florida summer vegetables, growing super hot peppers in florida

Top 5 Florida Summer Vegetables

Are you looking to start a summer vegetable garden in Florida but don’t know where to start? Extreme temperatures, heavy pest pressure, high humidity, tons of rain, periods of drought…there are a lot of challenges to tropical vegetable gardening.

Look to other hot weather regions around the world for Florida summer vegetable inspiration. What crops grow well in Africa? What are they growing in the Caribbean? What about Mexico?

Grow these 5 Florida summer vegetables to guarantee a heaping hot-weather harvest.

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)

Photo Credit: Alice Snell

Okra is one of those veggies that you either love or hate. A lot people think that they hate okra, but they just haven’t had it prepared the right way. Okra in a soup or gumbo? Slime city. Lightly battered in panko and air fried to perfection? Aww yiss.

This member of the hibiscus family is from Africa or Asia, the consensus is still out. Either way, it’s from a hot and/or tropical region. That means okra also does well in Florida.

Okra is a heavy (and I mean heavy) producer.  If you don’t know how to already, start learning how to make pickled okra because you’ll need a way to preserve the gigantic harvest you have in store. As an added bonus, okra leaves are edible, too.

To more about growing okra in Florida, check out my comprehensive okra growing guide.

Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas)

sweet potato in raised bed, florida summer vegetables

Sweet potatoes are from Central or South America, which makes them super adapted to growing in extreme heat. They’re also a member of the morning glory family and produce pretty, edible flowers.

This crawling, sprawling vine is fairly pest resistant (always a bonus in the Florida summer vegetable garden). Even if you do get a few munch-holes, it won’t matter because of the sheer volume of leaves the sweet potato produces.

Every part of the sweet potato plant is edible. Some people grow sweet potatoes just for the leaves and skip eating the tubers altogether. Sweet potato greens are tender and delicious sautéed with salt, pepper, and butter. I use them as a replacement for baby spinach.

Sweet potatoes are an easy grower for someone just starting out in their Florida gardening journey…especially after you read my sweet potato growing guide.

Hot Peppers

hot peppers in florida

Take my advice: skip trying to grow bell peppers in Florida during the summer – they’ll turn out small and strangely soft. Instead, go for hot peppers – poblano, jalapeno, habanero, or even the super hots like the moruga scorpion and ghost pepper.

Super hot peppers come from super hot regions, namely India and the Caribbean. They can withstand the blazing Florida sun and the occasional drought conditions of summer.

I like to turn my peppers into hot sauce, throw one in a pot of chili, or roast them in the oven until dry and make my own chili powder. Just be careful to wear gloves when handling these suckers. I made the mistake of cutting peppers without gloves one time, and it’s not a mistake that I’ll make again.

False Roselle Hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella)

false roselle
Photo Credit: giveawayboy

If you aren’t from a tropical area, this plant may be a new one for you. Sometimes called cranberry hibiscus, false roselle is a bush-like plant with dark red leaves and deep burgundy hibiscus blooms. The leaves look similar to a Japanese Maple and a lot of people in Florida grow false roselle as an ornamental and have no idea that the plant is edible, too.

This perennial is crazy easy to grow and I find a new plant every season in a different part of my yard. False roselle is one of those rare plants that love Florida’s sandy soil and it needs almost no care.

There are a couple of uses for cranberry hibiscus. The leaves are sweet and tangy. I like to throw them in salads for a punch of color and flavor. The leaves also retain their color after cooking, so they are a nice addition to stir fry.

False roselle starts to bloom in late fall and continues through winter. After the flower blooms and dies, it leaves something called a calyx. The fresh calyx can be used in place of traditional cranberries. This part of the plant is also dried and used to make hibiscus tea and a popular Jamaican drink called sorrel.

False roselle calyx
False roselle calyx

Everglades Tomatoes (Solanum pimpinellifolium)

everglades tomatoes

Like a lot of Floridians, I have a hard time growing tomatoes, even during the cooler months. I usually get one decent wave at the start of the season and then the plants succumb to some sort of pest or fungal disease.

The Everglades tomato is the exception. One year, I bought some Everglades from a farmer’s market and tossed a few tomatoes into a pot. Since that first season, I find “volunteer” tomato plants around my yard.

As you may have guessed, this is a wild Florida native. It’s drought-tolerant, loves full sun, and takes well to Florida’s non-fertile soil. The plants are huge and bushy and the fruit is tiny, even smaller than the cherry tomato. The Everglades tomato is known for its sweet, extra tomato-y flavor.

Although the Everglades tomato doesn’t need as much care as a traditional variety, it can be a little invasive. Learn more about this rare specimen in my Everglades tomato guide.

With the proper planning, growing vegetables in the Florida summer is totally doable. Don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole – plant these five hot-weather vegetables and thank me later.

Can You Grow Greens During Summer?

Yes! As long as you know what species do well in extreme heat, you can totally grow greens during the Florida summer.


Similar Posts