Top 10 Hot Weather Vegetables

By: , Freelance Garden Writer
Okra pods and blossoms growing on a plant
Image by Sagar Gore

Growing vegetables in the South means you have to know your climate and your vegetables. Beyond just planting a warm-season vegetable, it’s important to know which vegetables can take the heat.

Growing hot weather vegetables may mean switching out white potatoes for sweet potatoes, a real trooper when it comes to heat tolerant vegetables. Instead of spinach, change over to Malabar spinach, a similar green much more suited to vegetables for hot weather. And the traditional favorite tomato doesn’t set fruit when the mercury soars past 85 degrees F (29 C). So instead, try a tomatillo.

Top 10 Heat Tolerant Vegetables: Vegetables for Hot Climates

If you live in the Southeastern region of the United States, or other hot climates, you know that not all warm-season vegetables are created equal. Some stand up to heat and humidity better than others.

Here are our picks for the top 10 vegetables for hot weather.

  1. Eggplant (Solanum melongena) – This hot weather vegetable needs full sun and fertile soil to thrive. Eggplant needs constant moisture, about an inch (2.5 cm) of water or rain a week. Start harvesting before the eggplant reaches maturity as they are best eaten fresh and don’t preserve well.
  2. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) – Prepare a nutrient rich soil, worked deeply, in full sun to grow okra. Water regularly. Pods will be ready to harvest about two months after planting. Okra pods can be stored in the refrigerator or blanched and frozen.
  3. Malabar Spinach (Basella alba and B. rubra) – Malabar spinach is not a true spinach, but a tropical green from hot climates like India. However, its leafy vegetation looks a lot like spinach. It prefers a moist soil and hot, humid weather. It will grow in full sun to part shade.
  4. Peppers – Sweet and hot peppers do better than bell peppers in the hottest locales. They are grown very similar to bell peppers and need rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Harvest according to the color change and desired heat for your variety.
  5. Southern peas – Also called field peas or cowpeas, Southern peas include many varieties and seed types such as black-eyed, crowder, and creamer. They are easy to grow as long as you have sustained heat till they are ready to harvest.
  6. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) – Plant sweet potato slips when the soil has warmed to 70 to 80 degrees F (21-26 C) and stays consistently at that temperature throughout the growing period. It only takes six weeks to harvest.
  7. Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) – Grow at least two tomatillo plants to get fruit. They have similar growing habits and the same pests as tomatoes, except tomatillos grow in husks. When the fruit is firm and the husk turns dry and papery, your tomatillo is ready to harvest. They typically are picked green but may mature to yellow. If transplants aren’t available, grow seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost or direct sow.
  8. Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) – Grow watermelon in sunny days and warm nights. They need lots of room for the vines to grow in weed-free, sandy-loam soil. Be sure they get lots of water and the melons will do the rest.
  9. Yard long beans (Vigna unguiculata) – Also known as the Chinese long bean, they can grow up to 3 feet (0.9 m) in length. The blooms resemble the regular green bean, but they are more closely related to cowpeas. However, they taste more like green beans.
  10. Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) – This popular squash is easy to grow and produces lots of fruit. Direct sow after the last frost and the soil has warmed. They need 2 inches (5 cm) of water a week, either by rain or manually. For a more flavorful zucchini, harvest when the squash is young, about 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) long.
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