Green Malabar Spinach - Delicious Summertime Green
With big glossy bright-green, heart-shaped leaves, and tender light green stems, this heat-loving plant will climb 6-10' in warm climates. While not a true spinach, it is remarkably spinach-like in flavor and is better suited to summer growing than spinach since it loves hot, humid weather. Malabar spinach produces loads of tender leafy greens from July through September or first frost.
Even though it’s not a true spinach it has a remarkably spinach-like in flavor with tastes of citrus and pepper. It holds up better in cooking as it doesn’t wilt as fast and retains its texture in soups and stir-fries. As with its reddish cousin the young leaves are the mildest and most tender and can be harvested almost continuously from the tops of the vines, along with the bright green shoots.
Thrives in warm weather and is tolerant of heat and humidity, unlike true spinach. Easy to grow and amazingly free of any pests and diseases. We like to plant it along a fence as a trellis, making it easier to harvest young leaves while strolling down one side then the other. Makes an excellent shade and wind barrier once established on a trellis or fence.
Other names include basella, ceylon spinach, climbing spinach, Surinam spinach, Indian spinach, slippery vegetable, Malabar nightshade, vine spinach, and vine vegetable.
Red Malabar spinach is the darker, red cousin.
Ideal for soups, salads and stir-fries. Young leaves and tips are used like spinach in cooking and salad. In Japanese restaurants breaded and fried leaves are often served as appetizers.
The tender, young leaves are excellent as fresh, raw greens for salads, wraps, sandwiches, smoothies, and toppings for burgers. Harvest the youngest leaves from the tops of the vines. Clip the shoots and add them to stir-fries, quiche, curries, and pasta.
In Zone 6 and colder, start seeds inside 6 weeks before the last frost to get a jump on greens production. Zones 7 and warmer can generally direct sow the week of the last frost, depending on the night-time temperatures that week. Soaking the seeds overnight before planting helps break dormancy and speed germination.
It can lag a bit until the weather warms up but growth will skyrocket once it reaches 80°F outside.
Rich, fertile soil produces many more leaves that are milder as they mature. Keep the soil moisture consistent to prevent energy being diverted to flower and seed production.
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Green Malabar Spinach
I'm in NW AZ (Zone 8b) and I planted this in early Spring (not knowing it was technically a summer crop) and got great results. It was a dream to grow and was the best tasting spinach I've ever planted. Even the stems were good and large leaves didn't turn bitter, but cooked up great. It's bolted now and I'm letting the two largest plants go to seed so I can grow it again this Fall. It just won a permanent place on my grow-it-every-year list. Mine did not get tall, nor did it attempt to take over like a weed. It stayed in the 4'x4' area of a 16'x4' raised bed and never got more than 2' tall. In my opinion it's taste is far superior to Bloomsdale Long Standing or New Zealand spinach.