Growing a summer vegetable garden is a way to eat nutritious food and get exercise. Although some vegetables grow best during the cooler parts of the spring and fall, there are vegetables that thrive in the hot summer garden when the days are the longest.
Okra grows into tall plants that produce long seed pods that can be eaten fried, stewed or used for thickening soups and gumbos. All okra varieties thrive in the hottest part of the summer. The flowers of the okra plant resemble the flowers of its relative, the hibiscus plant. The pods form after the flowers fade. Okra pods must be picked when they are young and tender, when they are about 4 inches long. Otherwise, the pods become stringy and tough and are not good to eat.
Tomatoes grow well and produce fruit in the summer garden in areas where the hottest summer temperatures remain between 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 90 F during the day. In warmer parts of the United States, certain varieties such as the Solar Fire variety must be grown in the hottest part of the season. In the South, vining tomatoes or the indeterminate varieties can be cut back by one-third in July to weather the warmest part of the summer and will produce again when the weather cools in September.
Southern Field Peas
Southern field peas include four classes of peas known as cream peas, crowder peas, field peas and black-eyed peas. Although popular in the South, they can be grown in most parts of the United States during the hottest part of the year. They are drought- and heat-tolerant and the peas can be eaten fresh or frozen, or dried for storage.
The term squash refers to yellow squash, zucchini and winter squash. Yellow squash is also divided into two categories: crook neck and straight neck. Crook neck squash has harder flesh and a smaller neck than the straight neck squash that is more tender and contains more flesh. Zucchini fruit is green and grows to a large size. However, both zucchinis and yellow squash are of best quality if picked at 6 inches long or shorter. Both yellow squash and zucchini have a short storage life of under two weeks. Winter squash, such as butternut squash, produces fruit in 100 days or more. The flesh is tough and the vegetable can last in storage for several months.