The warm, southern temperatures in Florida create a longer growing season for vegetables. Florida gardeners have their choice of vegetables that take longer to mature than gardeners further north as well as the vegetables with shorter growing periods that are popular elsewhere. A vegetable garden in Florida can be as diverse as the gardener wants it to be.
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is also known as gumbo, gombo and ladies. The plant grows from 3 to 8 feet tall and produces large, spiny leaves and small, yellow or cream flowers that develop into the okra pods that can be green, pale lime, purple or red. Plant okra in full sun and a soil that is constantly moist. Plant the seeds when the nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds take about 60 days to produce a crop. Okra is used in gumbos, deep fried, fried with other vegetables or pickled.
Endive (Cichorium endivia) is also known as escarole and batavia. Endive is the curly leaf variety and escarole is the flat leaf variety of the same plant. The plant grows from 6 to 10 inches tall and produces bright green or bronze leaves and pale blue flowers that grow taller than the leaves. Plant endive in full sun or partial shade and a soil that is kept constantly moist. Endive is served raw in salads.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) grows from 2 to 4 feet tall and produces leaves that grow as long as 9 inches, purple flowers and the fruits, which can be black, purple, green, white, striped, red or orange. American varieties are bitter with dark, thick skins. Oriental varieties have a milder flavor and skins that are sweet and tender. White-skin eggplants are mild, firmer and drier. Plant eggplants in full sun and a very moist soil. It will take at least 70 days for the seedlings to produce a crop and cannot stand up to frost. Eggplant is served baked, stuffed, broiled and grilled and is the main ingredient in Greek moussaka, French ratatouille and Middle Eastern Imam bayildi.
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) is also known as stem turnip and turnip cabbage. The plant grows under 2 feet tall and produces long stems with cabbage-like stems and a corm--a swelling just above ground level that resembles a bulb. The yellow flowers are shaped like a cross and appear in the second year of growth and produce sickle-shaped seed pods. The plant produces a crop in 50 to 70 days and is the most heat and frost tolerant of the members of the cabbage family. Plant kohlrabi in full sun and a moist soil. The corm is the edible part and can be eaten raw or steamed or boiled.