Grow tropical plants that provide edible indoors!

Grow tropical plants that provide edible indoors!

Photo: Sokolenko

What can you grow for edibles indoors besides lettuce, shoots and herbs, one of our readers wondered. Our garden expert Anders Stålhand suggests tropical edible plants, which provide fruits, spices and vegetables.

The indoor environment for tropical plants

The first thing to keep in mind when growing indoors is that the temperature should be more or less constant throughout the year. Then plants from tropical areas thrive excellently. For most people, however, it gets far too dark in the winter, so it can be good to get some plant lighting. Then just shop around among the seeds of tropical vegetables and fruits!

Good tropical plants that bear fruit

Here are some of Anders' favorites:

Dwarf pomegranate. Pomegranate can be found for sale as an ornamental plant a little now and then; most often dwarf pomegranate Punica granatum ‘Nana’. It will be a small plant of 80 - 100 centimeters, whose orange-red flowers will be pomegranate-sized plums in late summer. The ones I have received have been terribly sour, but fantastically luxurious.

Dwarf pomegranate is suitable for indoor cultivation. Here is the beautiful red flower. Photo: (C) BRAMSIEPE

Banana. Succeeding in getting fruit on a banana plant indoors may be perceived as a utopia - but it probably happens. The banana plant itself is relatively easy to get hold of and very fun to grow. If it gets a lot of water and nutrients, it grows extremely fast. It basically puts one leaf a week and they grow up to one meter long and 30 centimeters wide. The variety that is best suited for indoor cultivation is Muse ‘Dwarf Cavendish’; a relatively small plant, 2 - 2.5 meters high. In order for it to be encouraged to bear fruit, a longer drying period followed by more moisture can help.

Both pineapple and banana can be grown indoors, if you choose the right varieties. Photo: Copyright by Sutisa Kangvansap

Pineapple. It's hard to imagine anything more tropical than pineapple Pineapple comosus and in a south window it is actually possible to get a harvest. There are dwarf varieties that are sometimes for sale, otherwise you can take the top of a fresh pineapple and root it in water or sandy soil. When it takes root, it is planted in well-fertilized soil. It is also good to water with manure water. After about three years, you can expect fruiting. It is important not to overwater. You also see in some cultivation descriptions that you should water in the rosette, but since we do not have quite as hot as in their natural cultivation environments, there is a risk that you get root rot so it is better to water in the pot or on the pot barrel. The pineapple withstands drought extremely well but only grows if it has access to moist soil.

Ginger produces edible tubers. You dig up and save some for new plants, just like with Jerusalem artichokes. Photo: Sutisa Kangvansap

Ginger. If you get fresh ginger Official Zingiber in the grocery store you can see green shoots at the ends of the tubers. Even a little more ordinary old ginger can develop green shoots if you plant it. The shoots nourish the root, which grows and becomes larger and can then be harvested. The root piece can be as big, or small, as you like when you plant it, but it is important that it is undamaged at one end. Plant it just below the soil surface in ordinary potting soil. The stems are about one meter high and need a lot of light and nutrition, but can give a twice as large tuber in six months. Save a piece and plant again and you will soon be self-sufficient in ginger!

Monstera can give nice fruits if you are lucky! Photo: Sokolenko

Monstera. The classic 60s and 70s potted plant monstera Delicious monster has received a popularity boost in recent years. It gets very large, green leaves with a graphic hole pattern. When it is bright, it can bloom and form a strange, delicate fruit flask, which the deliciosa species gossip about. The fruit is first green and later slightly orange, and relatively soon the outer skin falls off into hexagonal pieces. Then you can scrape off a white pulp that tastes a bit like a mixture between banana and pineapple. The monster belongs to the cold plants and the sap contains silicon needles, as does the unripe fruit, so it does not hurt to be completely sure that it is ripe before eating it.

The passion flower is not only beautiful, it can deliver good fruits. Photo: Sutisa Kangvansap

Passion flower. A relatively common potted plant - with an ordinary fruit - is the passion flower Passiflora caerulea. But it is unusual for it to bear fruit indoors even though it is easy to grow. First, it needs more than one genetic individual to bear fruit. Passion flowers from the store are usually propagated by cuttings, and are then genetically identical. Either you can sow passion fruit yourself, then you know for sure that you get different individuals, or you can look for plants with different colors of the flower. It can also be tricky to get a seeded plant to bloom. It can spur the flowering to leave the window ajar so that the plants get a little cooler nights.

Malabar spinach grows in beautiful vines and the leaves are harvested and used just like spinach. Photo: Colourbox

Malabar spinach. The winding plant malabarspenat Basella rubra, with red, decorative, small fruits, can be grown from seed and it is usually also available for purchase as a potted plant. The leaves are used in the same way as spinach and in one year it can grow up to 2.5 meters high if it thrives. Malabar spinach would like to stand in an east, south or west window. It wants ordinary potting soil and is watered with nutrients once a week.

Move the tropical plants

Malabar spinach, passion flower and dwarf pomegranate feel good to be moved out during the summer, the others think that our cool nights get a little too cool. You get used to the former gradually by rinsing them out (they can stand outside for a few hours during the day and move in during the night, or alternatively covered with fiber cloth). Do not let them stand in the scorching sun, because they are not used to such strong light inside, and can easily get burnt dull leaves.

Extracts from The experts ALL ABOUT GARDEN no. 14/2019

Garden Malabar spinach

A few years ago, my goal was to grow a whole salad of locally grown vegetables. I already had tomatoes in our windows, as well as jungle cucumber and transplanted chives from the regular grocery store. What I missed and that did not work to grow in our windows was the crispy salad. No matter how we behaved, it did not work out.

Malabar spinach can be planted with other plants in large vessels. Here it is co-planted with eggplant. Photo: Johannes Wätterbäck

Love at first sight
I started looking online for a leafy vegetable that could replace lettuce and that could grow in semi-sunny eastern windows and give a decent yield of leafy greens. It was there and when I found the malabar spinach and love arose already the first season, not only because it gave lots of leafy greens but because it is also beautiful and gave a lot of its own seed. After the first growing season, I became self-sufficient in my own seeds.

Favorite that has it all
Today, malabar spinach is a crop I do not want to be without and it is not only from the edible perspective, but at least as much from the aesthetic. Few crops can so proudly use a window or blend in with chili, corn or eggplant and give that little extra to create a beautiful dynamic in the vegetable gardens. Red malabers spinach, Basella alba ‘Rubra’, which is the species we mainly grow today, is green with pink-purple elements. The flowers are pink which when they ripen into seeds turn purple-purple, almost black. Malabar spinach is the plant we have received the most questions about in our public urban farms and it is mostly for its beautiful appearance.

Malabar spinach cultivation in Bangladesh. Malabar spinach is popular in large parts of Asia and is often used for seafood and in various types of stews. Photo: Malcolm Manners / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

No spinach
Malabar spinach, Basella alba, and red malabar spinach, Basella alba ‘Rubra’, belongs to the malabar spinach genus Basella and are tropical liana-like plants native to southern Asia. They are not related to spinach, despite the name. Malabar spinach is also called wine spinach, Ceylon spinach and Caucasian spinach. The word "malabar" comes from a coastal strip in India. In its area of ​​origin, you can come across malabar spinach in the wild and it is used for soups and stews, among other things.

Malabar spinach in the kitchen
Both top shoots, flowers and unripe seeds are widely used in Asian cuisine. In our kitchen, however, it is most popular as a spinach substitute either in pie or as butter tossed with freshly grated nutmeg and a splash of lemon. From time to time it happens that I nibble on some fresh leaves when I stuff in the garden. The taste is a little juicier than traditional spinach and has a clear spiny iron tone. Fresh shredded leaves fit well in a salad. For consistency, the leaves of the malabar spinach are thicker than the leaves of the regular spinach and are like something in between spinach and succulent leaves.

Harvest seeds
Seeds are harvested when they have become almost black. They need to be removed from the plant parts for them to dry. Dry the seeds on a plate for a few weeks at room temperature. The germination is about 3-5 years. The strong color that the seeds give off is relatively easy to wipe away from wood and plastic if the accident occurs, but the color sticks easily and for a long time to the skin.

Grow indoors with plant lighting

Choose lamp according to your needs. Here from left: Gemini which is clamped to a shelf or window frame. In the middle Primula which becomes a nice spot on the kitchen's herb garden. To the left built-in plant lamp in one cultivation station from our range of products for hydroculture.

In general, plants need light 12-16 hours a day to develop optimally.
How much and what kind of light the plant needs varies depending on what phase it is in and what type of plant it is.

Grow edible on the balcony

Pre-cultivation of mixed lettuce indoors for early planting.

You do not have to have a home garden or allotment to grow your own edible vegetables and berries. If you live in the city with access to a patio or balcony, then you have the world's conditions for growing! Not all plants are so suitable for growing in pots, due to the fact that they give a small harvest in relation to the soil volume required, but depending on other conditions such as wind and sun access, everyone can find something that fits.

Greenspire garden consultant dill herbs herbs vegetables potted plants pots

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Lettuce is one of the most suitable plants for pot cultivation because it is a fast crop that does not require much soil. A warm and porous, soil-containing soil with good water holding capacity is ideal. Constant moisture is not good for the young plants. A reasonably sheltered location favors growth, but it should preferably not be too sun-fried and warm. Then the lettuce can go into stock, ie start to bloom. Therefore, it can be good to grow lettuce under other, slightly taller plants that shade the lettuce slightly.

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You do the earliest lettuce sowing indoors in peat pots or seed boxes. Plastic boxes from loose candy are not stupid boxes! You can do this from March 15 to later plant out pre-cultivated plants. Suitable depth 1-2 cm. The seeds usually germinate within about a week. Water as soon as the soil dries up and fertilize water during the summer every week. The lettuce can be harvested after 7-10 weeks, depending on the variety.

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The Chinese chives are a perennial onion that is reminiscent in taste of mild garlic and is an excellent balcony plant. You use the leaves as rock green on food continuously during the season. The white flowers, which come in autumn, are also edible. The chives are sown about 1 cm deep in March. Put about 15-20 seeds in a small pot, which may form a tuft. The Chinese chives have a fairly long development period in the first year, but in early autumn you can start harvesting. As the plant overwinters, it produces fresh rock green from next spring again.

Chinese chives are easy to grow and thrive in a rich, sandy soil. Since the plant will stand for several years, it is good to give it a good soil from the beginning. Ordinary planting soil can be mixed with sandbox sand and fertilized with Algomin before planting. Remember to choose a pot that can withstand frost without freezing.

Broad beans grow with a little support like small shrubs. They are grateful to grow on balconies, as they are relatively cold-resistant. As they can withstand both wind and frost better than ordinary break beans, they can be sown early. Pre-cultivation starts from March-April and they are planted out on their growing site a month later.

Greenspire Garden Consultant Gardener Garden Advisor Growing Tips Farmer Bean Field Bean

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The farm bean wants strong, nitrogen-rich soil from the beginning, so feel free to give it a soil mixed with composted cow manure or pelleted chicken manure and bone meal. A little Algomin in early summer may be a suitable support fertilizer, but during growth the bean creates its own nitrogen fertilizer through the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live on the plant's roots. The soil must not dry out, so do not choose too small a pot.

The beans are harvested throughout the summer, preferably as young and young. You only eat the beans inside, because the pods are mostly quite woody and hard. They are suitable for stirring in a little olive oil, flavored with lemon juice and salt or hastily pre-cooked in a summer salad.

Greenspire Garden Consultant Gardener Garden Advice Blueberry Bush American Blueberries

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Blueberries are an exciting shrub that fits just as well on a balcony as in the open air. The hybrid blueberries are quite hardy, give a rich harvest and become decorative shrubs with beautiful autumn color. What distinguishes blueberries from many other balcony plants is the requirement for acidic soil. It is best to take ready-mixed rhododendron soil, which is airy and moisture-retaining, with a low pH. You can improve the nutritional content during the summer with fertilizer for acid soil plants. But the most important thing of all is to take care of the watering, so the bush does not dry out.

Hybrid blueberries are available in different varieties, both high-bush and low-bush. The lower ones are better suited for pot cultivation. Choose from varieties such as 'Putte', 'Hele', 'Brunswick', 'Northblue' and 'Northcountry'. Feel free to choose two different varieties to ensure good pollination and fruiting. The berries ripen in batches during late summer. You can usually pick for a fairly long period, as not all berries ripen at the same time. Different varieties also have different ripening times.

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During late winter-early spring, you can prune the oldest branches to rejuvenate the bush and force new shoots. But do not remove too much old, as the bushes give berries on branches that are two years or older. Blueberries can be underplanted with any ground-covering acid soil plant such as all-wild berries, quail berries (not edible), cranberries or cloudberries. All of these are well suited for a well-moistened peat soil.

Grow edible on the windowsill

Continue to grow indoors when it's autumn. We visited Tora Råberg in Malmö, who grows food on the windowsill.

By Anette Sievers, Published 2010-09-21 14:54, updated 2015-11-23 08:07

Stairs offer unimaginable cultivation opportunities, with their large windows. Photo: Andreas Larsson

Briefly about Tora Råberg

Bor: Apartment in Malmö

Working: Horticulturist and garden consultant


Dreaming about: That more people will discover the joy of growing edible plants on the windowsill, balcony or in the garden.

Three good leafy vegetables

Malabar spinach is a heat-loving vine, which grows rapidly. Thrives to cling to string or trellis. Good in, for example, wok and pie.

New Zealand spinach is not related to spinach, although it has a clear spinach taste. Withstands drought. Does not form nitrite as easily as regular spinach.

Sareptasenap, 'Osaka purple', is a type of cabbage plant used as a salad vegetable, rich in vitamins and minerals. Grows fast. Good access to water and nutrients gives a milder taste.

Five good herbs

1. Lemongrass is easy to handle inside. All parts of the plant above ground can be used in cooking. If you want to pull up grass quickly, use fresh chalks from oriental shops as cuttings.

2. Lemon balm can handle most things, both outside and inside. Want to stand bright and not so wet inside.

3. Chive manages life on the windowsill well. Top so that there is five centimeters left in the pot, and it will come again.

4. Oregano needs a lot of light and gets to rank branches indoors, as well as relative marjoram.

5. Thyme gets brittle stems inside, but is fairly easy to survive.

Lemongrass is easy to grow and gives a fresh lemon taste to the wok. The whole plant can be used.

Malabar spinach does not need much light and grows quickly.

Vines swing around the window and physalis hang like bells on lush plants. In the kitchen window are small pots with spices in a row. It is green and beautiful at Tora Råberg's home in Malmö, but the plants are also good.

- There are lots of food and spices that can be grown indoors. I wish more people would like to test, says Tora.

She shares the apartment with her partner and some good friends. The plantations are of course in their own room, but also in the common areas. Tora does not use extra light when we visit, but will get it before the winter. New low-energy light bulbs for plants in a standard light bulb shape make it easy. If you live in Sweden and also on the ground floor, there are few plants that do well with the light that is given when it is darkest.

- But the plants I grow can do with a little light, for example malabar spinach, says Tora and shows loops with funny black seeds that cling around the window.

In its natural environment malabar spinach swings on trees in the rainforest and there it is hot and dark, not unlike the indoor environment - if you exclude moisture. The seeds do not germinate until after several weeks, but then the vigor is enormous. Another favorite in the south window is lemongrass, which also grows fast. The blades of grass can be finely chopped and used in pots, even if it is the swollen stems that are usually used.

Many other leafy vegetables in Asian cuisine can be sown late in the season and grown both indoors and outdoors. They often tolerate some frost, if you want to grow on the balcony for adventure. For example, tatsoi can withstand temperatures down to minus ten degrees. Many also overwinter outside and give an early harvest.

- I do not grow ordinary salad, because it contains less iron and is not so tasty, says Tora.

In the backyard between the four-storey houses grow Tora vegetables well into the autumn, including tomatoes.

- It is so boring with all the deserted backyards where everything has to be swept and raked and there must not be a seed anywhere. I think more people would grow if they were encouraged by the landlord, she says.

The edible plants you have outside can be taken in when the frost comes and thus extend the season. Some spices, for example, often survive all winter on the windowsill, such as chives and oregano.

Tora's lifelong interest in cultivation has resulted in a professional activity as a horticulturist and garden consultant. She also holds courses in urban cultivation. Organic farming is obvious to Tora and she is also inspired by the ideas in "permaculture", which strives for the household to become an ecological cycle with its own food and energy supply.

- I want to be close to my cultivation, so that I can immediately see if the plants need water or care in any way. Then the window sill is perfect, says Tora. My plants never have to suffer from water stress and I see any vermin immediately.

1. Choose to grow in windows with morning light, if possible. This makes it easier for the plant to charge energy.

2. So new every few months, you always have fresh greens and the risk is not as great that you suddenly run out of vegetables.

3. Poke certain plant parts into the soil, so you get fertilizer and a more natural micro-life in the soil.


Turn the oven to 175 degrees. Mix butter, flour and salt until it has a crumbly consistency, preferably in a food processor. Pour in ice cold water and mix quickly to a dough. Press it into a pie pan and notch the surface with a fork. Bake the pie crust in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. Fry the finely chopped leaves in rapeseed and spring onion oil together with the onion until they have all lost their elasticity. Salt with herbal salt to taste. Spread the milled leaves, feta cheese and sunflower seeds in the pie crust. Whisk together eggs and milk and season with black pepper and herb salt. Bake in the oven for 30 min.

3 dl wheat flour
150 g butter or ghee
0.5–1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water

1-2 dl chopped cherry cabbage leaves
1 dl chopped onion stalk leaves
200-300 g chopped malabar spinach leaves
1 clove of garlic
1 medium chopped onion
4 eggs
2.5 dl milk
1 teaspoon herbal salt to taste
0.5–1 dl sunflower seeds
150–300 g feta cheese cut into cubes
3-5 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons ramson oil
A little freshly ground black pepper or chili powder