I often use herbs and veggies from my garden in my recipes.
So, I thought I’d share what’s growing in there this month (February 2020).
By the way, because I’m in the Caribbean, my planting zone would be 13b (I think!).
We have hot, tropical conditions year-round with highs of 36 degrees Celsius (extremely hot!). January to May are relatively dry months with little to no rain. Regular thunderstorms are common for the later months.
It’s February now, but there has been a couple rain showers here and there; so, we don’t have drought conditions… just yet!
What’s in my garden?
Herbs are a main feature of my garden right now.
1. Lemon balm
I recently got this Melissa plant or lemon balm and it has been flourishing. Its leaves have this incredibly strong, lemony smell that can rival lemongrass. I add them to soups and salads… or hot water to make a nice lemon tea.
By the way, lemon balm has been linked to helping anxiety, stress, insomnia and sleep quality (source: 2016 study). Pretty neat, right?
I’ve blogged about my lemongrass plant before. It’s featured with my easy lemongrass tea recipe. And the plant still looks as unkempt as ever.
I use the leaves for making tea or soup. It has this wonderful subtle ginger-lemon taste. Oh and the tea has been shown to improve blood parameters (source: 2015 study) and boost immunity through its antimicrobial effects.
You’ve seen this one before in my West Indian bay leaf tea recipe. Bay leaves are used in so many Caribbean dishes and tea combinations. Their cinnamon-like flavour is a lovely addition to curries, sauces, stews and sweets.
Culantro is similar to cilantro but has a stronger, sharper flavor profile. It is the main ingredient in Caribbean green seasoning. And it’s the secret ingredient in almost every savory Caribbean meal and snack like mango chow. Yum!
Culantro is sometimes called chadon beni (shadow beni), bandanya, long or Mexican coriander. Ever heard of it?
Cilantro (or coriander) is one of my favorite herbs in my garden. It has this wonderful, mild, herbaceous taste. I use it in most of savory dishes. Did you know cilantro has good levels of Vitamins A and K?
6. Spanish thyme (Mexican mint)
You may know Spanish thyme as Mexican mint, Indian borage, Cuban oregano or broad leaf thyme. It’s also locally called podina.
If you don’t have a green thumb, still get this plant. It is a low maintenance survivor! And it has a wonderful oregano, thyme taste.
My parsley plant is only a couple months old. It’s still tiny (there’s chives and culantro next to it too). This is another little survivor but is not as resilient as Spanish thyme.
By the way, parsley is one of the top food sources of Vitamin C! It is also rich in Vitamins A, B9 and K and iron.
Unlike Spanish thyme and parsley, I haven’t had the best of luck with rosemary. Rosemary plants prefer shady conditions and well-drained soil. In waterlogged soil (think days of tropical thunderstorms), the plants die. So, leaving this one in a small flower pot has kept it alive for a couple years.
By the way, you can get more rosemary plants from cuttings. Simply, break a branch and plant it… I have two growing under my thai basil plant. Yay!
I have three types of basil plants: common basil, thai basil and holy basil (tulsi).
Common basil is the main ingredient in pesto and works so well in Italian dishes like pastas and pizzas.
Thai basil has an anise, licorice-like taste. And if you’ve seen my sorrel drink and hibiscus tea recipes, you know I adore an anise flavor. This plant is a new one for me so I have only added it to soups.
Holy basil or tulsi is commonly found in Hindu homes since it has religious significance. But, there are many culinary and health uses too. This 2016 study reviewed all clinical studies and found holy basil has therapeutic benefits for metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, immunity, and neurocognition.
Older relatives of mine believe the leaves have anti-cataract benefits too… and, anecdotally, they have seen improvements in their vision… Now, I’m not giving medical advice here; I’m not a medical professional, so talk to your doctor about this before trying it.
Spearmint is incredibly strong. Just touching the plant will fill the air with a wonderful minty smell. And the scent lingers for some time. I use the leaves to make tea, mojitos and popsicles. Check out my cucumber, lime popsicles with mint recipe… It has that refreshing mojito taste minus the alcohol.
11. Chandelier bush
Ever heard of chandelier bush? Its leaves are squeezed or brewed to make herbal remedies for coughs, colds and more. But, fair warning, it tastes terrible… but it does work…
I usually have two types of lettuce plants in my garden: butter lettuce and leaf lettuce. I’ve had better luck with butter lettuce; some leaf lettuce plants grow tall and flower. Thankfully, this one hasn’t done that.
13. Green Bell Peppers
I’ve had green bell pepper plants in my garden for years. But I learned something new recently. Bell peppers love shady areas. This one is in a plant pot with a large Macarthur palm and only gets 2 – 3 hours of sunlight a day. It’s huge and already produced 8 peppers.
14. Chili peppers
Did you know hot chili peppers are high up on the list of top food sources of Vitamin C? They also have high levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6 and antioxidants like capsaicin.
15. Ornamental peppers
These are edible peppers. I’ve never tried them before, but they smell really spicy! This one is a new plant so I am looking forward to trying the peppers soon.
I have never had the best luck with kale. There are a couple pests (especially leaf cutter ants… we call them bachacs) that seem hell bent on devouring the plants before I can harvest leaves. So far though, I have had some good luck with my latest curly kale plant.
Tomato plants do really well in dry conditions, so January to May are the perfect months to plant them. This one is two months old and has started to flower. I think it’s time to add those tomato steaks and watch it grow.
Turmeric takes a year to mature. I’ve blogged about turmeric before and showed you how to make turmeric powder. It’s really easy to do (but you should wear food grade gloves to prevent your hands from turning yellow for a couple days).
Besides powder, I use fresh turmeric root to make turmeric tea, dhal and some soups.
My neighbor gave hubby and I aloe plants as a house warming gift. We were not big on gardening back then, but, funny enough, the plant is still there, resilient as ever. We replanted this one in a different spot (excuse the weeds). Isn’t it adorable?
I’ve harvested cauliflowers before from my garden. One I used in this roasted cauliflower with turmeric recipe. This particular plant is only a few weeks old so it’ll take a couple months to develop and produce the versatile veggie.
I have a few large fruit trees too like lemon, lime, grapefruit, soursop, mango, governor’s plum and more. But I’ll leave those for another time…
I hope you enjoyed a tour of my little garden. Do you have one? I’d love to hear your stories, tips and tricks too.
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