Summer is the beginning of the glut period of produce but it is also a time you can make a start on the real heat loving varieties. In fact the warm season in our country is so prolonged you could actually divide it into two planting seasons, spring and summer.
So with part 2 of the planting season upon us it's time to profile the 5 varieties that fancy (and we fancy) this time of the year the best;
1. Chilli: The chilli is the summer pro. Originating in the Americas and spread across the globe by Portuguese explorer Christopher Columbus, it was seen as a meaningful substitute to the pepper spice, that was so valuable in the 15th century it had become a currency in its own right.
Chillies demand a hot, sun drenched space, preferably up against a heat reflecting wall that helps to collect extra rays of warmth. Do not let its infatuation with heat throw the basic demands of the plant. Even the toughest dudes need food and water to survive.
2. Eggplant: everything about the eggplant says that it is will thrive in oppressive conditions. The leathery, waxy skin of the fruit, the sharp spikes on its neck and the tough, broad leaves of the plant. Closely resembling the tobacco plant (in looks and composition) the eggplant is a summer classic. For a quicker turnaround to production choose the slender striped or lebanese varieties that will mature earlier.
3. Cucamelon: this is our new favourite summer plant. No plant feels more comfortable and establishes with such ease as what the cucumelon does now. Being a climbing plant it is also a small space specialist that will happily clamber and climb over whatever growing frame you put in its way. This saves precious ground level real estate for the others.
The cucamelon, or Mexican cucumber, can also be grown as a perennial. Rather than rip out the entire plant come winter, cut it back to ground level and once the warm rays hit again it will begin where it left off.
4. Capsicum: A member from the Solanacecae family that includes other heat lovers - chilli and eggplant - the capsicum is best planted once the soil temperature has balanced out above a balmy 20 odd degrees. Like now. Much like its cousins, it is a heat loving variety, however that does not mean it enjoys baking out in the hot sun without refreshments.
Rather than rip out the plant and sow again the next season, well performing plants can be cut back to a bare skeleton and left dormant in-ground through winter (a bit like a polar bear). Next season the plant will reshoot and be a little stronger, a little hardier and a little better at producing (much like a polar bear).
5. Basil: if there's one thing basil loves, it's tomatoes, but something else it loves almost as much is the summer heat. The biggest trap that most growers fall into is planting it too early. Who can be blamed for craving the flavours of summer and jumping the gun a little early? So while most would think the opportunity to plant basil dissipates once that of tomatoes is gone, now is still an ideal time to plant this heat craving plant.
Other notable summer performers: shiso, red-veined sorrel, mushroom plant