This type of edible landscaping is
functional and very colorful and attractive.
Ornamental Mexican Hacienda designs for patio, courtyard or
terrace gardens, Latino-style.
The ideal shape for the garden is
a square or rectangle, which will allow you to easily move through the
garden while harvesting. The size of your garden can vary, but an 8 x
12 foot space is a nice size. As
with every food garden, the planning process begins in winter and
spring, with late summer into early fall being the best time to
prepare the area for spring planting.
Mark the boundaries of your Latino
garden in an area that gets full sun, and remove all grass, weeds and
rocks. Dig your paths down a few inches and mound the dug up dirt on
top of the planting areas to create raised beds. Use brick or paving
stones to line the pathways, outer frame of the garden, and the
Amend the soil of your garden with
lots of compost or other organic matter, and then mulch the beds with
Choose herbs and other plants
essential to Latin cuisine. Not all of them have to be herbs. Include
some tomatoes, or tomatillos and maybe Serrano pepper or jalapeno
plants. You have to have garlic and onion, which can be tucked in
among the other plants wherever they fit. A potted lime tree in the
center as your focal point and ornamental specimen in the garden.
"Must have” Latino herb
plants. They look awesome in clay pots in and around the borders of
- Mint (Note: all mints are
invasive. Absolutely Grow them in pots.)
If you are not a big fan of
cilantro, plant some flat leaf parsley for a milder flavor. Cilantro,
or coriander, tends to bolt when temps get hot, so you can move the
herb out of the hot sun, promoting leaf, not seed, production.
Thyme  and
marjoram  should also be included in the Mexican herb
theme garden. Along with Mexican oregano, these three become the Latin
bouquet garni, the backbone of Latino cooking.
Beyond these more obvious options,
when growing Mexican herbs, there are many lesser-known ingredients
valuable to the cuisine.
Annatto seed - used to
flavor meats and color rice dishes, and Pipicha is a stronger version
of cilantro and is found in green salsas and corn dishes.
Hoja Santa - With their
licorice/fennel flavor, Hoja Santa leaves are used to wrap food, much
Epazote herb is another
rampant grower that needs to be confined to a pot.
Lipia - used in many Latino
desserts and beverages. Also known as lemon verbena, the leaves of
this herb can replace lemon zest in most recipes.
Basil - Sweet basil
is listed as an ingredient in several Latino recipes.
Caring for Your Latino Food
Water the garden moderately, but
keep an eye on it during dry spells.
Feed the tomatoes, peppers and
basil with an organic fertilizer. Avoid overdoing it on the nitrogen,
since too much can reduce fruiting.
- The yacon is cultivated like
- Plant seedlings or tubers in
the garden after the last spring frost..
- In the fall, following the
first frost, cut the stems back.
- Gently dig up the roots (they
break easily) and remove the larger ones from the crown.
- You can eat the roots
immediately, or store them in sand or peat moss in a cool,
frost-free place. Brush the roots before storage, but do not wash
them. Check their condition regularly to remove any rotten ones.
Spray a little water on those that seem to be drying out.
- Keep the crown and remaining
roots the same way so you can replant them the following spring.
Start growing them in pots in February.
Yam bean (Pachyrhizus erosus)
These are tuberous roots
- Sow indoors in early March
(about 3 months before the last frost).
- Soak the seeds for 24 hours
before sowing. Sow two to three seeds per pot.
- It is important to sow directly
into the final pots, as yam beans, like all legumes, do not take
well to transplanting. Disturb the roots as little as possible
when planting in the garden.
- Ideally, place the pots under
- Plant in the garden in early
June, after the last frost
- Do not fertilize yam beans (no
compost or fertilizer).
- Harvest the roots about four
months after planting, either in late September or early
- Unpeeled roots can be stored
for a month at room temperature.
- **All parts of the plant,
except for the roots themselves, are poisonous.
The harvesting of ripe fruit and
vegetables is usually done in mid to late August.
Sweet, young herbs can be pinched almost anytime.
Pepino (Solanum muricatum)
The Pepino has a light-yellow to
light-green skin, streaked with purple vertical striping. The flesh,
when ripe is golden yellow with a narrow seed cavity. The Pepino is
entirely edible: skin, flesh, pulp and seeds. The yellow interior is
fine-grained and sweetly aromatic, intensifying as it ripens.
Its flavor can be described as a
mix of banana and pear, with a slightly bitter bite. Its size is
inconsistent and can be as small as a plum or as large as a papaya.
For optimum sweetness, Pepino should be picked at peak of ripeness.
Care must be taken when handling Pepino fruits as once ripe they are
delicate and easily bruised.
The skin of the Pepino is edible
but if tough and unpalatable it can easily be peeled away. Ripen at
room temperature. Pair with lemons or limes, sweet basil, honey, chilis,
chayote and coconut. Serve in fresh salads and sauces. Halve and serve
fresh as a dessert or breakfast dish. Store ripe Pepino in a plastic
bag in the refrigerator up to three days.
Sticky nightshade or litchi
tomato (Solanum sisymbriifolium)
Some people call it a wild tomato,
others say it’s naturalized or an escaped crop. Some refer to it as
an heirloom. Common names include Sticky Nightshade. It can be
found not only in gardens, but in the wild around the world. A native
of South America, it’s a hardy nightshade that reseeds itself.
The husk, which is slightly bullet
shape, folds back to reveal a bright red cherry-tomato like fruit.
Interior flesh is yellow and seeds resemble cherry tomato seeds. Its
texture is similar to a raspberry and the taste is tart like a sour
cherry. They smell like fish.
Use as you would tomatoes. A
healthy plant will produce about a quart of fruit each. Some folks
like to put them thought a sieve to remove the seeds. They respond
well to some sweetness added when using in recipes, which then gives
them a sweet and sour taste.
Grow in pots because it will
reseed and spread.
Pipicha (Porophyllum linaria)
and papalo (Porophyllum ruderale)
- Sow indoors at the end of March
(about 10 weeks before the last frost).
- Transplant in the garden after
the last frost
- These plants don't require much
- You can harvest the seeds in
late summer and sow them the following year.
Just like tomatillos, cilantro is relatively easy to take care of.
Plant in a pot with good soil in early spring or late summer/fall.
It’s better to grow from seeds because they don’t transplant well.
- (not cilantro)
Culantro is a leafy herb in the
same family as parsley, celery and carrots. In the United States, it
is often confused for the similarly spelled, cilantro, which also
shares a similar aroma flavor profile, furthering the confusion. The
two herbs are unrelated; botanically, Culantro is classified as
Eryngium foetidum. In addition to being mislabeled as cilantro, the
herb is sometimes called Saw-toothed mint and Long-leafed coriander or
called “cilantro de hoja ancha,” meaning ‘wide-leaf cilantro’
in Spanish. Thanks to the increasing popularity of Puerto Rican,
Caribbean and other Latin American cuisines Culantro is becoming more
well-known outside of its native region.