When the Heat is On

During a vegetable advanced training class, an instructor said, “There are two growing seasons in Texas – spring and fall. In July, when the pavement melts, so do the vegetable plants.” Don’t be discouraged; quite a few vegetables and herbs thrive during our hot summers. 


Season your dishes throughout the summer with these heat-loving herbs that keep on producing through July and August: Mexican Oregano (Lippia graveolens and Poliomintha longiflora), Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida), Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and Marjoram (Origanum majorana). Mexican Oregano has beautiful white and pink flowers that hummingbirds love. The leaves of Mexican Mint Marigold, also known as Texas Tarragon, have a similar scent and taste to French Tarragon (which doesn’t grow well in Texas). Prune and harvest Basil, Thyme and Marjoram frequently to prevent the plants from producing seeds and the leaves from becoming bitter.


Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are a summer alternative to cool-season potatoes. Their tasty tubers are an excellent source of vitamin A, and vitamin C. Boniato (Ipomoea batatas)

is in the Sweet Potato family with whiter and fluffier flesh. Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is another edible tuberous root that can be boiled, fried, or baked like potatoes.


The leafy greens from tropical spinaches and Amaranth (A. gangeticus) are delicious stand-ins for cool-season greens and can be harvested all summer long. Tropical spinaches include Malabar Spinach (Basella alba and B. rubra), Okinawa Spinach (Gynura crepioides), and Longevity Spinach (Gynura Procumbens).


Don’t let the common name “summer squash” fool you. They don’t produce well during our hot summers. Instead, plant Calabaza/Butternut Squash and Seminole Pumpkin (varieties of Cucurbita moschata), Long Squash (Lagenaria siceraria), Chayote (Sechium edule), and Luffa. Butternut Squash and Seminole Pumpkin have a long storage life indoors. Let the Luffa dry out to use as sponges.


The tomato, America’s favorite vegetable, suffers in hot weather. Cherry Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme), Tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa), and Husk Tomatoes (Physalis pruinosa or Physalis pubescens) continue to fruit all summer long. We all love Cherry and Grape Tomatoes in salads or as a snack; Tomatillos and Husk Tomatoes are yummy in salsas. 


Purple Hull, Crowder, Black-Eye, and Cream peas are all varieties of Southern Peas (Vigna unguiculata), are favorites in Texas, and produce well during our summers. Climbing beans such as Yard-Long Beans (Vigna unguiculata subs. Sesquipedalis), and Winged Beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) are good choices for summertime legumes. Peas and beans also help add nitrogen to your soil.


Let’s not forget Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). It’s a heat-loving vegetable that people either love or hate.


Start these plants from seed now, transplant them in June and July, and enjoy them into October. 


Got a yummy fruit, prized vegetable, specialty herb, or flawless flower in your garden? Enter your cherished homegrown edible or flower in our Fruit, Vegetable, Herb, and Flower Show on June 18, 9a-noon, at the Denton County Historical Park!  Click this link to submit your entry by 9 am on June 18: https://form.jotform.com/220945865133156.


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