Many people like to eat spinach throughout the year but true spinach doesn’t grow well in hot weather. There are a number of other plants that are grown to use as a spinach substitute. Malabar spinach, Basella alba, is a popular green leafy vegetable .This species in the family Basellaceae sometimes goes by other common names including Indian spinach,vine spinach,and climbing spinach. In addition to being edible, it can also be grown as an ornamental foliage vine.
- This fast-growing plant is a soft-stemmed, twining vine that can grow up to 10 feet long as an annual (longer as a perennial) but generally remains smaller in most gardens.
- The dark green, glossy, oval to heart-shaped leaves are thick and semi-succulent with a mucilaginous texture.
Soil and climate requirements:
- Basella Alba grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates. Growth is slow in low temperatures resulting in low yields Flowering is induced during the short-day months of the year.
- It grows best in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.
Seeds and flower production:
- Basella is stimulated to produce flowers under dry conditions or short-day conditions, so these are often not seen when grown as a garden plant.
- The inconspicuous white or pink elongated, globular, fleshy flowers are produced in short spikes in the leaf axils.
- The flowers are followed by ornamental, four-parted deep-purple to black berries (drupes). The tasteless red-purple juice of the fresh berries can stain and is used as a dye or food colorant in Asia. The fruits can be dried whole for planting the following year.
How to Grow Malabar Spinach:
- This warm season vegetable is very frost sensitive and should not be planted outdoors until a few weeks after all danger of frost has passed.
- Seeds should germinate in 10 days to 3 weeks. Mechanical scarification to open the tough seed coat (such as with a file, sharp knife or sandpaper) will hasten germination, as will soaking them in water overnight before planting.
- Malabar spinach can be grown from either seeds or cuttings. If the stems are too tough to eat when pruning, simply put them back into the soil where they will re-root.
- Wait to transplant until the soil has warmed and there is no chance of frost. Transplant the seedlings spaced about a foot apart.
Malabar Spinach Care:
Malabar spinach will grow well in a variety of soil conditions but prefers a moist fertile soil with plenty of organic matter and a soil pH of between 6.5 and 6.8.
Malabar spinach plants can be grown in part shade, which increases the leaf size, but it much prefers hot, humid and full sun exposures.
Malabar spinach also needs constant moisture to prevent the blossoming, which will turn the leaves bitter — ideally an area with a warm, rainy climate for optimal Malabar spinach care and growth.
The vine should be trellised and two plants are sufficient for most families through the summer and fall growing season. It can even be grown up the same trellis as peas, truly utilizing the garden space
Grown as an ornamental edible, the vines can be trained to climb over doorways. To prune Malabar spinach, simply cut the thick, fleshy leaves while retaining some stem.
Clip leaves as you need them in the kitchen. When lightly steamed or stir-fried, the leaves resemble a cross between spinach and chard
It is high in Vitamins A and C, as well as iron and calcium. It is a good source of plant-based protein, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and antioxidant
Usage of Malabar Spinach:
- Once you have a good crop to harvest, using Malabar spinach is just like using regular spinach greens. Delicious cooked, Malabar spinach is not as slimy as some other greens. Although when cooked it tastes much like spinach,
Malabar spinach raw is a revelation of juicy, crisp flavors of citrus and pepper. When it’s raw Malabar spinach has very fleshy, thick leaves that are juicy and crisp. It doesn’t wilt as fast, though, and it holds up better in soups and stir-fries.
Spinach, ornamental vine, vitamins, trellis, transplant, berries, cuttings, dye, scarification, succulent , glossy appearance ,spikes
Write up by:
Kavita B M