but cool area. Set it out again when frost danger is done.

    I rather like the idea of stringing some cordage as cross bits in one of those and replacing the canvas with green leaves… I’ve had some green beans (and certainly runner beans) that would put out 15 to 20 foot vines.

  5. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – The lots in our RV park have 10′ x 12′ pergolas. The park management doesn’t care what you do so long as it looks neat and well-kept and is gone when you are gone.

    I’ll have to look into chayote as part of our Florida patio gardening. I wonder how Winter container potatoes will do in Florida. It seems November planting and February harvesting should work well with central Florida temperatures over that time span. Container tomatoes might work out, too.

    Two of our long-timer friends at that RV park started their tomato plants in Florida this year and hauled them home to plant in their gardens. I have my regrets that I did not have the foresight to do that, too. I got our first tomato from the garden yesterday. I think those couples who jump-started their tomato plants in Florida have probably already been making BLTs on a daily basis. They are 3 months ahead of the game.

    You are in for some enjoyable times. Even the mistakes are good for a laugh and a “Well, that didn’t work.” That will all be balanced out by the the “OMG! Never ever plant that much again” times.

    Have fun!

  6. cdquarles says:

    Lima beans do fine, here; but I am in central AL, and there are varieties suited for the area. It is less subtropical here than it is down in Central FL; but still subtropical.

  7. cdquarles says:

    You can do potatoes here, too; but sweet potatoes do better. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Tony Hansen says:

    EM, Any idea what frost is like in your new area? Will any plants over-winter in situ? The water in the garden hose froze here… I think it was ’82 and we called that cold! Others may not see it that way.

  9. Josh from Sedona says:

    Mike you might want to check out Seed Savers exchange, they have a large membership of the backyard gardeners at all save seeds and they probably could turn you on to all kinds of heirloom stuff for Florida

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Josh from Sedona:

    I did Seed Savers for a year about 20 years ago… thanks for the reminder. I have their book “Seed to Seed” in a box in storage somewhere…. but yeah, need to catch up with them again.

    @Tony Hansen:

    I’m in a little town outside Orlando. My Sunset Garden Book is also in a box, so no microclimate map yet, but the wiki says average lows in winter about 50 to 56 F or 10 to 15 C record lows can be 20 F or -7 C. Figure several years overwintering then a replant if a big chill hits.


    I’ll likely try both. I really like ham, yams, green beans and buttered bread ;-) There’s something special when those flavors mix in the mouth… but a fluffy buttered baker is also a wonder…


    Pergola… that’s a fun word. Yeah a pergola is what you want. (I kept thinking “trellis over your head” what is that. ?. 8-}

  11. CoRev says:

    I haven’t seen kale and its fellow travelers should be a good late Fall/Winter crop.

  12. cdquarles says:

    For a comparison to Central AL, average winter lows are 35F and record lows are below zero F. Much less subtropical here, but still subtropical. Typical subfreezing temps are in the 20sF.

  13. Graeme No.3 says:

    My aunt ‘grew’ chayote in Sydney. Frost free, humid weather esp. in summer.
    Actually it grew up from the rubbish tip (old or unwanted vegetable matter including any unwanted bits and the older vines were slashed down) which went over the outdoor terrace wall making a sort of garden bed, every year one or more vines would grow up the stone wall and the fruit could be picked for months.
    Known as chokos in Australia and were regarded as ‘depression food’. Well known as an ‘extender’ in apple pies. My aunt was fond of using the small fruit gently cooked whole in olive oil in a frying pan.
    No mention of capsicums or chilies?

  14. Weetabix says:

    Here’s hoping Long Squash isn’t some analog to long pork…

  15. E.M.Smith says:


    Yup! Especially Russian Kale (a cross in the same group as rutabaga genetically ) that can grow under snow. It ought to just laugh at any surprise Canadian Express that manages to reach Orlando ;-)

    I figure the Winter Garden will just be My Usual fall stuff.

    I have a set of seeds (hopefully not dying in storage…) for a kind of sweet Collard. I made a cross of Dinosaur Kale, Green Glaze Collards, and a commercial purple Cabbage that Would Not Die!!! (it was neglected in the food crisper for several months in a plastic bag, then found to be making roots… so I planted it out in the garden as a reward. It then “got in the pants” of the Dinosaur Kale next to it, then that was crossed to a Green Glaze Collards). Extremely hardy, it makes large leaves with some of them having dusky green leaves and some more glossy, and a darker color than green glaze, and not bitter like collards but sweeter. I hope to grow them. They would grow year round in San Jose – summer heat or winter frosts.

    I think I can re-create it if the seeds I saved don’t survive the storage unit heat…

    Then some snow peas and fava beans (that also don’t mind cold) and I’ll trial stuff like radishes and carrots and such.


    Hmmm…. noticeably colder than here… Didn’t realize it was that different. But yeah, still A Lot warmer than Iowa or Ohio ;-)

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @Graeme No.3:

    They ARE “productive”. Read one description that said a fully grown plant (ONE plant) would make about 400 a year. Yup, one a day and 2 on Sundays!

    Needs warm weather and a Pergola or Trellis (or barn ;-) to grow over ….

    Per peppers: Well, I’m not a big user of peppers. One little shaker bottle will last me a couple of years, so not seeing a lot of need for “emergency pepper plants” (though I have seeds in my seed archive… in storage…) I tried growing them in (cold SF Bay area) California with poor success. I may try again now that I’m somewhere they like ;-)


    Perhaps Vegetarian Long Pork??


    For what it’s worth, the local Lowe’s had nothing in the way of Florida Specific seeds. Same Old Seed Types I saw in California. Nothing semi-tropical.

    The local Walmart had some small dinky Chayote, wrapped one to a baggy, for $1.82 each (!), but Public’s had a couple of the roots and a Calabaza squash (13 pounds!) that I’m going to seed out and see if I like the flavor.
    A visit to the local Hispanic Grocery Store had a dozen roots with names I’d never heard of before. I bought a couple and checked the names when back at home. One is a Cassava (tapioca, yuca) and another is a Malanga (Yautia, Xanthosoma Sagittifolia). They also have Name Root (ñame or “Gunea Yam” or Disorea Cayenenas – yellow or Disorea Rotundata – white) that looks like a keeper…

    So proceeding with the taste trials and then some bits may make it to starting pots ;-)

    Things seem to have about 1/2 dozen names for the same thing on average, with English, Spanish (usually a couple), and some other names… Often a common name covers 2 or 3 different species that look and cook similarly… So some selectivity required.

    I’m also going to make a list of “Ethnic Markets” to visit (along with a list of the most common dozen names for given things of interest…) and see what I can find. Also “Health Food Stores” like Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, even Whole Foods, can have relatively local / ethnic foods and seeds some times. IIRC, Sprouts & Whole Foods in California carried “Seeds Of Change” seed packets in interesting types.

  17. philjourdan says:

    Yea, Cassava is the main source of Carbohydrates in the tropics. But I never throught about Florida as being “washed out”, but now that you mention it, it makes sense.

    Here on the other hand, we are in the sweet spot for vegetables! That is why you lock your cars in the summer and fall! If you do not, someone is going to leave a bunch of ‘maters or Zucchini in your car! Basically, except in the worst of years (about every 20 or so), anything you plant will over produce! Even Pomegranates! But a Thunderstorm took out our buds this year, so none this year (we had a bumper crop last year).

  18. philjourdan says:

    Oh one other thing. Saw HR.’s post and have to add – Cilantro. I love it (some hate it). But it is a Weed! My wife planted some about 10 years ago. And some went to seed and we have had Cilantro every year since! If you like it, that is not a bad thing!

  19. Graeme No.3 says:

    This from an Australian supplier of stuff for sub tropical gardens.
    Don’t know if it is any help but…
    “Brazilian Spinach
    Alternanthera sissoo Syn. Poor Man’s Spinach, Samba Lettuce, Sissoo Spinach
    A low growing perennial leaf vegetable, which forms a neat mound. It is used cooked as spinach substitute. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas only. This is a good tasting wet-season green leafy vegetable.”
    “Ceylon Spinach
    Basella spp Syn. Malabar Spinach
    Attractive climbing vegetable, leaves are rich in vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll, eaten raw or cooked; perennial in the tropics. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas.”
    Ipomoea aquaticaSyn. Water Spinach
    Ground-hugging, Thai vegetable that likes moist soil; young leaves, stems and tips are delicious cooked in a stir-fry or steamed. Sow spring and summer. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas.”
    “Katuk Sweetleaf
    Sauropus androgynous
    Katuk Sweetleaf is a perennial, shrubby plant with small red flowers and purple fruit. It can grow to 2 metres tall. A popular vegetable in Asia it is often grown as a hedge around rice paddies. The tender leaves have a pea-like flavour and are 49% protein. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads; older leaves, small flowers and pea-size fruits are steamed. Add to stir-fry, egg and rice dishes, soups or casseroles. It is suitable for subtropical (frost-free) and tropical areas only and enjoys partial shade to full sun.”
    Moringa spp. Syn. Horseradish Tree, Drumstick Tree,
    A hardy shrubby tree with fern-like leaves and white, fragrant flowers. The pungent roots are used as a substitute for horseradish; young leaves are eaten as cooked greens and the immature pods are cooked like okra. Suitable for subtropical and tropical areas” This is popular in Ceylon and is sold canned. Quite nice.
    “Okinawa Spinach
    Gynura crepioides
    Syn Hong tsoi, Okinawa lettuce
    Okinawa spinach is a dense, low growing plant to 70 cm high. Easily the most low maintenance perennial leaf vegetable; it is a hardy plant and relatively pest-free. Thriving in warm, wet conditions Okinawa spinach does best in subtropical and tropical areas; it is sensitive to frost. An attractive plant with shiny leaves that are green on top and purple underneath; the flowers are very small and orange. It grows best in full sun to partial shade. It needs ample water, rich, fertile well-drained soil that is kept mulched and prefers a pH of between 6.1 and 6.5.”
    “Sambung Nyawa
    Gynura procumbens
    Syn. Mollucan Spinach, Leaves of the Gods, Akar Sebiak, Daun Dewa, Kelemai Merah, Bai Bing Ca, Longevity Spinach
    Sambung is a bushy perennial plant to 80 cm high with yellowish orange thistle-like flowers, it is a close relative of Okinawa Spinach. It needs regular trimming to make the plant bushy. The leaves are green and fleshy and said to taste like green beans. The young leaves and shoots can be eaten fresh in salads or steamed like spinach. Sambung traditionally has many medicinal uses and is reputed to extend life which is why it is called ‘Leaves of the Gods’. It is also a useful forage plant for poultry. It grows well in partial shade in the subtropics and tropics.”

  20. cdquarles says:

    Well, Central FL is about 5 degrees closer to the Equator than I am. Noon sun at summer solstice is about 5 degrees off zenith near Orlando. For me, it is about 10 degrees off zenith. Noon sun at winter solstice is about 34 degrees off the horizon, here; and would be just shy of 40 degrees off the horizon in Orlando. That extra peak insolation does make a difference, as does the longer winter daylight hours there compared to here. Flip side is that the daylight hours are longer here in summer (over 14 and near 15 at the TN border).

  21. philjourdan says:

    @Graeme No.3 – like Kale is a spinach substitute?

    NO THANK YOU! MY mother pulled that stunt on me 50 years ago. I hate Kale to this day!

    I eats me spinach because I am Popeye the Sailor man! No substitutes!

  22. Graeme No.3 says:

    I’m not fond of Kale either although I’ve grown Red Russian for a few years in the past, but I think it is a hybrid. Kangkong I ate but it didn’t make much impression as it was part of a very chilli hot dish.
    Moringa or horseradish tree I’ve had as a canned product in a curry. Not firey but distinctive.
    Most of those I listed are only available (and suitable) for growing in Queensland coastal areas (and perhaps around Darwin in the Northen Territory). I was assuming that you had a mixed population in Florida with people of Chinese and/or Indian extraction who would grow “old country” stuff. I know that when I went into a chinese supermarket a few times in Adelaide they had some different stuff in packets of seeds, not always with English sub-titles.

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    I once “trialed” a “few” different squashes in a couple of grow environments… WAY too much squash… Yellow Crookneck, 8 Ball, an oval shaped hybrid I’d made in prior years, and a yellow zucchini. Tubs and in 4×4 foot squares of dirt. A couple of plants each… (so about 4 x 2 x 2 = 16 or so plants…)

    Now some of them were spread out a bit in time (i.e. 8 Ball started in a pot as soon as possible, but the Yellow Crookneck in ground later in the season); but I also had 4 or 5 of some plants (deliberately way overcrowded the 8 ball in a big pot).

    Still, the bottom line was that after the 8 Ball started producing (and it is very fast…) I rapidly had more squash each day than I could possibly use. Eventually ran out of folks to give it to ;-) and ended some of the older trials (as I had the answers I wanted so …)

    FWIW, I really liked the 8 Ball for “just the right size for 2 people”. You pick a couple of them at about the size of a cue ball, and you get that pretty much all the time, and you are set for dinner. No 4 or 8 full sized zucchini trying to make Italian vegetable saute for just 2 folks ;-)

    FWIW, due to oxalate issues and spouse, it looks like I’m not going to be raising cassava and / or the similar Malanga:

    Yes, you can wash / cook the oxalate out… but it’s not worth the risk for an oxalate kidney stone former… what’s fine for me (spinach, for example) is on the no-go list for her.

    &@Graeme No.3:

    Thanks for the list! More to explore ;-)

    @Per Russian Kale:

    Yes, it is a cross. See the Triangle Of Wu:

    Basically all sorts of mustards, cabbages, and turnips (and chois and…) arise from crossing just 3 naturally occurring species in different combinations. The originals have 1/2 the chromosome count of the products (it is common in various plants that crosses and modifications double or triple the chromosomes….)

    Brassica Nigra (a black mustard), Brassica Rapa (Turnip, Napa / Chinese Cabbage, Bok Choi ), and Brassica Oleracea (cabbage / kale / broccoli & cauliflower).

    Two of the crosses give you Indian Mustard and Ethiopian Mustard, but the fun one, IMHO, is a cross of Rapa w/ Oleracae. It gives you Rutabaga and Russian Kale along with rape seed (canola). So a highly variable result!

    Oh, and yes, “Napa Cabbage” (aka Chinese Cabbage) IS a Turnip with very nice leaves and no edible root to speak of… as are the various Choi vegetables.

    The potential to create various kinds of new and different vegetables by re-creating some of these crosses, but with different starting types, is an interesting space to explore. Heck, I just played with crosses inside the Oleracae space and got a nice result.

    Oh, and realize that Brussels Sprouts are a Kale. It was only discovered in the 1800’s in a field of kale as a mutation… In theory, you could cross various Oleracae Kale with Brussels Sprouts and / or Cabbage and get all manner of interesting variations to explore (including less bitter kale…). I did this with my cross of Green Glaze Collards with Purple Cabbage and Dinosaur Kale. Less bitter than collards or kale, but still both cold and heat tolerant and a lot easier to grow and harvest in a small garden than full sized cabbages. ( i.e. you can pick a few leaves at a time…)

    Then think about the potential from crossing some of THAT whole mix with various Rapa (turnips…). Especially a “Napa Cabbage” (that isn’t a cabbage and didn’t come from Napa… but I digress) that is sweet and tender.

    I suspect that a Napa Cabbage cross with a kale or Brussels Sprouts would make a much better flavored kale or sprouts… but have not had a chance (time / space…) to work on it.

    @per Kale In General:

    Kale has a couple of BIG advantages. It can grow in snow, for example, and has a huge nutrient profile. It is fast to produce, too.

    That said: While I find it OK, it just doesn’t end up in the grocery cart very often. I’m just not fond of bitter kale and some kinds have very strong other flavors too that are “less than attractive”…

    Yet I love buttered Brussels Sprouts. So go figure. I also like my kale / cabbage / collards cross. (Don’t like the bitter in collards much either though…) but it took me a few years to get the flavor profile I liked in a durable plant.

    I suspect some of the bitter qualities are beneficial components (either as nutrients, or bug deterrents, or as things that let it live in heat / snow) so it may be that reducing the bitter component comes at a cost in other advantages. I did notice my cross product was a little more prone to some bugs chewing on the leaves. (Not nearly so much as other greens, but not as resistant as the original collards – aphids and leaf miners for example. Leaf miners would destroy my chard, but not touch the collards, yet I’d occasionally see a hole or two chewed in the cross. It varied by individual plant so I could select for the ones less chewed, or for the more chewable ones ;-)

    FWIW, my seed archive has a bunch of seeds in it for stuff I don’t like all that much; but that are very easy to grow and pest resistant (or have particular environments they like such as very wet or very dry). Why? Because “food I can grow and don’t like much” is better than “not able to grow anything as I’m a picky eater who is starving”…

    Met a lady at the pool the other day who said if she even smelled the “game” smell on meat or knew it was a game animal she refused to even taste it. Only beef would cross her lips. (The very idea of a hunted game animal repelled her, it seems). I could not help thinking how stupid that would be in any context but the modern Supermarket.

    I’m happy to eat any of: Beef, Bison, Lamb, Goat, Pigs, Venison, Squirrel, Frogs, Gators, Chickens, Pheasant, Ducks, Goose, Turkey, Horse, Moose, Bear, fish of many kinds … basically anything that isn’t toxic or taste so much like mud / rot that you can’t get it down.

    Being highly omnivorous is a great advantage in times of famine…

    So IF you are planning an “Emergency Garden” seed supply, consider tossing into your seed archive some seeds that grow well in your area even if you are not so fond of the flavor.

  24. cdquarles says:

    I am also not fond of kale, as such; but I love broccoli, cauliflower, collards (the variety we grew in our garden was not bitter, at least to me), turnips, spinach (but have the oxalate issue), and a number of other greens. I love onions, too, particularly vidalias; which are sweet onions and if marked Vidalia, only come from that area of Georgia (key is the soil).

  25. RalphB says:

    Camote…for my wife (From Philippines) that is a staple crop. When we were in the Middle East a lot of the Filipinos grew camote there, it can definitely withstand the heat. I am up in JAX, have a little raised bed in the back yard, she grows bitter melon, various beans, the long Asian style eggplant by the bushel, among others
    She will boil a bunch of camote and we grab and eat it right out of the pot, I prefer it over the standard orange sweet potato (except for Thanksgiving). There should be crates of it in most any Asian market

  26. John Hultquist says:

    I harvested snow-peas this morning. I’ll clean and package them tonight.
    Onions soon.

  27. cdquarles says:

    Note the AL differences, compared to FL: Typical first frost here is mid-November, though it can occur in mid-October. (I am in the valley roughly 0.1 miles above mean sea level.) Typical last frost here is mid-April, though it can occur in late March or early May. Hard freezes generally happen later in autumn or into winter for the first one and later in winter or into early spring for the last one.

  28. H.R. says:

    @RalphB – Good tip on the Camote. We have an outstanding Pan-Asian market here in town.

    What’s neat about it is that for a particular item, they carry the same thing in the versions from the different countries. Take sesame oil for example. They have a couple of Japanese brands, a couple of Chinese brands, and maybe one or two each from a couple of the other Asian countries.

    Then there are the veggies. I’m sure they will have Camote. Some veggies are common to almost all countries while there are some that are only in one or two countries. They have a l-o-o-o-n-g veggie cooler to hold all those different types.

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    @Per Asian:

    Not a lot of Chinese around here, but some. Almost no Japanese (lots in California). The Sushi Restaurants I’ve gone to with Asian chefs have nearly universally paused / goggled when I ordered in Japanese… found out they are mostly Vietnamese or Chinese…

    Looked for Asian Grocer near the RV Park, found none. Several in Orlando, and some south and one north and some more over in Lakeland; but none HERE. OK, next time I’m going anywhere I’ll try again ;-)

    In San Jose we had a large Vietnamese population, an entire Japan Town, and a load of Chinese (all three of: 3rd Generation, from Hong Kong, and Mainland…). A local dedicated Japanese Grocer (that also had cooking appliances) used by a lot of the Japanese Corporate folks assigned to Silly Con Valley. Then a chain, “Marina”, that had LOTS of Asian fruits, vegetables, processed foods, etc. for everyone from Philippines to North China and from Thailand to Pacific Islands. Oh, and a LOT of Indian Grocers and a couple of dedicated Korean Grocers.

    I’m hoping I can find maybe 1/4 that selection here, somewhere…..

    If need be, I can pick up seeds / stock when getting my stuff moved from California. There’s a nice Japanese Seeds Company near there too, with lots of interesting seeds. Looks like they have an online site!

    LOTS of interesting Asian vegetable seeds there! ( I have a bunch in my seed archive, assuming they survive the storage / trip out…)

    Index / list here:

    so there’s that ;-)

    @John Hultquist:

    I have a big fondness for Snow Peas. Lots of yield, early, and more effective harvest per unit of effort as the hull is eaten too. (You can also eat leaves and young shoots – so a quick yield in a famine context too …) Plus they taste so good!

    I’ll need to figure out the schedule for Peas here… and get some planted when the time comes again.


    I’m glad my chances of cold and frost are better here ;-)

    @Ralph B:

    Near as I can tell so far, Camote is another name for Sweet Potato, but with less orange varieties and more other colors / white. I like sweet potatoes ;-)

    I’ve put starts in plastic cups for regular orange, purple, and the Boniato variation. (Place cut chunk of potato in water about 1/2 way up it, wait 2 weeks and it makes transplantable sprouts “slips”)

    I’ll likely keep looking for other variations on a theme. I think I have about 300 feet of fence to cover with vines, so that would be a huge “stock pile” of underground tubers and edible leaves on the fence IF I planted it all… (right now have started enough for about 50 foot of fence, but can go to near infinite by just planting on slips and then harvesting more shoots as produced – rinse & repeat).

    I’m also planning to cover some fence with Runner Beans, Christmas Lima, and some squashes. I’m pretty sure that alone will get me through any food outage long enough to turn more lawn into garden (should the need ever arise).

    Oh, and I picked up some very small pots of herbs to start a small herb garden in a raised bed. Parsley, Oregano, Basil, and some Cilantro. (I didn’t like cilantro 30 years ago, then a friend introduced me to BBQ Tri-Tip, sliced thin, on a tortilla, with Salsa, Cilantro, and / or horseradish sauce. Just Oh-Yum and just not right without the big bunch of cilantro in the wrap…

    Which reminds me, I need to find a chunk of Horseradish Root somewhere. I had a naturalized patch about 2×3 feet in my California garden… Need to start a new one. The leaves are fun to munch on as modestly horseradish flavored ;-)


    Do you know the variety of Collards? (Or was it a climate thing?…). Most of the commercial collards I’ve had in various restaurants have been somewhat bitter with strong flavors. I like it a bit less strong… (thus my making my own variety…).

    There’s a LOT of “spinach like” greens without the oxalate. I’ll be exploring them to find one that works well locally.

    Onions: I’ve had a hard time being successful with them. Just too dry in my garden. Only real success I’ve had is when I grew them in a tub that sat in a shallow water bath to keep the bottom soil wet. (My dirt could dry out to the point where water would only wet the top 1/4 inch and below that was dust… Took a long time and a lot of water to get the deeper soil wet – then if you forgot for a few days, the top couple of inches would once again be a dust barrier. LOTS of mulch and plant stuff “turned in” would help for a while, but new beds were a big problem.)

    I did get some green onions to do reasonably well in a square of garden dirt, but only once I got it well prepped, well wetted, and kept it wet. Which wasn’t easy in summer.

    Hopefully I can find a guide to growing onions in Florida. I’ll likely try Allium Fistulosum first

    the perennial green onion I got to work in my garden square…

    FWIW, I like onions with a bit of bite to them. Sweet onions work better on hamburgers, sandwiches and salads though…

  30. p.g.sharrow says:

    per Snow Peas, plant any time. (If nothing else just to improve the soil, I just cleared a bed of snow peas to plant cabbage plants, saved the mature pods for seed and the immature pods for supper, the hay fed to the chickens. 8-) or compost.

  31. p.g.sharrow says:

    Plant Spaghetti Squash, fast growing, the immature fruit is much better flavor then Zucchini, ( before they change color from green to white ) If you miss one it just matures into a winter squash with a rind that will turn a knife. . Mature, Best fixed with butter and cheese. not Marinara sauce

  32. cdquarles says:

    It’s been so long, that I’ve forgotten what variety of collards they were. They were meant for the Central AL, area and my grandparents propagated their seeds. It may have been their own hybrid or one derived from a similar Georgia variety. Sorry.

    What I do remember is that my grandparents liked to harvest them after the first frost if planted in summer or if planted in late winter, throughout spring and let the plants that we didn’t harvest go to seed and keep the seeds.

  33. cdquarles says:

    Oh, yeah, being on the east side, where rainfall is less of an issue, you shouldn’t have a dry soil problem with onions. Here, some wild green onions are weeds. Don’t eat them if you don’t know what you’re doing. We grew regular yellow onions and white/sweet onions here, back in the day.

  34. philjourdan says:

    @EMS -Squash is Squash! But Kale is not Spinach! ::-)

  35. John Hultquist says:

    Try Dixondale farms in TX. You can look at the growing guides or ask Bruce.

  36. E.M.Smith says:


    Um, I never said “Kale is spinach”… (and yes, I saw the smiley)… I said there were a lot of “spinach like” greens (and there are, sort of. Lots of green tasteless things out there.). I grew “Malabar spinach” once, and had you said “Malabar spinach is not spinach” I’d be in complete agreement. It’s a green, but just not spinach… (dang it!). Then I also pointed out that Kale has strong flavors I’m not real fond of … so don’t buy it more than about once every 3 or 4 years when I forgot the prior time; and I had to develop my own preferred cross…

    Malabar “Spinach” leaves are thicker, and it tasted “greener” to me… and didn’t seem the same at all when cooked. OTOH, it does make a mass of green “stuff”, so in that regard it is like spinach… but why do people want to eat piles of green glop?

    As a kid I ate a fair amount of spinach (likely due to Popeye Cartoons ;-). Mostly with a bit of vinegar on it (why? no idea… it was just what folks did) and a few decades later discovered buttered cooked spinach… much better. Then another decade or so later learned that folks ate spinach without cooking it in salads and things. Where it seems to be a bit, I don’t know, tough / rough on the mouth feel? Maybe that oxalate thing… Let’s just say Lettuce has nothing to fear from it… Especially Butter Lettuce…

    and then about age 50-something I just stopped buying it all together. Mostly due to spouse being told not to eat it due to the oxalate potential. Curiously, have not actually missed spinach at all. Nor Malabar “Spinach”… who’s major feature is you can grow a lot of it without trying and nobody will steal it, and even the bugs didn’t seem to want it.

    Grew spinach once over 1/2 a century ago (or rather Dad did and I helped…). An awful lot of work to get a small bit of green leaves. In our hot central valley location, it just wanted to die. Given way more water than it was worth, we grew a row of it. Then picking it was tedious at best… Probably ought to have tried it in March instead of July, but Dad was from Iowa and on an Iowa Snow calendar it seems.

    I guess I’m just not a Spinach Guy anymore. More a “potatoes and butter” guy ;-) Or a ham & yams guy… or a BBQ Pig guy… or, well, let’s just say I’m trying to find “Greens” that actually have a reason I want them on my plate. Butter Lettuce with olives, hard boiled egg, pile of cheese shreds, and a big squirt of Ranch Dressing makes the cut (or is that a pile of hard boiled egg, cheese, ranch dressing and a few olives with some bits of lettuce hiding in it? 8-)

    Kale – Funny flavor and not attractive but with a lot of bacon in stir fry can be tolerated.
    Spinach – Raw has a less pleasant mouth feel than lettuce. Cooked it’s a green glop wanting flavor added with some kind of sauce or something.
    Collards – what I’ve had in restaurants is a bit bitter and with grease and bacon over it. The point?
    etc. etc.

    I do like Chard with butter & salt. But it’s a PITA to grow (at least in California) as leaf miners just destroy it if you are not spraying a lot.

    Cabbage? Not really a big fan. Corned Beef & Cabbage is nice though… especially if there isn’t too much cabbage… Shreds in a salad are OK, and as sauerkraut it’s pretty good – especially on a Polish Dog with lots of mustard…

    About the only green I’m thinking is really worth it are “Napa Cabbage” and the various Choi things in Asian stir fry dishes. Oh, and I like buttered Brussels Sprouts, but that seems more like a vegetable than a “leafy green” even if it is leaves…

    So there you have it. My constant effort to find “leaves I want to eat” that mostly has resulted in “leaves I’d be willing to eat in a famine if nothing else was around unless I ran out of butter”…

    I think I’d rather have a chicken run and feed them the leaves. ;-)

  37. E.M.Smith says:


    Good advice.

    I grew some snow peas with long vines (forgot what type… “something” giant?) and had a fair crop of pods. Toward the end of the season let it run to seed and ended up with about a pint of them. So I get far more seeds than I need for the next crop cycle. Planting them in any spare dirt would improve the dirt and not require much from me other than turning them under when I wanted to do something else.

    I’d really like to have some chickens, but the Spouse does not. (Maybe I’ll work on that…)

    You had mentioned before growing “winter” squash as harvested green like “summer” squash, but I thought that was in the context of acorn squash. I like the idea of spaghetti squash that way too. I like spaghetti squash… but as you pointed out, way better with butter & salt on them than with marinara (though I wonder about maybe a 4 cheese Alfredo…).

    In Florida, what with so many chewing biting things, I’m a little worried about “pests”. The House has 2 pineapple plants with pineapples maturing on them. Both have about a pint sized chunk chewed out of them. Squirrels maybe? Whatever… So I’m thinking I’ll be planting a lot of things just to feed the local critters as I find out what flavors they don’t like so much. Would be easier with a yard dog, but spouse wants to be done with animals.


    Sounds a bit like Green Glaze Collards. Supposedly less bitter / more sweet and from Georgia IIRC. It’s the one I chose for making my cross. IIRC (It’s been a couple of decades) when I grew the Green Glaze it wasn’t bitter (and did well in the cross too!).

    Green Glaze Collards are a beautiful, glossy, dark green, and historic variety known for its taste and some resistance to cabbage worms and cabbage loopers. Food historian Michael Twitty says this variety “is my personal favorite. They are pretty, waxy, crisp, tough against bugs and extremely delicious. They also happen to be the oldest variety we have/know of collard green dating back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the Georgia Southern or Creole collard out of the Deep South going back to the 1860s-1880s.” See Twitty’s Afroculinaria blog for a description of how this European crop combined with African tastes and became so closely associated with southern Black foodways. A sneak peek: “In tropical West Africa, greens were available year round in gardens and markets and figured prominently in regular meals.”

    William Woys Weaver describes the origin of this particular variety: “One of the oldest [collards] to survive … is the Green Glaze collard, a colewort that evolved out of the Green Glaze cabbage introduced in 1820 by David Landreth of Philadelphia.”

    I figured if it was already about 1/2 cabbage and known for a nice flavor, it would be a good starting point for fixing the flavor profile of kale… so used it in my cross. The dinosaur kale being very dusty finish, the F2 generation ended up a mix of glossy type and dull type (as genes tend to resort about F2 as the original hybrid recrosses and you get AA and AB and BB types showing up). I’ve since slightly selected for the Glossy Leaf type ( i.e. I’d take a BIG plant without bug damage that was dull finish but IFF there were a similar Glossy Leaf one, I’d save seeds from it in preference).

    I may try growing some pure Green Glaze again as it is selected for The South. (Part of my selecting was for things that like cool weather in San Jose and would grow through the winter – so may not be ideal in Florida other than in winter…)

    @Per Onions:

    CD: Nice to know. I may give bulb onions a try again. I do like the perpetual nature of the bunching onions. You have a constant supply year round. There’s an onion (potato onion? multiplier onion?) that just keeps dividing and multiplying. Mostly known for cold areas, but I’ll look into their ability here too.

    @John Hultquist: Will do! Thanks.

  38. RalphB says:

    Funny you mentioned squirrels eating pineapple. A couple months back I was ready to march over to my neighbors house and complain about him tossing his orange peels in my yard. They looked just like a human had peeled the orange…picked clean inside. Then I see a squirrel climb his tree grab an orange, sit on my fence to enjoy the fruit. All while tossing chunks of rind into my yard. Amazing little buggers…

  39. E.M.Smith says:

    In California, we had 2 x apple trees and a Tangelo tree. The Tangelo would become orange with a tight skin and enough acidity to treat it like an orange; some time later it would become a deeper orange with a “top knot” at the very huge tangerine stage, with loose skin and sweeter less acid flavor.

    The Squirrels loved this as it happened mid winter. (Best sweetest stage was Jan – Feb range with some on into March / April.) Food would start getting scarce about October / November and we would start to find “Orange peels” next to the fences and some under the tree. In some cases, if a suitable branch was nearby, an empty rind would be hanging on the tree with a “squirrel head sized” hole in the side of it.

    Yes, very clever.

    I’d have been upset but for the fact that the tree gave us 4 or 5 times what we could use, even with the squirrels poaching some. The apple trees tended to get some worm in the apples, and they were small… so the squirrels hitting them in fall wasn’t too annoying either. Watching them, or watching one with a too big apple, trying to cross the roof and leap to a tree was so funny that we didn’t care about the loss of a dinky potentially wormy apple. They tended to eat around the core rather like people, too ;-)

    Between the apples and the Tangelos, they had a nearly year round pantry… Needless to say there were a fair number of “robust” squirrels in our neighborhood. Also built up about 1/2 dozen or more nests in the big street tree. (Easy run to the “kitchen” via telco fat cables that went through one end of the tree canopy then to the end apple tree).

    With the apple trees now gone, and the Tangelo significantly pruned back, I wonder what the squirrels will do… But not my problem. They have all summer to “relocate” before the fall apples are missing and the winter “famine” comes. I’m sure they will figure it out. The folks behind us planted a cherry tree about 10 years ago, and it’s big now, so they will have something… and other folks in the area have fruit trees too…

  40. Taz says:

    Pretty certain that Florida has an active native plant community. That would be a good compliment to your excellent university sources.

    The grocery stores contain only a tiny fraction of the edible plants available, and their monoculture makes them vulnerable. Some of these native plant people have found ways to plant perennials for food sources which require near zero maintenance. I have no idea what the caloric value of these plants might be, but certainly worth a look. Some farmers have done amazing things with native plants, and I figure commercialization will only increase over time as the farming community embraces robotics.

    Have you also heard about those “grow pods” supermarkets are installing on their parking lot to provide endless fresh produce? Precision farming requires much less space. This is happening NOW. Mostly to reduce the petroleum cost present in all food.

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