Tropical gardening: Edible landscapes to reduce the food bill
Looking for a way to save on your food bills? Then plant vegetables. For many market gardeners on the continent, spring marks the beginning of their gardening efforts. However, this is Hawaii, so we can plant our veg anytime depending on the microclimate. Many vegetable garden activities are offered all year round.
Plantations of southern peas, lima beans, green beans, okra and sweet potatoes, as well as eggplants, keep many gardeners in the fresh vegetable garden.
This is also a good time to plant papayas and bananas. These plants grow well near a vegetable patch because they require rich soil and moisture for better production. They also serve as a windbreak on the windy side of the vegetable patch where wind is a problem.
Fresh herbs and spices are also natural for home gardens.
The aromatic plants grown on site will add interest and a tangy taste to the ordinary round of vegetables.
Most of the herbs are readily available at local garden stores. They will do well provided the soil is well drained and with enough nutrients. Many areas of the island have adequate soil, but organic matter like compost helps make conditions even better. In rocky areas like Kona, flower beds will take more effort. Some people rely on growing in containers where soil is limited.
The types of hot weather you can plant are basil, chives, oregano, savory, catnip, borage, hyssop, lemon verbena, tarragon, mint, marjoram, lemongrass, vanilla orchid and edible ginger.
Basil is considered one of the best spices to use in pickling. It is of two types – the sweet green basil and the dwarf form. Very few plants are sufficient for the needs of the average family. Sometimes one or two basil plants can be grown in the flower border. The leaves and flowers have a spicy clove flavor and are popular for use in spicy vinegar, pickles, sauces, soups, stews, salads, and meat and fish cooking. Basil is a particularly chosen flavor for tomato dishes.
Sweet green basil is also a great herb for flavoring soups.
When dried and powdered, basil is used to spice up meat or other fish, sausages, liver paste and similar products. The flowers at the tender ends of the stems with their foliage are cut, tied in very small clusters and dried.
Chives are the smallest member of the onion family. Its tiny bulbs grow in thick clusters, but the tender young leaves that can be cut freely have a delicate and pleasant flavor similar to that of a very sweet onion. They add a delicate touch to salads and dressings, dry bean dishes, jelly chicken, hot vegetables, omelets and other mixes. The plant grows to a height of 6 or 8 inches with dark green grass-like foliage and bears pretty clusters of purple flowers. Therefore, chives should be used more often as border ornamentals. They multiply by dividing the clumps and replacing them in the fall, preferably in rich soil.
Edible ginger, often mistaken for the common ornamental ginger lily, grows well in Hawaii and produces prime roots if given rich soil and sufficient moisture. Ginger will long remain one of the most popular spices in the world and should be grown in every suitable home garden. It is an erect grass, two to three feet high. It grows from thickened rhizomes that branch out into a finger-like shape and send out new shoots from the tips near the soil surface. If desired for preservation or confectionery, they should be hollowed out when they are tender and succulent, rather than when they are old, hard, and fibrous. Fresh green ginger is an essential part of chutneys, giving them much of their spicy and tangy flavor.
Edible gardening doesn’t stop with vegetables and herbs. Many beautiful trees and shrubs can also provide edible bargains. This year, the high prices of lychee and mango prompted the new owners to plant fruit trees. There are also many other fruits and nuts to consider. You can grow cloves, longans, avocados, and dozens more if you have room. Local garden centers and nurseries are an excellent source of information and plant material.