Enjoy homegrown, nutrient-packed greens all summer long with Malabar spinach. This heat-loving tropical vine grows with gusto while its cool-temperature-loving counterparts are turning bitter and heading for the compost pile. Thanks to heart-shape dark green leaves that taste like spinach and provide calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C, this vine is both nutritious and decorative. Grow it on a sturdy trellis, and it will provide structure in the garden along with bounty for the table. It also thrives in large containers or hanging baskets.
Growing Malabar Spinach in Vegetable Gardens
Don't hesitate to add Malabar spinach to perennial beds and annual borders. Like a handful of other vegetables, this good-looking green will add to the aesthetic of the space while providing health-enhancing produce. Other great vegetables for ornamental gardens include 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard, a leafy green prized for its nutrient content that boasts flashy red, orange, and yellow stems. Both the leaves and stems are edible. With their feathery tops, carrots also make great ornamental garden companions. So do miniature pepper plants, which are typically more compact than their sweet pepper relatives.
Malabar Spinach Care
Malabar spinach grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soil and full sun, although it will tolerate light shade. This plant does not like frost, nor does it perform well if nighttime temperatures consistently dip below 59°F. It requires consistent moisture to prevent flowering at summer's end, which causes the leaves to turn bitter.
Plant Malabar spinach from seed sown directly in the garden after the chance of frost has passed. It can also be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost. Malabar spinach takes 2 to 3 weeks to germinate. Hasten germination by scarifying the seeds, which means rubbing the seeds between two pieces of sandpaper to rough up the seed coat. Malabar spinach grows slowly when air temperatures are cool, but as soon as summer heat sets in it extends its vining stems at a rapid rate.
Shortly after planting, provide a sturdy climbing support—trellis, arbor, or fence—for your vining plants. (Two plants will serve a family's vegetable needs for the summer and fall growing season.) Once the vines begin to grow, weave them around the support so they can climb up the structure. Begin harvesting young leaves and tender shoot tips—which will be more tender than mature ones—about 55 days after seeding. Continue harvesting through summer.
More Varieties of Malabar Spinach
'Malabar Red Stem' spinach
Basella rubra 'Malabar Red Stem' features thick red stems that twine around any support that you provide for it. Use the medium-green leaves as you would spinach.