Bowl of exotic tropical fruit used for the fruit tasting Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm at Cape Tribulation
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Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm at Cape Tribulation


The Vegetable Garden at Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm, Cape Tribulation

It has taken us 10 years of experience to learn what to grow in our vegetable garden at Cape Tribulationand how to grow it. Here are some helpful hints for those who follow in our footsteps:

Alison picking vegetables at Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm Ceylon Spinach
Winged Bean
Perennial Capsicum
Snake Bean
Cherry Tomatoes 
Mignonette Lettuce
Chinese Vegetables

How to cope with the high rainfall, the wet season, the insect plagues, the tropical heat and humidity, the acid soils, the bandicoots and still have vegies to eat!

  • Raise your garden beds so that you are not digging the soil but creating soil through the no-dig methods outlined in the permaculture books in great detail. We use corrugated iron circles which are about 40 cm high. This keeps out the Cane Toads and the bandicoots who make it through the holes in the fence which you can't find.

  • Plan to have a great garden from the end of May to October - the rest of the time be thankful for the perennials that can survive.

  • Collect the straw from the duckhouse and the chookhouse every 2 weeks and make compost piles which you should turn over every week for about 3 weeks and then it is ready. (First get some chooks and ducks!)

  • Use the Gedye black plastic anaerobic composting bins for foodscraps that the chooks can't eat and mix with lots of carbon in the layers. These only take about 2 months before you can tip them out onto the garden beds. We locate these bins in the citrus orchard so that the trees get a feed at the same time. This keeps the rat population down.

  • Grow what grows and forget about those temperate vegetables - learn what to grow from other cultures who garden in the tropics.

  • Don't worry about trying to save your seed for next year, it will only grow mouldy - let the plants go to seed in situ and what comes up next year, comes up

  • Mulch your beds, turn your weeds into mulch, and keep mulching.

  • Once October comes stop planting new things and start putting your beds to rest and cover with thick mulch.

  • Fence your garden - even think about roofing it with wire

  • Buy your seeds from EDEN SEEDS ph 1800 188 199 who put out a great catalogue each year, as you won't find these seeds on the supermarket shelves.

  • If you have neighbours growing veges, see what seeds you can get from them, as plants adapted to the local conditions are better able to survive.

Here are some of the vegetables we grow at Cape Tribulation:

Basella or Ceylon Spinach (Basella rubra)

One of the easiest plants to grown, and no pests eat it. Grows readily from cuttings. A succulent sprawling plant with heart-shaped leaves. It will readily climb on a fence. Grows like crazy in the wet and is one of the veges to pick and eat in the wet.

Can be eaten raw ( the tender leaves) in a salad - it is now found in those trendy supermarket mescalun salads sold in plastic bags. Also great in stir fries especially when added to the pan in the last minute of cooking. Tastes a little slimy - mucilagenous - you can't have everything!

Winged Bean

A great legume which grows for a few years and bears pods between July and October. Pick pods when small about 5 cm, so that they are still tender and juicy. Also starting to appear in trendy restaurants. Check out the recipe for Winged Beans with Sesame, one of our favourites.

Perennial Capsicum

These bushes are treasures because they last for 3-4 years in the tropics. They are not as luscious as the capsicums you buy in the supermarket - those big fat juicy things that are force fed on steroids. But they grow, they survive the wet season and they taste OK. You can usually get this seed (and all the others I describe) from EDEN SEEDS ph.1800 188 199

Snake Beans

A tropical climbing bean which grows to 30cm long. The smaller the seed inside the better the taste. Survives in the hottest heat and  resists the bean-flies.   Grown by the early Chinese settlers. Put in a trellis that is at least 2 metres tall and make it 3 metres long and you will have enough beans to keep you going for a whole season. As good as temperate beans if you pick them young.

Cherry Tomatoes

This is really the only tomato that you can grow in the tropics as it is resistant to nematodes and keeps on bearing for a long period. I have tried a whole range of different type but Cherries are the only reliable variety. They self seed easily and once you have them , they come back every year. All you need to do is transplant the seedlings to where you want them.


This is well suited to the tropics and if you are lucky the plants will last several years. I usually have at least half of what I plant survive for a second season. Eggplant need a long growing season - about 5 months - so you need to have them ready to transplant into the garden as soon as the wet season finishes.

Mignonette Lettuce

If you really want lettuce then stick with mignonette - choice of red and green varieties. The other types can't tolerate the heat, although sometimes you can be lucky, but I tend to stick with the mignonette because I know they will grow.


An ideal salad green - a mildly flavoured Japanese Mustard, crisp and vigorous. You just pick the leaves you need and add them to the other salad greens. The plant tends to die in October as it can't take the heat. This plant has become very trendy and is now found in those mescalun salad mixes. although my leaves always have had at least 20 caterpillars have a nibble before I get to pick it - the commercial leaves are perfect. Makes you wonder what they use to kill the caterpillars doesn't it.


Another hardy salad plant which survives the tropics for the dry season. It is rather spicy and can be used in cooking. Pick the leaves as you need and the plant can last for 6 months. Has become a trendy favourite by those chefs who serve small meals on big plates. Also in mescalun.

Guada Bean

This is a tropical climber which needs a huge trellis and which produces gourd like fruit that taste like Zucchini if picked when small. The fruit grows up to 60 cm long.This is a great vegetable and does everything that Zucchini does - except it survives the tropics whereas Zucchini grows mould. In 10 years I have never produced a Zucchini, though I tried a number of times. Grow what grows.

Chinese Vegetables

Most of these grow quite well, and there is a large variety. I tend to pick just a few leaves from each plant and then they last for months.


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Last updated May 20, 2015