Malabar spinach is native to tropical Asia, so hot weather isn’t a problem. Unlike regular spinach, which bolts as soon as temperatures begin to rise, Malabar spinach grows best in summer. Malabar spinach isn’t a type of spinach. Instead, it is a distant cousin to amaranth, beets, cacti, and ice plants
Also known as Indian spinach and vine spinach, Malabar spinach contains high levels of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and manganese, and lots of soluble fiber. Young leaves are often used in salads. Crisp and juicy, they are said to taste like a cross between citrus and sweet peppers. Older leaves, which taste more like spinach, are steamed or boiled. Cooked Malabar spinach has a mouth-feel similar to okra. As such, Malabar spinach acts as a thickening agent in stews and other dishes. The flowers are edible, too.
How to grow Malabar spinach
These plants grow best in loose, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 5.5 to 8.0 and good drainage. Seeds, cuttings, and transplants can be started in early spring in a protected location. Seeds should be planted 1” deep. Once temperatures have warmed, move your Malabar spinach plant to a cattle panel, fence, or trellis. Plants should be spaced two feet apart.
As tropical plants, Malabar spinach needs consistent moisture. Water deeply and mulch around the plants to hold that moisture in place. You can grow Malabar spinach in partial shade, but it prefers full sun.
Malabar spinach pests and diseases
Malabar spinach has few problems for the home gardener. Leaf miners, root-knot nematodes, and tarnished plant bugs may cause feeding damage. Rotating Malabar spinach with amaranth or corn may minimize damage caused by root-knot nematodes. Fungal leaf spot diseases may also occur.
As productive and trouble-free as Malabar spinach is, you may want to give it a try in your garden.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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