Growing a Caribbean Inspired Garden

Roselle flowers on a branch
(Image credit: naropano / Getty Images)

The sights, scents and sounds of a Caribbean vacation may be beyond your means, but you can grow yourself a Caribbean inspired garden and at least enjoy the flora of the region. Food and family are at the center of Caribbean life, and there is no better way to enjoy it from your home than by growing plants that are the heart of island dishes. Herbs, greens and the classic spicy peppers that characterize Caribbean food are all available through the Caribbean Garden Seed company. These plants will not only enhance your cooking but brighten the garden with their vibrant colors and attractive greenery. Many of the foods native Caribs enjoy stem from numerous cultural influences. The British, Scotts, Dutch, Africans and even Asians have all left behind a culinary impact which persists in the creative dishes of the islands. Harnessing these flavors in the garden helps your family enjoy dishes like jerked chicken, pepper pot stew and Jamaican pumpkin soup. You can even try your hand at growing Jamaican coffee, a beverage prized for its richness. Local traditions combined with European tastes and African based flavors have shaped the tropical region's palate. The Caribbean Seed Company specializes in organic, non-GMO seeds and spices dedicated to a Caribbean or Jamaican inspired garden, but they also carry many bulbs, roots, fruit trees, flowers and ornamental plants too. If you want to start off with something you will use every morning, try growing a Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee tree. This is a dwarf Arabica with starry sweet flowers turning into green fruits. Once ripe and reddening to black, each fruit has two seeds to roast and make into delicious coffee. Herbs like Vietnamese coriander, Jamaican ginger and amaranth bring island flavors to any recipe. Greens add depth to stews or Caribbean notes in fresh salads. Chinese spinach is one such plant that is useful in a host of recipes and easy to grow. When you think tropical island, beautiful fruits come to mind along with blue skies and dazzling white beaches. Avocado, jackfruit, yellow passion fruit, turkey berry plant, cashew berry, custard apple, naseberry and red papayas are all available for shipping. Jamaican sorrel is a hibiscus that produces an edible flower calyx often made into a soothing smoothie. Blooms on this plant are amazing, and the fruit itself is a ruby red. Squash features prominently in Caribbean food. In areas with long growing seasons, such plants as Iran pumpkin, bitter melon, and Jamaican pumpkin add authenticity to soups and stews. What Caribbean menu would be complete without Pigeon peas? Several varieties along with dried beans and even lentils add protein and dimension to island inspired menus. We haven't explored Caribbean food completely without discussing peppers. Their use ranges from mildly spicy to fiery and are the main theme in a number of island dishes. Hardly any recipe is without at least some type of pepper to zing it up and heat the palate. Scotch Bonnet fruits are one of the hottest, but the Scorpion may have an even higher Scoville index. Jamaican bird peppers, a native heirloom, are adorable little red fruits but pack a punch nonetheless. There are many varieties of habanero crosses that bring robust heat to food. The Caribbean Garden Seed company can also provide you with blended seasonings from the region. Authentic jerk spice, Jamaican curry and grated Cola nut will bring the flavors of the tropical islands to your family. Dash outside and pick a fresh squash or fruit and become inspired by the spices of the islands and their fresh produce.

Bonnie Grant