Growing Malabar Spinach from seed is easy. Native to India and Indonesia, the plant is also known as Indian, creeping, Asian, Vietnamese, Surinam, Ceylonese and Chinese spinach. There are two varieties of Malabar Spinach, namely Green Malabar Spinach (Basella alba) and Red Stem Malabar spinach (Basella ruba). Both varieties taste and grow the same. The distinction between the two types is that Basella alba has green leaves and stems, whereas Basella ruba has burgundy stems and leaves with pink veins. Unlike true spinach, Malabar spinach thrives in hot climates, so it’s a perfect spinach substitute to grow in South Africa’s climate.
How to grow Malabar Spinach from seed
- Soaking the seeds in water overnight before planting or scarifying the seed with a file, sandpaper or even a knife, will speed up germination.
- Germination will take three weeks or longer at temperatures between 18-24 C.
- Start seed indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost date.
- Transplant in the garden once the soil has warmed, placing plants at least a foot apart.
- Seed may also be planted directly in the garden. Direct sow Malabar spinach seeds two to three weeks after the last frost date.
- Grow in rich, fertile, moisture-retentive soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade.
- Use a slow-release fertilizer.
Maintaining Malabar Spinach plants
Grow Malabar spinach in full sun. It does best in fertile, moist but well drained soils. Provide consistent moisture through the season, as the plants tend to go to flower if the soil gets too dry. Although the plants can be allowed to ramble or climb other vegetation, they are best grown on a sturdy trellis when grown as a vegetable. Prune the plants as much as needed by cutting off the leaves and stems to keep the desired shape or more dense growth. Pinching tips will encourage branching. This plant roots readily where the stems touch moist soil and is easily propagated from tip cuttings which root readily in water.
Harvesting Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach can be harvested as soon as the main stem is growing well. Snip the leaves and tender stems with scissors as needed throughout the season. Harvest before the vine flowers for the best flavor.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment offered by healthcare professionals.