What We Grow


Carrots have been a cultivated crop in Western Asia since the 10th century A.D. They were originally used only medicinally. In general, Carrots are a crop for temperate climates. The Danvers 126 variety, a 60-70 day variety performs well, in heavy, clay soils. Scarlet Nantes is an open pollinated variety with bright orange, slightly tapered roots about 6 inches in length.
The sweet roots are eaten either raw or cooked though all parts of the Carrot plant are edible. In Java, the leaves are sometimes eaten. Both the tops and the roots have been used as small animal and livestock fodder.
Cooking and Nutrition
Because Carrots contain a high amount of carotene, which is converted in the human body into Vitamin A, it is a very valuable crop for a family to grow in their garden. When eaten raw, the greatest amount of carotene is retained because vitamin A is soluble in water and may be discarded in the cooking water. The roots can be made into a juice, a sweet syrup, or a fermented drink. Flour is made from the dried pounded roots, or tops and roots can be added to soups or stews.


Cabbage is a hardy, leafy vegetable that forms a compact, round head. It is native to southern Europe but can be grown in tropical or semi-tropical areas in cooler highlands where the winters are mild and there is a good supply of moisture.
Cabbage is a valuable garden and commercial crop as it is easy to grow, transport and store.
Cooking and Nutrition
Cabbage is eaten raw in salads, pickled as sauerkraut and cooked in soups and stews. Low in calories and fat, high in vitamins B, C, calcium and phosphorus, cabbage should be minimally cooked to retain its nutrients.

Cattley Guava

The Cattley Guava is thought to be native to the lowlands of eastern Brazil. This species has two forms, the Red Strawberry Guava (P. cattleianum) and the Yellow Cattley Guava (P. cattleianum var. luridum). This species was named after William Cattley, the English horticulturist who fostered its cultivation in England in the early 1800s.
The pulp of the cattley guava is frequently eaten fresh out of hand, but it is also well known as a source of fine jams and jellies. The tree is often used in landscaping as an attractive, edible hedge.
Cooking and Nutrition
The fruit has a sweet acid, strawberry-like flavor without the muskiness of the common guava. The yellow fruits tend to be a bit more bland. The fruit usually is eaten out of hand, without preparation, but can also be made into an excellent puree, beverage base, punch, syrup, and even wine. According to Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia F. Morton, a delicious puree can be made by cooking 6 parts red cattleys (remove calyces from the fruit first) with 1 part water and 2 parts granulated sugar and pressing through a sieve. The nutritional value of the fruit is limited mainly to some niacine and large amounts of ascorbic acid.


Chaya, Spinach Tree, Mayan Spinach, Árbol de espinaca, espinaca maya, Arbre à épinard, Spinach tree Cnidoscolus aconitifolius ssp. aconitifolius ‘Chayamansa’ (syn. C. chayamansa) Euphorbiaceae
Native to Mexico, this is a fast-growing, drought-tolerant, perennial shrub, typically reaching 3 m (10 ft) in height. As one of its common names (spinach tree) implies, it is grown for its dark-green leaves, which it produces in abundance.
Chaya’s young leaves and thick succulent stems make a tasty, nutritious, non-slimy vegetable when cooked. Both the domesticated strains, known as Chaya mansa, and the wild forms, Chaya brava, are edible. However, the wild forms characteristically possess stinging epidermal hairs that are highly irritating to the harvester’s skin. The entire plant may be ground, dried and used as animal feed. Chaya leaf meal has been developed as a chick feed in Ghana.
Cooking and Nutrition
Chaya leaves are highly nutritious, being a good source of protein; calcium, phosphorus, and iron; and vitamins A and C as well as niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. The leaves and stem tip materials normally are chopped into pieces before cooking like spinach. Chaya leaf and tip pieces also are added to soups and stews or mixed with onions and eggs to make tortillas. CAUTIONS: Chaya must never be eaten raw, as it contains cyanogenic glycosides, sources of cyanide poisoning. Cooking Chaya in boiling water for five minutes, or frying, rids the stem and leaf materials of the poisonous cyanide components. Stir-fry cooking probably is not adequate to eliminate the cyanides. Avoid breathing in the vapors produced during cooking Chaya. Chaya leaves appear similar to those of Jatropha curcas; parts of jatropha (seeds and press cake in particular) should not be eaten as they are very TOXIC.
Chinese Parsley, Dhania, Coriander (Seed) Coriandrum sativum Apiaceae (Umbellaceae)
This herb used for flavoring is thought to have come from southern Europe or Asia Minor.
This plant is valued for the seeds (Coriander) and its leaves (Cilantro or Chinese Parsley). Coriander seeds are used whole or ground in breads, cheeses, curry, sausages, and soups. Fresh Cilantro leaves are used in soups, stews, salads, stir-fry dishes and dips. The essential oils are used in perfumes, soaps and cosmetics. Cilantro has been used as a medicinal plant for over 5000 years in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece.
Cooking and Nutrition
The Coriander seeds are used for breads, cheeses, sweet bread, sausages and curries. Fresh Cilantro leaves retain their flavor longer than dried leaves. Leaves are used in stir-fried dishes, garnishes, soups, fish dishes, guacamole and as garnish. The roots are popular in Thai cooking. The stems are used to flavor meat when smoking and the flowers can be eaten as well.
Brassica oleracea var. viridis syn. acephala Brassicaceae
The Brassica family is thought to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. The wide, smooth, blue-green leaves of Brassica oleracea var.viridis have a spinach-like flavor and are the highest in nutrients of the dark green, leafy vegetables.
This non-heading variety of cabbage can be relied upon to produce a better yield at warmer temperatures than most of the other Brassicas.
Cooking and Nutrition
This low calorie vegetable retains its nutrients (Vit. A & C and calcium) best when eaten raw or steamed briefly. Collards also provide a good supply of folate, vitamin B and an easily-digested form of iron. Chop fresh washed greens into 1-inch pieces and simmer until tender adding onions, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar. Leaves can be dried for storage.
Cranberry Hibiscus
False Roselle, Hibiscus de Hojas Rojas, Rosemallow Africano Hibiscus acetosella Malvaceae Mallow
Cranberry Hibiscus, as well as its sister species, Roselle (H. sabdariffa), and Kenaf (H. cannabinus) are of African origin. It is believed to be a hybrid of African wild hibiscus species. Cranberry Hibiscus is now known only as a cultivated plant. This species tends to escape from gardens and it may be found growing wild along roadsides and in waste places in the vicinity of plantings.
The color and pleasing, tangy taste of the leaves make them a great addition to salads or stir-fries. The somewhat fleshy leaves and young shoots may be cooked as a vegetable and eaten with rice. The stem yields a good quality fiber but of low quantity. Kenaf is a better choice for commercial fiber production. The colorful red stems and foliage plus the pink flowers of the pink-flowered variety make this species a desirable choice for ornamental plantings in tropical and subtropical environments. It may be used in temperate gardens as a summer annual, but it is highly susceptible to frost.
Cooking and Nutrition
The red coloring of the vegetable material is retained well in salads and in stir-fries; however, cooking in water may reduce the colored pigment content. When cooked as a vegetable, it can be combined with pounded peanuts for extra flavor. In contrast to Roselle species, the calyx lobes are not eaten from the Cranberry Hibiscus; however, the pink blossoms may be used to make a beverage. Pick about 30 blossoms in the evening after they have folded up. Blend the petals with lime juice and sugar to make a tasty and beautiful drink. The petals add a smooth texture and intense color, more than any special flavor. This type of beverage is popular in Central and South America.
Solanum melongena Solanaceae
Ancient orgin was probably the Indo-Burmese region or possibly China. The plant has now spread to the tropics, sub-tropics, warm temperate zones and greenhouses in cooler climates.
When the fruits are young and 2/3 full size fruits they are used as vegetable, mostly cooked. Young fruit are often eaten raw in Malaysia. In India, eggplant is sometimes used to treat diabetes, asthma, cholera and bronchitis.
Cooking and Nutrition
The fruit can be eaten fresh or after rehydration of dried slices. The flesh has a fine texture and a taste close to that of mushrooms, but sometimes stronger or even quite bitter. Most often the fruits are eaten grilled, fried, steamed, or stewed with other vegetables, meat or fish. Also, they can be roasted, braised in ashes and seasoned with garlic, onion, spices, sugar, oil, soybean sauce etc. Eggplant has nutritional values of 1.6% protein, 0.2% Fat, 4.0% carbohydrates, 1.0% fiber plus iron, calcium, Vitamins C, Bi, B2, and niacin. The fruits are sometimes eaten raw but may be prepared in many ways such as roasted, fried, stuffed, pickled or cooked as a curry.
Ethiopian Kale
Mostaza Etiope, Mostaza Abisiniana Brassica carinata Brassicaceae
This kale variety originated in the East African plain, particularly Ethiopia, as early as 4000 B.C. where it is still grown primarily as an oil seed crop. It is valuable because it will set seed at warmer tropical temperatures than other Brassicas. In East and southern Africa, young leaves are eaten as a vegetable raw or cooked.
Crushed seeds yield a high oil content, 25-45%. However, older varieties and particularly wild plants, have high levels of two potentially toxic compounds – erucic acid and glucosinolates – in the oil. New varieties have been bred to have little or no toxicity. Leftover seed cake after oil extraction can be fed to animals, but in limited amounts. The leaves apparently do not have any toxicity.
Cooking and Nutrition
Leaves should be harvested just before eating as a cooked or raw vegetable. Even the stems when cooked have a mild flavor like collards or cabbage. Crushed seeds are eaten with meat. Ethiopian Kale is a nutritious vegetable, high in calcium and iron. Its leaves have less oxalic acid than spinach. Juice squeezed from the leaves is a good source of vegetable protein.
Habanero Pepper
Bonnet Pepper, Datil Pepper, Squash Pepper Capsicum chinense Solanaceae
This pepper variety was first cultivated in the West Amazon basin and now is grown all over the tropics
Capsaicin, the chemical compound in the Habanero Pepper that gives it the “hot” characteristic is odorless, colorless and tasteless but is a mighty irritant. The pepper is not usually eaten as a vegetable but rather used as an additive or flavoring in dishes. It is also used in liniments for sore muscles, in “anti-mugger” sprays and as an insect and deer repellant.
Cooking and Nutrition
It is estimated that the irritating chemical found in the Habanero Pepper is 1000 times hotter than that in the jalapeño pepper and therefore its use is restricted to flavoring dishes. Handlers should wear gloves and keep from touching other areas of the body, especially the eyes. The peppers are rich in vitamins A and C both of which increase in amount as the fruit ripens.
Artocarpus heterophyllus Moraceae
The origin of this tall, leather-leafed tree is probably India. It grows best in hot and humid tropical and subtropical climates. They produce the largest of all fruits borne on trees, up to 1 meter (3 ft) in length and 18 kg (40 lbs) in weight. This is a wind and insect pollinated plant and requires cross-pollination with other cultivars. Jackfruit Jackfruit Artocarpus heterophyllus
Jackfruit trees bear versatile fruits that may be eaten cooked or fresh. Young, fresh leaves and male flowers can be cooked as a vegetable. The leaves and rind of the fruit are fed to cattle. All parts of the plant exude sticky, white latex that is used for household cement or mixed with vinegar and used as a poultice for healing of wounds and snakebite. Extracts of its roots, ashes, pith, wood shavings and seeds have medicinal properties and the heartwood makes a yellow dye. The wood is resistant to termites, fungi and bacteria and used for fine furniture on a par with teak and mahogany.
Cooking and Nutrition
Before the fruit turns from green to greenish yellow or greenish brown, it may be cooked and eaten. When ripened, the rind and hard core can be removed and fed to cattle and the banana/pineapple flavored interior flesh can be cooked as a vegetable or eaten fresh. Other uses are as a fruit juice, chutney, jam, dried and fried chips, candy or distilled drink. The seeds must be thoroughly cooked, and then can be roasted, boiled, canned, baked, ground into flour or added to curried dishes. Jackfruit is a good source of potassium and Vitamin A while also low in fat and calories.
Star Gooseberry, Sweetleaf Bush Sauropus androgynus Euphorbiaceae
Katuk is native to the lowland, rainforest understory of the warm tropics and is a familiar plant in home gardens from the wetter parts of southeast Asia
This perennial plant is popular for its edible leaves and young shoots as well as for its ability to survive under hot and humid conditions even occasional flooding. If shoots are planted close together with additions of manure and some shade, the bushes will form a hedge of edible leaves for year round consumption by families or for commercial sale.
Cooking and Nutrition
A ½ cup (100 gm) serving of fresh Katuk leaves supplies 22% of the daily requirement for vitamin A and is a substantial source of vitamin C (138% of daily requirement). It also has value as a source of calcium and iron; elements often lacking in diets that do not contain enough milk. The new growth as well as the flowers and small fruits are all used for food. The fact that the greens retain their color and firmness when cooked make them valuable for sale to restaurants.
Malabar Spinach
Épinard de Malabar, brède de Malabar, épinard indien, brède d’Angola, Ceylon Spinach, Poi Sag Basella alba, Basella rubra
Malabar Spinach is native to tropical Asia, probably originating in India or Indonesia. Today, it is grown widely in the tropics as a perennial and in warmer temperate regions as an annual. Malabar Spinach plants are green (Basella alba) or purplish (Basella rubra) vines with thick fleshy leaves exhibiting one of two leaf forms: closely spaced oval to rounded leaves; or, more widely spaced heart-shaped leaves. Most authors agree, however, that the two color forms of Malabar Spinach are not separate species. Perhaps both would best be treated as forms of Basella rubra.
The leaves and young stems of Malabar Spinach are an excellent hot weather spinach substitute. The young leaves may be eaten raw in salads, the leaves and young stems cooked as a potherb mixed with vegetables, the leaves cooked separately as a spinach, or added to soups. The purple juice from the fruits may be used as a food dye to color pastries or sweets. Boiled seeds are sometimes added to dahl in Bangladesh. The plant is often grown as an ornamental.
Cooking and Nutrition
The leaves and cut tips of Malabar Spinach are used in food preparations much like one uses spinach or chard. Young Malabar Spinach leaves may be added raw to salads or the leaves and stem tips are cooked with other vegetables as a potherb, cooked separately as a spinach or added, chopped, to soups and stews. Oriental chefs steam or stir-fry Malabar Spinach. Although the cooking odor of Malabar Spinach is strong, the flavor is mild. Red leaves lose their attractive red color upon cooking. The thick leaves and stems of Malabar Spinach are somewhat mucilaginous especially with prolonged cooking. Malabar Spinach is lower in protein than some other leafy vegetables like amaranths, but it is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and a good source of calcium and iron.
Ben Tree, Benzolive, Horseradish Tree, Malunggay, Drumstick Tree, Néverdié, ben oléifère, ben ailé, pois quénique Moringa oleifera Moringaceae
The Moringa tree, known also as the Horseradish Tree, is native to northwestern India. Moringa is widely grown, however, in other parts of the old- and new-world tropics, including tropical Asia, many regions of Africa, Indonesia, and South and Central America.
Moringa has a variety of uses. Its leaves, flowers, and pods are a food source for humans and animals. The flowers are a good nectar source for honey, and the seeds are a rich oil source for cooking and lubricant uses. The roots are a source of a spice resembling horseradish, and many parts of the plant have been used in medicinal preparations. Whole plants have been used as living hedges, fences, and windbreaks. The wood is very soft; useful for paper but makes low-grade firewood and poor charcoal. Attracting attention in recent decades is the use of the dried, crushed seeds as a coagulant similar to the chemical alum. Even very muddy water can be cleared when crushed seeds are added. Solid matter and some bacteria will coagulate and then sink to the bottom of a container. The cleaned water can then be poured off and boiled. Use 100 mg (about 1 to 1.5 seeds) of crushed seed to clean 1 liter (1 qt) of muddy water. A Filipino handbook claims Moringa leaves worked into a seedbed 1 week prior to seeding inhibits damping-off fungi. Fresh leaves are a nutritious animal fodder.
Cooking and Nutrition
Moringa foliage and fruit pods are rich sources of calcium and iron, and good sources of vitamins B, A, and C (when raw) and of protein (including goodly amounts of the sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine and cystine). Cook and eat young tender shoots, whole young leaves, and leaflets of older leaves like spinach. Blossoms are edible; they taste like radish. Use sun and oven-dried flowers and leaves to prepare a tea. Store dried leaves as future soup supplements. Cook young pods for a vegetable reminiscent of asparagus. Browning seeds from mature pods in a skillet, mashing them, and placing them in boiling water causes an excellent cooking or lubricating oil (very similar to olive oil) to float to the surface. The oil preserves well although it does become rancid with age. To prepare a horseradish sauce, pull small trees after a few months, scrape the taproot of its bark, and grind the root until fine. Mix 240 mL (1 c.) ground root with 120 mL (0.5 c.) vinegar and 1 mL (0.25 tsp.) of salt. Chill. Use sparingly; excessive use has been reported as potentially harmful. If you would like Moringa recipes write to ECHO requesting the technical note, “Moringa Recipes.”
Mustard and Mustard Greens
Mostaza china, Mostaza blanca Brassica juncea Brassicaceae (Syn.Cruciferae)
Mustard’s dark green color makes it a very nutritious leafy vegetable that can be grown year round in many parts of the world. It is probably of Asian origin but has been introduced into tropical lowlands as well as temperate areas where it has naturalized.
Crushed Mustard seeds, mixed with spices, water and vinegar, are used in the production of spicy, brown Mustard eaten as a condiment. Oil is extracted from the seeds (39% oil by dry weight) by rotary, expeller or hydraulic processes. Mustard paste has been used in folk remedies because of the soothing warmth it brings to the skin and the bronchial dilation resulting from its pungent aroma. Studies are ongoing as to the beneficial effect that a cover crop of Mustard seems to have against some soil-born diseases and nematodes.
Cooking and Nutrition
Mustard is said to stimulate the digestive juices. Young leaves are eaten raw in salads (buds as well). Older leaves can be boiled (changing the cooking water once), steamed, stir-fried or the seeds can be sprouted. Mustard greens and stems can be pickled or dried to eat as a welcome green vegetable in winter. As a dark, green leafy vegetable, Mustard is a good source of vitamins A, C, calcium and iron.
Neem Tree
The Neem tree is native to arid regions of Burma and India. It has been introduced to other arid tropical regions in Africa, Asia, and the New World. Trees will reach up to 30 m tall with limbs reach-ing half as wide.
The pharmaceutical and pest control properties of Neem substances have long been recognized. The twigs are used frequently as bactericidal toothbrushes. A leaf tea has been used to reduce malaria fever. Neem leaf juices have been used to alleviate human skin disorders such as rashes, boils, and fungal infections. Neem extracts are well known as foliar insect repellents and insecticides. Neem leaves mixed in with stored grain have traditionally been used in India to repel insects and prevent food and seed losses. The principal active compound in the leaves is azadirachtin, which repels pests, acts as an antifeedant, and disrupts insects’ growth and reproduction. Several bioactive compounds are found in the leaves and other tissues, however, the Neem seed kernels are the main source of azadirachtin. Neem seed contains the most concentrated and accessible amounts of other potentially useful compounds as well. Neem seed extracts are effective in contolling bruchid beetle pests in grain storage and even dried leaves are effectively used to retard grain storage damage. Neem seed oil, used primarily in soap and skin ointments production, is reported to be an effective human contraceptive due to the oil’s spermicidal properties. Neem cake (residue left after oil is removed from the seed), sometimes used as cattle feed, is a useful soil additive supplying both high-nutrient fertilizer and nematode control. Apparently, Neem cake can also hinder soil denitrification, a frequent cause of soil nitrogen depletion. Neem’s fast-growth rate and its tolerance of hot-dry climates have made it a valuable shade and firewood species in arid regions and a useful species for arid lands reclamation. This strong, dense, termite-resistant wood also may be used for charcoal production. The bark produces tannins, a fiber used to make rope, and a resin used to make glue. Bark is used medicinally as a remedy for fever, and fruit pulp is also used as a tonic. Leaves are used as mulch and green manure, and can also be used as fodder. The leaves have a crude protein content of 12-18%, but because they have a bitter taste, livestock usually prefer other foods.
Ochro, Okro, Lady’s Finger, Gumbo Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench. Malvaceae Mallow
Okra is an upright, herbaceous, and somewhat woody annual that can reach 2-4 m in height. It produces yellow flowers with purple centers. Due to the wide distribution of Okra around the world, its origin is uncertain. It was first grown in tropical Asia or Africa.
Okra is grown chiefly for the immature fruit, which are a popular vegetable in many countries. Young leaves can be used like spinach. Seeds are pressed for oil or roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The fiber from Okra canes can be used to make rope, paper, and cardboard.


Cooking and Nutrition Okra is eaten fried, boiled, or cooked in stews. It can be canned, frozen, dried, or pickled. In some countries, dried pods are ground into powder for use in soups and sauces. Okra fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and the young leaves are a good source of calcium.
Pawpaw, Melon Tree Carica papaya Caricaceae Papaya
The Papaya is presumed to be of tropical American origin, perhaps in southern Mexico and neighboring Central America. Presently it is grown worldwide in the tropics. Current major producers include Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Africa, and India.
Papayas are eaten fresh, often with lemon or lime juice and sugar, or used to make jams, jellies, and ice cream. The unripe fruit may be pickled or cooked as a vegetable like summer squash. The leaves also may be eaten cooked as a vegetable. Leaves have been used as a substitute for soap to wash delicate fabrics. Leaves and fruit canning residues may be used for pig feed.
Cooking and Nutrition
The ripe fruit is often added to fruit salads or used to make jams, jellies, and ice cream. The fruit pulp and nectar from the combined juice and pulp is canned. The unripe fruit may be pickled or cooked as a vegetable like summer squash. The protein digesting enzyme, papain, obtained from the latex of scratched green fruits, is a valuable commercial product. The enzyme is marketed commonly as a meat tenderizer; in some cultures raw meats are wrapped in Papaya leaves to soften them. Papain is used also as a beer stabilizer; as toothpaste and chewing gum ingredients; in hide tanning; as a natural rubber coagulant, and as a worming medication. A leaf alkaloid, carpaine, is extracted for use as an anti bacterial agent.
Groundnut, Goober Arachis hypogaea Fabaceae Or Leguminosae
Native to South America, the Peanut is not really a nut but is a legume belonging to the bean family.
The seeds contained in the underground pods are used extensively for human consumption and the oil has many industrial uses. Animals will readily eat the green foliage, the seeds and the dry crop residue as well. As a nitrogen-fixing legume, if plowed under or used as a green mulch, it will enrich the soil for future crops.
Cooking and Nutrition
The ripe seeds are used primarily as a high protein food crop for humans but unripe pods can be eaten as a vegetable. The nut can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, ground for butter or pressed for oil. Peanuts contain a good amount of minerals necessary for good health. In certain sensitive individuals, an allergy to this food can be quite severe
Pigeon Pea
Gandules, Congo Pea, Angola Pea, Pwa Kongo, Gandur, Frijol de palo, Guisante de Angola, Cachito, Frijol de la India, Frijol quinchancho, pois d’Angole, ambrevade, pois Congo, pois pigeon Cajanus cajan Fabaceae
The Pigeon Pea probably originated in tropical Africa but is now popular in SE Asia, the Caribbean, east and west Africa and the tropics of the U.S. It is a shrubby, drought-tolerant, fast-growing legume with a long tap root and a mass of fibrous roots. It can grow up to 4 m (13 ft) in height but is not tolerant to low temperatures or frost.
The value of raising Pigeon Peas is that they will produce a vegetable crop of green peas in edible pods as well as a pulse (dry bean) when other garden plants won’t. It also functions as a nitrogen-fixing cover/forage crop, as erosion control, as shade for other vegetables and herbs and the dry stalks can be burned or used as thatch or in weaving baskets.
Cooking and Nutrition
The green Pigeon Pea is higher in digestible protein than the dry pulse form but the pulse is one of the best legume sources of iron. (15 mg/100g.) Mature, dried seeds should be soaked overnight, then cooked 2-3 hours until soft. Onion, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and spices are added and served over cooked rice
Purple Passionfruit
Purple Granadilla, Lilikoi (Hawaiian) Passiflora edulis f. edulis Passifloraceae Passion Flower
Purple Passionfruit is native to South America from southern Brazil southward to northern Argentina. It has been well established commercially in Brazil and is now grown in many areas of the subtropics or in the mid-elevation tropics worldwide. A related form, the more tropical Yellow Passionfruit, grown abundantly as a juice source, is considered a possible mutant of Purple Passionfruit.
Purple Passionfruits are a source of seedy pulp; eaten whole with the seeds or added to fruit salads. Strained fruit pulp is a beverage base often sweetened and diluted as a juice used alone or in fruit juice blends. Concentrated juice or syrup of Purple Passionfruit is used in desserts, candy, icings and meringues. The seeded pulp can be made into jellies or jams.


Cooking and Nutrition
Clean, washed and dried fruits will store for 2-3 weeks in a cool place (10o C/50o F). Slightly shriveled fruit, a few days old, is sweetest.
Smooth Luffa
Sponge Gourd, Vine Okra, Dishcloth Gourd, Dhundhal Luffa cylindrica Cucurbitaceae
Smooth Luffa or Sponge Gourd and its sister species, Angled Luffa, originated in India. Both species now are distributed widely in the tropics. It is a 30-60 cm (1-2 ft) long, cylindrical, smooth skinned gourd. The interior contains white flesh as well as a fibrous structure that is dried and used as a sponge.
Although the fruit of both species may be eaten raw or as a cooked vegetable, Smooth Luffa is grown chiefly for commercial sponge production whereas Angled Luffa is preferred for vegetable production. Cleaned sponges may be bleached in dilute household bleach or hydrogen peroxide (to whiten them) and then dried in the sun. Smooth Luffa sponges are used commonly as bath sponges or as household cleaning sponges. Other reported uses include as cushions in sandals and saddles, and as doormats. Younger sponges are sources of the softer bath sponges; older fruits yield more abrasive coarser sponges more useful for scouring utensils or household cleaning.
Cooking and Nutrition
Smooth Luffa fruit may be eaten raw; sliced like cucumber, in salads. Slices also may be pickled or dried for later use in soups, stews or curries. Mostly, the fruits are eaten as a cooked vegetable or combined with meats or curries. Older fruits and some varieties of the Smooth Luffa contain purgative substances in the fruits and are bitter tasting. Use other non bitter Smooth Luffa varieties for eating or select the Angled Luffa species if the principal luffa use is food. Smooth Luffa seeds can be used as an oil source or to make a vegetable curd similar to soybean tofu. Seeds also may be roasted with salt as a food delicacy. The seeds must be from a variety lacking seed bitterness or they may contain poisonous substances. Non bitter seeds and their products are considered safe to eat. Stem tops, young leaves, flower buds, and flowers can be steamed and served over rice.
Anona de México,Guanabana, Huanaba, Corossol Annona muricata Annonaceae
The Soursop is said to have originated from South America and the West Indies.
Among all Annona species, the Soursop is the most tropical, the best for preserving and processing, and produces the largest fruit. The tree is low-branching and shrubby, reaching a height of approximately 8-10 m (25-30 ft). The seeds and leaves have toxic properties and, when crushed are effective against head lice, southern army worms, and pea aphids. The fruit has been placed in fish traps as bait. The wood may have potential as a source for paper pulp and can be used to make ox yokes because it does not cause hair loss on the neck of the oxen.
Cooking and Nutrition
The fruit is classified variously as sweet, sub-acid, or acid. Fruits are best eaten 5 to 6 days after harvest. You can cut the fruit into sections and eat the flesh with a spoon, add it to fruit salad, or serve it with sugar and a little milk. The most common use for this fruit in the tropics, however, is as a processed drink. According to Julia Morton’s Fruits of Warm Climates, to prepare this beverage, the seeded pulp is pressed in a colander to extract the rich, creamy juice, which is then beaten with milk or water and sweetened. Or one can blend the seeded pulp with an equal amount of boiling water, strain it, and then sweeten to taste. Be careful to remove all seeds before blending the pulp as they are toxic and should not be eaten in any quantity. A Soursop custard is made in the Dominican Republic by cooking Soursop pulp in a sugar syrup with cinnamon and lemon peel. Soursop ice cream is also popular; simply mash the pulp in water, let it stand, then strain to remove fibers and seeds. Then blend the liquid with sweetened condensed milk, pour it into ice cube trays, and stir several times while it freezes. Immature Soursops can be roasted, fried, cooked as vegetables, or used in soup.
Carambola, fruta china, balimbing, vinagrillo, zibline, tirguro, tamarindo chino Averrhoa carambola Oxalidaceae
Carambolas have been cultivated in southeast Asia for centuries. Now it is a very popular fruit in the tropics. The Carambola tree is slow-growing, short-trunked with a much-branched, bushy, broad, rounded crown and reaches 20 to 30 ft (6-9 m) in height. There are 2 distinct classes of Carambola–the smaller, very sour type, richly flavored, with more oxalic acid; the larger, so-called “sweet” type, mild-flavored, rather bland, with less oxalic acid. The fruit has a distinctive 5- or 6- angle cylindrical shape about 3 to 5 inches long, thin skinned, and when it is ready to be eaten, this juicy fruit will change its color from green to cream to various shades of yellow and orange.
Carambola fruit is enjoyed in many different ways: ripe, green, raw or cooked. The flowers are added to salads in Java and made into preserves in India. The leaves are eaten as a substitute for sorrel. The juice of acid types of Carambola is used to clean and polish metal and bleach rust stains from white cloth. Carambola wood is white, reddening with age, close-grained, and hard enough to use for construction and furniture.
Cooking and Nutrition
Ripe Carambolas are eaten out-of-hand, sliced and served in salads, drinks, cooked in puddings, tarts, stews and curries or used as garnish. Slightly underripe fruits are salted, pickled or made into preserves. Carambola juice contains about 10% natural sugar. It is a good source of vitamin C, contains some B vitamins and vitamin A, as well as calcium, phosphorus and iron.
Girasol (Sp) Helianthus annuus Asteraceae (Compositae)
In North America, sunflower is grown in the Great Plains region of the United States and adjacent Canada. Traditionally, Russia has been the leading Sunflower producer. Argentina is another world leader in Sunflower production.
There are three primary uses of Sunflower: as an oilseed; as a whole kernel snack food for humans; and as birdseed. Sunflower oil is used as a salad oil and cooking oil. It can be made into a spread called Sunflower butter, or used as an ingredient in margarine and shortening. Oilmeal, a by-product of Sunflower oil processing, is used as a protein-rich feed additive for cattle and rabbits. Large dehulled kernels of striped-hull Sunflower varieties are eaten, plain or salted, as a health food or snack food. Small striped-hull Sunflower seeds and black-seeded oilseed types are marketed as birdseed.
Cooking and Nutrition
In addition to their use as snack foods, Sunflower seeds have food uses in the preparation of cakes, cookies, muffins, soups and ice creams. Sunflower seedlings, referred to as Sunflower lettuce, obtained preferably from germinating black-seeded varieties, are a specialty food. In Ethiopia, boiled seeds are mixed with water and honey to prepare a beverage called suff. Germinated seeds blended with water may be fermented to produce a seed yogurt. Sunflower seeds are a good protein food source. The protein content of dehulled seeds is reported at 24%. Oilmeal also is a nutritious food or feed material. Its constituent analysis reveals 50% protein, 4% oil, 36% carbohydrate, and 8% mineral content. Sunflower seed protein has high digestibility and high quality. Its digestibility has been likened to that found in soybeans. It has been assessed at 93% of the nutritional value found in egg protein. The lysine amino acid content, however, is limiting in Sunflower protein. Some alternative protein source in the diet is desirable in addition to that provided bySunflower.
Sweet Pepper
Pimiento, pimiento marrón Capsicum annuum Solanaceae
Varieties of Capsicum are recorded as being a cultivated crop of Bolivia and Central America for thousands of years. The Sweet Pepper, a non-pungent variety, contains a recessive gene which has diminished the capsaicin alkaloid, the substance which makes the chile pepper taste “hot”. In addition to green, some pods can ripen to shades of red, orange, yellow, purple and brown. There are 2,000 varieties in this species of pepper which is eaten fresh or in cooked dishes.
Cooking and Nutrition
Sweet Peppers are eaten fresh, pickled, roasted, dried and used in tomato sauce and salsa. All varieties are good sources of vitamin A and C. This non-pungent variety of Capsicum annuum is exceptionally high in ascorbic acid.
Solanum lycopersicum (syn. Lycopersicon esculentum) Solanaceae
The Tomato originated in South America as a weed in fields of corn but was domesticated in Mexico and Central America; from there it spread around the globe.
Cooking and Nutrition
Tomatoes contain vitamins C, A, B1, and B2. Ripe fruits are eaten raw, added to salads, stewed, pureed, stuffed, made into sauce, paste, juice, and catsup, or used in soups and stews. Unripe fruits are pickled, fried, roasted, or made into marmalade, pies, and relishes. Tomato flour, made from dried fruits, may be used to flavor and thicken. Tomatoes help digest the fats in eggs, cheeses, and meat products, and thus are traditionally eaten with each of these.
Tropical Pumpkin
Calabaza, Winter Squash Cucurbita moschata Cucurbitaceae
The Tropical Pumpkin originated in tropical South or Central America, possibly Peru or Mexico, and is now widely distributed throughout the tropics.
Tropical Pumpkins are eaten in a variety of ways—raw, boiled, fried, baked, mashed, steamed, stuff, dried, or used in pies. Young fruits can be pickled, and the seeds are eaten raw or roasted. The flowers, leaves, and young stems are eaten as a green vegetable or added to soup.
Cooking and Nutrition
Whole Tropical Pumpkins have been roasted in burning coals of wood fires. A recommended cooking method is oven baking cut open fruits, from which seeds have been removed and butter and brown sugar has been added. Some chefs add only butter with salt and pepper before baking. Tropical Pumpkin fruits can be saved by cutting them into strips and drying them. The dried Tropical Pumpkin is later ground into a meal for baking bread. Young green fruits, from which the flowers have just fallen, may be cooked, mashed, seasoned, and eaten as a vegetable. Male flowers also may be eaten; they are dipped in batter and fried.
Vegetable Amaranth
Vegetable Amaranth Amaranthus tricolor L Amaranthaceae
Vegetable Amaranths are abundantly cultivated in hot humid regions of Africa, Asia, and the Carribean. Amaranthus tricolor L originated in India where a number of domesticated varieties now occur.
Vegetable Amaranths are grown for the protein-rich leaves and plant tops. The seeds of Vegetable Amaranths may be eaten but grain amaranth species are much better sources of seeds.
Cooking and Nutrition
Vebetable Amaranth leaves are rich in protein, vitamins A and C, and minerals, especially calcium and iron. Young Vegetable Amaranth leaves may be eaten fresh in salads; however, it is recommended that most Vegetable Amaranth food be cooked because fast-growing vegetables like amaranths accumulate nitrates which may become concentrated enough to be toxic. Also, amaranths produce oxalates which interfere with the use of calcium in the human body. Nitrates and oxalates can be removed from Vegetable Amaranth leaves by boiling them in water for five minutes. Longer boiling reduces vitamin content. The water used for cooking the leaves should not be used in other food preparations. Vegetable Amaranth greens may be prepared as a spinach or added to soups. Bare Vegetable Amaranth stems may be peeled, cooked, and eaten much like the vegetable, asparagus. Cheese-sauces, soy-sauces or vinegar are recommended additives to combat the somewhat bitter taste of spinach preparations made with older leaves.
Citrullus lanatus, Cucurbitaceae
The writings of Dr.David Livingston, medical missionary and explorer of Africa during the mid 1800’s, report that he saw Watermelon growing in semi-desert districts of that country. Earlier records prove that it had been a part of people’s diet for 4,000 years. Watermelon is a vine fruit with male and female blossoms on the same plant, pollinated by bees. It is known for its oblong shape, large size, 11-18 kg. (25-40 lbs.) and deep green skin. Recently smaller sizes and round shapes have been developed; even square ones for convenient shipping. Watermelon has sweet, grainy red or yellow flesh all the way through, with seeds not confined to a central cavity but distributed through the flesh. The flesh has a very high water content and is a source of liquid for people during droughts. Over 1,200 varieties of Watermelon are grown worldwide. Every part of a Watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds. Some varieties are grown strictly for the seed that they produce and their flesh is bitter. Some, grown for cattle fodder, have flesh that is white and dry.
Cooking and Nutrition
Its ease of preparation and serving makes Watermelon a favorite warm weather food. It contains a high level of lycopene (higher than tomatoes), an antioxidant that may protect against cancer and heart disease. It is also high in vitamin A, B-6, C, folic acid and fiber. In some cultures it is popular to bake the seeds and eat them as a snack. The rinds can be candied or pickled. . Fresh uncut Watermelon can be stored at room temperature for two weeks
Winged Bean
Asparagus Pea, Goa Bean, Four Angled Bean, Manila Bean, Kok Tau, Haricot ailé, haricot dragon Psophocarpus tetragonolobus Fabaceae Pea
The Winged Bean’s historical origin is uncertain. Many authors place the origin in the Papua New Guinea and Indonesian island regions where many genetic strains of Winged Bean exist. Winged Bean, also known as Asparagus Pea, is intensively cultivated in Burma and India, and it has been successfully introduced into other southeast Asian regions like Malaysia, Thailand, and Bangladesh and into West Africa and the West Indies.
This climbing legume vine produces edible nutritious leaves, flowers, pods, green seeds, dried seeds, and (in some varieties) edible tuberous roots. Dried seeds have been used in Indonesia to prepare a fermented meat substitute food product called “tempeh” or, if processed, “tofu.” Protein-rich milk and flour, derived from Winged Bean seeds, have become useful dietary treatments for protein-deprived children. In Bangladesh, Winged Bean stems and leaves are used as cattle forage. Winged Bean is a good nitrogen-fixer species, and it is used for intercropping with bananas, sugarcane, taro, and other species.
Cooking and Nutrition
Winged beans have high reported protein content: green pods-2%, raw leaves-5%, dried seeds-30%, dried roots-25% (about 10 times the content of potato tubers), stems and leaves as forage-6%. Seed protein digestibility and composition rivals that found in soybeans. Winged bean seeds are noted as a rich source of the antioxidant, tocopherol, a substance important in Vitamin A utilization. As noted, several parts of the plant may be eaten raw: sprouts, leaves, flowers, and young pods. Avoid heavy consumption of raw leaves, however, as excessive consumption of raw leaves leads to dizziness, nausea and flatulence. Cooked leaves are safe in large quantities. Dried seeds can be steamed, boiled, fried, roasted, fermented, or made into milk, tofu (bean curd), or tempeh. Tubers can be boiled, steamed, or baked.

All plant and tree information from ECHO Plant Information Sheets. Used with Permission. You can find the original Information Sheets here.