The world's rain forests offer many resources people use every day, including vegetables. Many vegetables originated in the tropical rain forests, including corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash and yams, before people began growing them in other parts of the world. Nowadays, farms scattered around the edges of the rain forest produce a variety of vegetables that provide important food sources both locally and afar.
Chile peppers originated in the rain forests of Ecuador more than 6,000 years ago. Chile pepper seeds distributed by birds, wind, and the native population helped spread the vegetable across the Americas. Chiles grow as perennial shrubs in warm climates and as annuals in climates where freezing temperatures occur. Members of the nightshade family, the peppers grow best where plenty of warmth and moisture help germinate the seeds. Otherwise, some gardeners buy transplants bought in containers from the nursery and plant them in sunny areas once temperatures average 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The plants require thorough watering every week, especially after the fruit sets.
Also referred to as manioc and tapioca, cassava remains an important staple vegetable found in the tropical rain forests of Africa, although the plant originated in Brazil. The inner part of the cassava root is cooked and eaten or processed for use as flour. The starchy flour also gets used to thicken liquids and puddings. To make pearl tapioca cassava requires pushing the pulpy root through a sieve. Cassava requires processing because the plant contains toxic levels of cyanide. While the young leaves of the plant offer lots of proteins and vitamins, they, too, require processing to remove cyanide. Farmers can harvest cassava anytime between 8 to 24 months, allowing the plant to stay in the ground as a safeguard against food shortages.
A squash originating from the rain forests of Central America, chayote now grows in India, Asia, Thailand and the Philippines. Also referred to as vegetable pears, chayote features green or white skin with one large, flat seed inside the squash-like vegetable. After removing the skin of the chayote, you can cook the inside, similar to squash. To plant chayote in the garden in hardiness zones 8 to 11, plant several whole ripe chayotes at the base of a trellis in well-drained soil in a sunny, warm location. The seed inside sprouts and breaks through the chayote itself to push its shoots above ground. You can also put several chayotes in a dark, cool place and wait for the seeds to sprout there, then transplant the chayotes to the garden. If you live in a climate where warm weather only shows up in summer, plant the whole chayote in a container and place it in a sunny window until outside temperatures allow you to transplant it. Once the plant blooms, it takes about a month for the fruit to ripen.