Home and gardening stores are seeing a boom! We all have more time on our hands, and more incentive to accomplish whatever tasks we’ve been putting off around the house. There is one task, however, outside of the house: the garden.
Every spring, we gather the old plants to make way for the new. Spring is like New Year’s in that way: you begin again. Even if you’re not a master gardener, knowing what plants grow best in South Louisiana at this time helps. Here are some of the best vegetables and herbs for April in Acadiana.
- Hot peppers: We’re spicy. It only makes sense to grow hot peppers. Cayenne, serrano, super cayenne and Tabasco peppers all grow amazingly well here and are used in many curries, Cajun dishes, and Bloody Marys – if you’re brave enough. Cayenne is considered a health food for a reason: just one teaspoon contains 44 percent of your day’s worth of vitamin A, an antioxidant necessary for skin health. It is also a source of beta carotene.
- Eggplants: A longtime staple for vegetarians and vegans, the eggplant is often used as a meat substitute due to its hearty texture. The deep purple plant lowers cholesterol, is high in fiber, and can improve bone health: plants with the deep aubergine color of eggplant are linked to reduced risks of osteoporosis and stronger bone density. Want to try a meatless Monday dish? Supplement eggplant next time you want to make chicken parmesan to get some of the plant-based benefits.
- Bell peppers: One of my favorite fresh vegetables to snack on or throw into a Mediterranean salad is the bell pepper. It can be grilled or raw with hummus! Plus, it’s full of Vitamin C to protect your immune system and boost skin clarity. The LSU Ag Center recommends heritage bell peppers as well as Purple Beauty, Golden Summer, Tequila bell peppers.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are the most popular plant to grow from home. A tomato transplant is great this time of year! While starting from seeds is best for January to February, a transplant tomato plant will yield tomatoes for summer salads and salsa. The spring season is optimum for heirloom tomatoes, hybrids and non-heat-set types of tomatoes, according to the LSU Ag Center. Some types of tomatoes that grow especially well here are the Carolina Gold, Bella Rosa, and Solar Fire. They’ll be ready for harvest about a month after you’ve planted them.
- Basil: And now, a fresh herb to go with all of your fresh vegetables: basil. Basil is a warm-season herb that is used in dishes around the world! It loves hot, humid summers. It will grow quickly from a seed or transplant. Some varieties include holy basil, lemon basil, or African basil. Use as a fresh garnish or dry and save for later.