Located near Barbados in the eastern Caribbean, St. Lucia is a small tropical volcanic island nation. Often it is collectively spoken of as part of the Lesser Antilles or the Windward Islands. Tropical warmth and seasonal cycles between wet and dry months dominate the gardening season. The dry season runs from January to April while the rainy season lasts from May to December, a time when hurricanes are likely.
Dasheen (Alocasia macrorrhiza) is a large tropical perennial with huge leaves and large rhizome roots that are thoroughly cooked before eating. In other areas of the world this vegetable is called "taro." It is grown year round in St. Lucia but grows more quickly in the warmth and moisture of the rainy season.
According to Dr. Mark Miller, a former Peace Corp volunteer based in St. Lucia, small tight-headed cabbages (Brassica oleracea) are often grown in home gardens year round. Although growth is better in the cooler dry season months, repeatedly sowing seeds year round yields small plants that can be harvested and eaten as needed.
Loose-leaf lettuces (Lactuca spp.) are grown throughout the year in home gardens. Growth and flavor of the lettuce leaves is better in the cooler dry season months, but shaded, moist soils in warmth months permit the lettuce seeds to sprout and grow to a size that can be picked and eaten fresh.
Gardeners in St. Lucia frequently grow tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum). Since frosts elude the island, tomato plants are grown year-round; as larger and older plants lose vigor they are readily replaced by small seedlings that sprout from fallen and rotting tomato fruits on the ground.
Mexicans called it "yuca" but in the Caribbean it's called cassava (Manihot esculenta). In its native Brazil, cassava becomes a small tree, but when cultivated for the starchy roots, the plants barely become shrub sized. The large tuberous roots are dug and then cooked. They are ground into moist meal or dried into granules that Americans know as "tapioca."
Squash plants (Cucurbita pepo) are often grown in St. Lucian gardens. These annual tropical vines or bushy plants grow year round. The fruits are eaten fresh or stored for long periods in a cool, dry location.
The French-named plant "christophene" (Sechium edule) is native to Central America where it is better known as "chayote." This plant is a relative of the squash and produces a pear-shaped fruit that is beige and has a flesh that tastes like a zucchini. The young roots of the plants are also edible.
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