Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tropical herbs

Slowly I have found herbs that grow easily here in the tropics and can be used to replace the more common ones that find this hot humid climate quite tiresome.
I thought oregano would have no trouble growing here, but every time I have bought a little pot from the nursery it has stayed the same size and then eventually wilted and died.  then a friend gave me a slip of this;
growing off to the left,( against the fence is the comfrey)
.Now I know it looks nothing like oregano, but it tastes like a little oregano, a little thyme, and my gosh! it grows here!  never stops - you have to keep cutting it back :)   It is called mother of herbs, or Cuban oregano - I reckon you could also call it tropical bouquet garni, but folks are not that fancy round here!  Once that took over the entire back of my herb spiral, and I flattened it out I decided that my other favorite herb could have the front new section.

 It is easy to harvest and water because this herb doesn't like to be waterlogged, but does like to have  a little drink every day - it is my parsley bed!  I discovered some tricks from my old Italian neighbor about growing nice big bunches of parsley.  Firstly it doesn't like to be transplanted, so plant the seeds in location- lots of them - because they seem as if they are never going to come up, and you want to be able to choose the healthiest.  Once you get enough stalks to harvest, start to hill up the soil around the base, the plant will branch out along its stalk and if it is supported it grows stronger and bigger.  sorry!  I have only just noticed the weeds - they take over while you are not looking!
On the outside edge I have some spearmint and garlic chives, which also grow like weeds, and the chive flowers attract pollinators.

In the middle section of the herb spiral I have a strange looking plant -  it reminds me of a hen and chicken, but my gosh those chickens have a sharp edge.

 It is called sawtooth coriander, and even though it looks nothing like coriander it tastes exactly the same!  Once you have chopped up those big leaves up into your salsa,  nobody would know the difference.   This is a bit weedy - I notice it popping up everywhere, but there is nothing I love more than the smell of coriander, and a little water brings the clean fresh smell wafting up to me as I wander through the garden, so it can stay.

The very top section that I thought would be good for rosemary just never worked,and now I have some nasturtiums there - I love to add their flowers to my  salads, but alas they don't like the heat at all and will die off as the weather warms up. 

The other very interesting herb I have is just locally knwn as mushroom herb.  It looks very much like a weed, but when you put a couple of leaves of this into whatever you are cooking you would swear you had added mushrooms to the mix!  It certainly doesnt look like mushrooms to me, but it is a very useful herb.

So my herb spiral has been adapted to this climate - grown low and wide now instead of high, and filled with the plants that survive in this climate.  Gardening for me is like that - I start off with an idea, and by the end it might not look anything like the original idea, but if it works it is OK by me!
KG I is having a focus on herbs this month so click on the link on my sidebar to see more about growing herbs.


  1. What interesting and different herbs you have growing! Thanks for the parsley tip.

  2. I definitely need to save this post! There are a bunch of SE Asian herbs I've been meaning to grow, but so far I just have Thai basil, lemongrass, galangal and turmeric. I know there's a TON more that I need to find and that mushroom herb looks like a keeper!

  3. Very interesting. Particularly the mushroom plant, although I'd like to have a try at that and at parsley. So far I have, curry, lavender, thai basil, italian basil, oregano, tarragon, sage, lemongrass, pandan, peppermint and java mint. My wife's immediate request though is for kaffir lime leaves.

  4. Nice to see plants growing well side by side...

  5. I always feel envious when you post topics about and pictures of your herb garden. An herb and a veggie garden are on top of my wish list.

  6. Alison,
    I had to adapt once I realisms that the "normal" herbs just dont like this climate.
    Rainforest gardener,
    Oh I also grow the ginger, galangal, lemon-grass and tumeric, but they are bigger and so grow in a different section.
    You have quite a nice selection - I haven't been able to grow lavender - think it doesn't like the humidity. Kaffir lime grows quite well from a slip - I have a little one I started.
    Oh yes my aim is to have all the bare earth covered. :)
    Solitude rising,
    I definitely have more success when I grow the ones that like this climate - good luck with yours.

  7. I'm with you... work with what works. Our heat and humidity is selective on herbs especially in summertime. The variegated cuban oregano is what I grow but the regular oregano works well for me in containers. I've had the same batch for about 3 years surprisingly. Flat leaf parsley all reseeded itself from last spring and it is still everywhere in the edible garden. Now hosting swallowtail butterfly cats. But it won't last through summer. My chives never die but cilantro and basil are persnickety. That mushroom herb is beautiful with the shiney leaves.

  8. Meems,
    our climate is so similar, but even then maybe we also have little microclimates. I just love your garden! My basil is perrenial - and year round - there is never a time I dont have basil. Oooh I look forward to some swallowtail photos.

  9. That is interesting . All those different herbs that taste and smell like others. There is nothing better than working amongst the herbs. Instant aroma therapy.

  10. Oh yes herbs always give off such a lovely scent, seems to clean somehow doesn't it?

  11. In the West Indes we use the corianda in all our seasonings of food and meats. We just call it another name. :)

  12. In the West Indes we use the corianda in all our seasonings of food and meats. We just call it another name. :)


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