Home gardeners in South Florida are in seventh heaven right now – the weather is glorious, despite the few cold snaps we’ve had, thankfully not freezing. A “winter wonderland” in South Florida obviously does not mean a blanket of snow. Rather, it describes lush greenery everywhere and a garden thriving with vegetables! The cooler temperatures are what most of our veggies love. And of course we do too, as we can now spend countless hours (and we do lose count) fiddling around in our garden. There’s always more to do, isn’t there?
July is an interesting time in a South Florida vegetable garden. In the past we have grown a variety of edible tropical summer plants in the heat here, but not so much anymore. There’s been so little interest in harvesting them or it just doesn’t pay to battle the influx of insects that plants draw at this time of year. So – no luffa, no black-eyed peas, no bitter melon, no tropical spinaches that nobody wants to use… This season’s summer crops are limited to okra, eggplant and long beans, along with an ongoing harvest of sweet potatoes – all of which our gardeners enjoy. (If you’re an okra lover, check out our recipe page here for three different dishes). And if you want to know what some of those summer crops are that we don’t grow, here is one of many articles which you can access online: “Growing Vegetables in South Florida”. Be sure to indicate “South Florida” in any searches you do since our growing season is quite unique compared to most of the US.
January and early February mark the middle of our growing season here in South Florida. It is a time for assessment and planning as to what we want to grow into the Spring. Many of the crops we grow can be planted throughout the entire season. Others (such as cabbages and heirloom tomatoes) have a shorter window, i.e. the time for planting them is running out, especially if starting them from seed.
Several weeks ago I wrote about our bountiful Spring harvest in South Florida – it’s prime time! for vegetable gardeners here. That post described several of the organic crops we grow. Well, here’s some more – this is a continuation, describing more of our mid-Spring harvest, if you will.
I keep talking about “the most exciting time” in our organic garden, from ordering seeds for the new season, to planting our fall crops and seeing those first seedlings sprout up, to the beginning of our harvest – but NOW, it’s just beyond exciting – when our crops are flourishing and there is so much to harvest and cook with that we can barely keep up! So I think I will have to concede – Spring harvest tops them all!
For many years I never knew that there was more than one kind of bok choy. Actually it was probably when I started gardening and buying seeds that I learned what an incredible variety of choys there is to choose from.
Choys are so easy to grow organically here in South Florida. I like to joke that it would probably grow on a pile of rocks, that’s how readily it thrives in varying conditions. If we have a spot in the garden that doesn’t seem sunny enough for most plants, or wet enough, or dry enough, or soil-nutritious-enough, sure enough – choy will prevail! And I can’t think of a time – ever – when it has been bothered by any diseases or pests.
Is there anything more gratifying than finding uses for a “small harvest” from the garden to enhance a meal? Well, after a thoroughly enjoyable and productive gardening session, my husband and I stopped by one of our favorite shops on the way home – Proper Sausages is an artisanal store located in Miami Shores, specializing in homemade (off-the-scale!) sausages as well as a range of other meats and goodies (like bacon jam, homemade condiments, incredible sandwiches, etc.). As soon as we laid eyes on the bleu cheese burgers, we knew what dinner would be. Adding a package of those wonderful special buns they have, along with two pounds of the best bacon in town, we were on our way.
It is one of the most exciting times in our South Florida garden when we can start harvesting in the fall! Our first ready-to-eat crops are lettuces and choys, as they grow so quickly after direct seeding into the beds. Now, we use the term “lettuces” very loosely – we mean a variety of leafy delicate greens that can be used in salads.
Well one of the die-hard vegetables that can make it through our long hot summer months here in South Florida is collard greens. While they take a back seat to all our other greens during the regular season, now that they are the only cruciferous left to harvest, they’ve become popular. We are lucky to have a green like this in the middle of August!
Okra seems to be one of those things that you love or hate, and to my surprise, there are many haters out there – “It’s too sliiimmmyyy” is the usual complaint. Well, I say – “You have to know how to cook it” – ’cause I don’t like slime either, but I do like okra!
I was quite fortunate as a kid to have my grandfather living behind us on his own large piece of property here in South Florida. Papa was a sharecropper for much of his life (in Georgia), and so having a garden was something he just did, naturally, every season, into his 90’s. He loved growing okra, which he called “okry,” and always had quite a substantial crop. My Mom would make an okra stew – which I don’t think I ever ate as a child, but it is one of my favorite ways to eat it now. (See recipe links below). I brought it to a family potluck dinner where my siblings (as adults) told me they were all dreading an okra dish and guess what? They loved it!