All About Malabar Spinach – Grow, Eat and Craft!

Malabar spinach is a leafy green from East Asia that is gaining popularity in home gardens everywhere.

Also known as acelga, bratana, ceylon spinach, Chinese spinach, Indian creeping spinach, climbing spinach and vine spinach, Malabar spinach is not technically a spinach but it acts like one with a more succulent texture. Belonging to the Basellaceae family of flowering plants, it is more related to Madeira vine than spinach.

Malabar spinach recipesWHAT DOES MALABAR SPINACH TASTE LIKE? Malabar spinach is an edible vine that has a thick, crunchy texture and lemon-peppery flavor.

WHAT TIME OF YEAR DOES MALABAR SPINACH GROW BEST? Malabar spinach grows well in hot weather. It will take off at the peak of summer, potentially reaching 10 feet tall and even hedge-like width! It is considered a tropical and semi-tropical plant, so if you live in a climate below USDA Zone 7 you will need to take special measures to grow it.

HOW CAN WE USE MALABAR SPINACH IN RECIPES? Add Malabar spinach to summer salads, sliced in omelets, as a wrap for veggies or lean meats, and directly picked as a refreshing snack. Malabar Spinach can hold up to the heat of soups ans stir fries a lot better than spinach. It won’t wilt as quickly. Spicy dishes are perfect for Malabar spinach. Add chilies, chopped onion and lots of garlic. Saute in herb, spicy and mustard oils. This is one green that works well in curry sauces.

IS MALABAR SPINACH EASY TO GROW? Fairly easy. Just wait until all threat of frost is gone and the soil temperatures are friendly enough for other warm weather crops such as squash, tomatoes and beans. See the below information for more detail.

WHY SHOULD I GROW MALABAR SPINACH? It grows vertically, so you need less space to enjoy this versatile treasure. It’s healthy for you and you can easily save the seed to grow more. Read on for on more amazing benefit!

Malabar Spinach DyeHOW CAN I USE MALABAR SPINACH SEED FOR CRAFTS? The seed berries can be used as a non-toxic dye for cloth, Easter eggs, frosting and to tint unfinished wood! Save the seeds to plant more the following summer and to reserve for craft and food projects. The seeds last at least 4 years!

HOW TO GROW MALABAR SPINACH? Remember these keywords: Full sun, fertile soil and regular moisture!

CLIMATE: You don’t want the plant to dry out because it will make the leaves bitter. in most areas it is an annual but in warmer climates it will comes back year after year. The seeds will also drop and sprout new vines. If you love in a cold climate with a short summer, start it indoors.

Early flowering is not so good. That means that your temperatures have dropped below 80 F and the leaves may not taste as fresh. Choose the warmest spot in your garden if you have days below 80 F in summer – a south facing wall or a protected area that gets loads of sun. If starting indoors before the last frost, transplant out a few weeks after the last frost. Plant with peas as a companion vine!

SEED: Plant your seed 1/4 inch deep and 18″ apart in fertile soil when temperatures reach 65 F to 75 F. Install a trellis or system for it to climb. It will take 14 to 21 days for sprouts to appear. Be patient. You can gently file the seed with a few swipes of an emery board to speed up germination.

PROPAGATE WITH CUTTINGS! Try growing more from cuttings!  Trim the vine to a section about 5-6″ in length and make sure to cut just below a node. Place it in well-draining soil and wait for it to grow roots. Place the cutting directly where you want it to grow or in a pot and transplant later.

FERTILIZER: We NEVER recommend “miracle-type” soil or fertilizer products. Avoid ALL synthetic soil amendments and fertilizers!  These add nothing to soil health and only promote fast growth that opens up plants to pest attacks and damage from the elements. Use compost free from chemicals and add kelp, worm castings or other natural materials for fertility, drainge and water retention. For a good article on perlite and vermiculite visit this post on Home Grown Fun.

I you like the idea of never using synthetic fertilizers and soil amendments again, check out our eBook that show you how to stay away from all synthetic products an make your own organic fertilizers and soil amendments from materials around the house!

HARVEST: It may take about 55 days for Malabar spinach to grow vigorously. But you can start to harvest leaves before that. If you want the plant to vine out and grow vertically, covering a large area, do not cut too much at first. If you want it to bush out more, trim it often leaving a few leaves on each runner to encourage growth.

If you are lucky enough to live in a warm climate or can maintain warm temperatures for a least a few months, give this beautiful, multi-purpose vine a try in your garden!