Searching for easy and productive edible plants? Florida’s tropical climate makes it a perfect place to grow food all year round, but finding those successful plants to thrive in your permaculture garden can be tough. Here to solve your problems are five productive and low-maintenance edible plants to start your permaculture garden off on the right note.
- Sweet Potatoes (1)
Sweet potatoes thrive in Florida soil, spread rapidly, and provide excellent ground cover to halt rainwater erosion or keep out weeds. They grow thickly and are easy to harvest and cook.
Sweet Potato Facts:
- Sweet potatoes are a warm season crop in Florida. They should be planted in spring up until June and can be harvested about four months later.
- Sweet potatoes can be grown from “slips,” small plants that grow from mature potatoes. They also can grow from mini potatoes or “seed potatoes”.
- They should be watered frequently after planting but don’t need much fertilizer, as they thrive in sandy soil.
- Sweet potato leaves are edible as well as the roots and are an excellent source of summer greens when cooked.
- After harvesting sweet potatoes, they should be placed in a warm and dark room for about two weeks. Curing your potatoes will increase their sweetness.
- Sugar Cane
Sugar cane’s tall, leafy stalks resemble bamboo, making them useful for landscaping, but their function in Florida permaculture is much more impressive. Commercial growers use sugar cane to produce white sugar, but any permaculture gardener can produce their own sugar syrup, molasses, and delicious sugar cane juice right from their yard.
Sugar Cane Facts (2):
- Sugar cane is easy to plant by burying sections of mature cane.
- Sugar cane is perennial, meaning it will grow year after year and only needs to be planted once.
- Sugar cane stalks can be harvested, peeled, and crushed for sugar cane juice, which tastes great on its own but can also be cooked into sugar syrup and molasses. The stalks are also a tasty treat to chew on their own after peeling and without processing.
- Typically harvested in November, sugar cane grows all year round.
- Sugar cane thrives in low, moist areas.
- Banana (3)
A great alternative to buying bananas from the grocery, you can grow your own at home – and there are so many varieties to choose from, including miniature Apple Bananas (characterized by their slight apple flavor) and more.
- Bananas grow well in moist, frequently-fertilized, and well-watered soil with full sun.
- Bananas will grow all year around, though winter may turn the leaves brown until new spring growth arrives.
- Banana trees spread through their root system, which produces new stalks every year.
- Gold-fingered dwarf bananas are a variety that grow well in Central Florida.
Papayas grow rapidly in the sunny Florida environment, producing tons of the delicious tropical fruit. They’re also a quick crop, as they can begin yielding fruit only 7-11 months after planting (4).
Papaya Facts (4):
- Papaya trees are relatively short-lived, with life spans under 20 years.
- Papayas can be male, female, or bisexual; male plants produce low-quality fruit, bisexual plants produce small or medium good-quality fruit, and females produce medium or large good-quality fruit. Bisexual plants are self-pollinated and other plants cross-pollinate through the usual pollination methods such as butterflies and bees.
- Papayas grow well in warm temperatures with rain and sun; they do not tolerate freezing temperatures. Papayas should also be planted in wind-protected areas.
- Papayas are typically grown from seed.
- They may yield up to 60-80 pounds of fruit per year.
Cassava plants are an amazing staple, as both their starchy roots and leaves are edible. (Both root and leaves must be thoroughly boiled before eating, though — cassava is packed with cyanide!) Despite the cyanide downside, cassava is an ideal choice for hands-free gardening and the roots are a calorie-packed and delicious substitute for potatoes (5).
Cassava Facts (5):
- Cassava plants are also known as yuca (not yucca, which is another plant altogether.)
- Cassava is typically grown from stem cuttings, since roots purchased at the grocery store have been somewhat processed and are unlikely to grow . Learn more about how to plant cassava here.
- Cassava roots are ready to harvest 6-12 months after planting, and their leaves can be boiled and served anytime.
- To harvest, cut down the plant and dig up the roots, then replant cuttings from the stem.
- After the plant is fully grown, you can harvest the roots anytime within a few years (although waiting too long will result in tough, inedible roots.)
- Cassava grows well in poor soil and the only threat to its survival is freezing temperatures.
If you haven’t yet started your own permaculture garden, now is the time! Trying these easy edible plants is a great way to get results fast, and soon you’ll be enjoying fresh food from the garden.