• Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Top Choices for the Tropical Vegetable Garden

October 5, 2007

Here in the tropics,


can be a yearround

activity, including

in the rainy season.

The bright, sunny

mornings are ideal for

getting outside for

some exercise tending

the garden or landscaping

plants around

the home, and a natural

home garden can

produce an abundance

of nutritious fruits and vegetables, free from

chemical residues, at a fraction of the cost of

commercial produce. As the cost of living

rises, a productive vegetable garden can help

stretch your income.

Here’s a mini-list of my favorite vegetables

for a natural garden. These plants grow in

most regions of the country and provide the

family with a wealth of nutrition. Even

apartment dwellers can grow these plants in

containers on porches and windows. Some

of these plants are easy to find in leading

nurseries around the country, and seeds are

available in many nurseries and agricultural

supply stores.


Cabbage (repollo). This is an ideal choice for mid-elevations to the highland regions, while Chinese cabbage (repollo chino, pictured here) and collards (col) produce well in the hotter regions.

Cherry tomatoes (tomatillo). These tomatoes are much hardier than their larger counterparts. They resist disease and pest problems because they are genetically stronger. Tomatillos can be grown in five-gallon containers around small homesites or apartments. Be sure to tie them to a pole or trellis. Choose bright sunny spots with welldrained, fertile soil.

Green beans (vainica). These veggies provide an ample supply of high-quality protein for the family. Agricultural supply stores offer the variety called “Provider” or “Proveedor.” Plant the seeds directly in the garden in bright sunny spots with welldrained soil.

Green bunching onions (cebollinas). These hardy onions grow well in most regions of the country without significant pest or disease problems. Chives and garlic are also easy to grow at home – garlic does particularly well as a potted plant in the tropics – and lots of onions and garlic keep the doctor away!

Start your seeds in a flat or small pots. Once they become hardy, transplant them to the garden. Green bunching onions are also called dividing onions, because they propagate new shoots from each plant. That means you keep getting new plants for free. Plant your onions in raised beds or containers with fertile, well-drained soil. Harvest mature leaves at the base of each plant for salads and seasonings.

Lettuce (lechuga).

The secret to growing lettuce in the tropics is to grow hot-weather varieties, such as openleafed salad bowl or oak leaf. Lettuce is tender and needs sunny to partially shaded areas and welldrained, rich soil for good production. During the heavy rains, it’s easier to grow lettuce in containers around the sunny sides of the home under the eaves of the roof, out of the heavy downpours that tender lettuce just can’t take.

Mustard (mostaza). This is the easiestto- grow and perhaps most nutritious of the leafy greens. You can plant the seeds directly in the garden or in pots or containers. Mustard does best in bright, sunny areas with well-drained, even average soil. You can tame the fiery taste of mustard by steaming it, or include it in your favorite omelets, stir-fries or vegetable dishes.

Radish (rábano). This root vegetable is very popular with the locals, and is used in a vinegar and vegetable mix with hot chilies called chilero. Seeds are planted directly in garden beds with average to fertile soil. The fastest-growing garden veggie, radishes harvest in fewer than 45 days. The variety “China Rose” is a favorite among gardeners.


Aloe vera (sábila). Large, potted aloes can create a cactus-like effect in your decorating design. Often called a physician in a pot, they provide useful medicine as well.

Cilantro (culantro). This is a traditional green used to flavor salads and many other Tico dishes such as gallo pinto and ceviche. This queen of the salad greens is hard to beat nutritionally. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden or in pots for the kitchen. It’s easy to collect seeds for replanting.

Mint (hierbabuena). This is one of the most useful home remedies for digestive problems and nervous disorders. Mint grows well as a container plant in the hotter regions and thrives in the cooler highlands outside in the garden.

Mint loves moist, fertile soil and partial shade. It makes a tasty tea, hot or iced.

Oregano (orégano). Here in Costa Rica, a bushy plant known as Lippia graveolens is used as an oregano substitute. The scent and flavor are virtually identical to European oregano. The herb is commonly found in nurseries, or the woody stem cuttings can be used for propagation.

Parsley (perejil). This herb grows well in gardens in cooler regions or as a potted plant indoors. Seeds are delicate and do best planted in a flat or small pot. The seeds take two weeks to germinate, so don’t get impatient.


You may be interested

Costa Rica closes 2020 with large fiscal deficit, though better than expected
Costa Rica
Costa Rica

Costa Rica closes 2020 with large fiscal deficit, though better than expected

AFP - January 19, 2021

Costa Rica closed 2020 with a fiscal deficit of 8.3% of GDP, the highest in recent decades although lower than…

U.S. Embassy issues Health Alert related to travel Covid testing
Costa Rica
Costa Rica

U.S. Embassy issues Health Alert related to travel Covid testing

The Tico Times - January 19, 2021

The United States Embassy in Costa Rica issued a Health Alert regarding the new coronavirus test policy for air travelers…

Guatemalan security forces break up US-bound migrant caravan
Central America
Central America

Guatemalan security forces break up US-bound migrant caravan

Edgar Calderon with Henry Morales Arana / AFP - January 18, 2021

Guatemalan security forces on Monday broke up a caravan of some 4,000 Honduran migrants trying to reach the United States…