Claire Bickle helps us beat the heat and enjoy summer salads with veggies and greens perfect for Brisbane’s warmer climate.

Just when you want salad greens to harvest from the garden, the summer heat comes along and makes it near impossible.

It’s hard to successfully grow our commonly known lettuce varieties and greens such as spinach, rocket, silver beet and Asian greens at this time of year. But there are other options.

Why not grow some of the lesser known but more climatically and seasonally suitable subtropical greens?

There are a multitude of greens and salad alternatives you’ll find growing in the tropical and subtropical locations of South East Asia and Pacific Island region.

Subtropical salad

Subtropical Salad Selections:

  • “Leaf Amaranth” Amaranthus tricolour. Colourful annual to 1.5m
  • “Ceylon spinach” Basella alba/rubra: Climbing annual to 2m.
  • “Betel Leaf” Piper sarmentosum. Groundcover for shade to sun positions.
  • “Lagos spinach” Celosia argentea. Pretty annual to 1.5m
  • “Sweetleaf” Sauropus androgynous. Shrub to 2m.
  • “Brazilian spinach” Alternanthera sissoo. Low clumping habit to 20cm.
  • “Surinam spinach” Talinum triangulare: Perennial succulent plant to 40cm.
  • “Egyptian spinach” Corchorus olitorius. Annual to 50cm
  • “Hibiscus spinach/Aibika” Abelmoschus manihot. Perennial shrub to 1.5m
  • “Cranberry hibiscus” Hibiscus acetosella. Annual shrub to 1.5m fabulous burgundy foliage.
  • “Timor lettuce” Lactuca indica. Drought hardy annual lettuce
  • “Kang kong” Ipomea aquatica. Chinese water spinach. Perennial for moist soil or ponds.
  • “Okinawa spinach” Gynura crepioides. Spreading perennial groundcover. Butterfly attracting flowers too.
  • “Miracle Tree” Moringa oleifera. Small tree to 6m. Can be easily pruned down to 1-1.5m.
    “Rock samphire” Crithmum maritimum. Native with crunchy salty succulent foliage.
  • “Sambung Nyawa” Gynura procumbens. Perennial groundcover.
  • “Lebanese cress” Aethionema cordifolium. Perennial green for moist soil or ponds.
  • “Sweet Potato” Ipomea batatas. Perennial groundcover grown mainly for its tubers. Foliage is used as a spinach substitute.
  • “Rice paddy plant” Limnophila aromatica. Perennial green grown mainly in ponds situations or moist soils.
  • “Brahmi” Bacopa monnieri Perennial herb grown in moist soil or ponds. Commonly called the Memory herb.

I also find a few of the bitter greens such as dandelion, chicory and sorrel will push on throughout our hot humid summers as well.

Brahmi herb & Lebanese cress, Ceylon green spinach, and Kang Kong Chinese water spinach

Growing them

All the above plants require the same treatment as our usual edible salad greens and spinaches, with the added bonus of loving our hot and humid summers.

Choose a sunny to semi-shade location depending on the species being grown and soil with good levels of organic matter. This can be achieved by adding well-rotted animal manures such as cow or chicken manure to the beds before planting or compost and mushroom compost.

Fertilising often with an organic fertiliser, and applications of fish emulsion will get them growing. Plus, regular applications of liquid seaweed will improve your soil and plant health. Mulch thickly with sugarcane, pea straw or Lucerne as these mulches will add nutrition to the soil as they break down. Mulch will also suppress weeds, retain soil moisture

In the case of the Lebanese cress, Brahmi herb, rice paddy plant and kang-kong, you can actually grow these in a small pond, as they don’t mind a semi-aquatic situation.

Subtropical patch

Locating Subtropical Greens to Purchase:

These plants aren’t always easily found in garden centres and hardware stores, but they can be found online as plants and seeds at places like Green Harvest Organic Gardening Supplies and Eden Seeds. Brisbane’s City Farm Nursery located at Northey St City Farm Windsor also has a good selection of subtropical edibles.

Community Gardens and organic gardening and permaculture groups are another good source for locating more unusual edibles, groups such as Brisbane Organic Growers and Redlands Organic Growers.

Subtropical edible garden