What is Malabar Spinach: Tips for Growing and Using Malabar Spinach

Malabar spinach is not a real spinach, but its foliage resembles that of a green leafy vegetable. Also known as Ceylon spinach, crawling spinach, mistletoe, chard, bratan, libato, vine spinach and Malabar’s nightshade, Malabar spinach is a member of the Basellaceae family. Basella alba is a green-leaved variety, while the red-leaved variety belongs to the species B. rubra , which has purple stems. If it is not spinach itself, what is Malabar spinach?

What is spinach juggling?

Juggling spinach grows in India and all the tropics, mainly in the low wetlands. Although the dark green leaves resemble those of spinach, it is a vine type plant that grows at high temperatures, even above 90 F. (32 C.) Cool temperatures make Malabar spinach crawl. It is grown as an annual, but grows as a perennial in frost-free areas.

Malabar spinach care

Juggling spinach grows well in a variety of soil conditions, but prefers fertile, moist soil with lots of organic matter and a soil pH between 6.5 and 6.8. Malabar spinach can grow partly in the shade, which increases leaf size, but it greatly prefers exposure to heat, moisture and sunlight.
Malabar spinach also needs constant moisture to prevent flowering, which would cause the leaves to become bitter: a warm, rainy climate is ideal for the care and optimal growth of Malabar spinach.
The vine should be trellised and two plants are sufficient for most families during the summer and autumn growing season. It can even be grown on the same trellis as peas, truly using the space in the garden. If grown as an ornamental food, the vines can be trained to pass through doors. To prune Malabar spinach, simply cut off the thick, fleshy leaves while keeping some of the stem.

How to grow juggled spinach

Juggling spinach can be grown from seeds or cuttings. If the stems are too hard to eat when pruned, simply put them back into the ground where they will take root again.
Scarify the seed with a file, sandpaper or even a knife to speed up germination, which will take three weeks or more at temperatures between 18 and 24°C. Sow Malabar spinach seeds directly in USDA Zone 7 or warmer, two to three weeks after the last frost date.
If you live in a colder area, start sowing indoors about six weeks before the last frost date. Wait until the ground has warmed up and there is no risk of frost before transplanting. Transplant seedlings about a foot away.

Use of Malabar spinach

Once you have a good crop to harvest, using Malabar spinach is like using regular green spinach. Deliciously cooked, Malabar spinach is not as viscous as other vegetables. In India, it is cooked with chilli peppers, chopped onions and mustard oil. Often found in soups, stir-fries and curries, Malabar spinach is more resistant than regular spinach and does not wilt as quickly.
Although when cooked, it tastes like spinach, Malabar raw spinach is a revelation of the juicy, crunchy flavors of citrus and pepper. It is delicious when mixed with other vegetables in mixed salads.
No matter how you use Malabar spinach, this discovery is a great help for those of us who love our greens but find the hot summer days a little too hot for their taste. Malabar spinach has its place in the garden because it provides fresh, crisp greens for those long, hot summer days.

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