Malabar spinach originates from south-west Asia. It's a perennial climbing plant that can only be grown as an annual in our Dutch climate. Its heart-shaped, dark green leaves are edible and can be used as a substitute for spinach. This species has red stems and dark green to purple-red leaves. This plant is related to the Ulluco. Regular spinach, unfortunately, can't be grown in summer, but Malabar spinach, on the contrary, can because this plant originally comes from a warm tropical climate. The taste of the leaves is somewhat similar to spinach, only spicier and more citrus-like.
Malabar spinach is mainly used in Asian cuisines. Malabar spinach is a very healthy vegetable. It contains many different vitamins and minerals. Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and C. And minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Apart from these, the leaf also contains proteins, carbohydrates and lots of water. The leaf can be used in soups, salads, stir-fries and curries. It's a leafy vegetable that is usually not cooked for long, but added at the last moment. If the leaf and especially the stems are cooked for a long time, it becomes slimy just like Okra. The leaf can be combined with rice, dal, onions, prawns, fish, yam and onions. Non hardy perennial. Height: 200 - 1000 cm.
Pre-soak: 12 - 24 hours
Indoor sowing: middle of April - May
Germination: 10 - 21 days
Germination temp.: 20 - 27 °C
Sowing depth: ½ cm
Plant distance: 20 - 40 cm
Plant position: sunny and sheltered
Days till harvest: 50 - 75 days
As the seeds of Malabar spinach are very hard, it's wise to soak the seeds in lukewarm water for 12 - 24 hours before sowing to facilitate germination. It's also possible to sand the hard seeds very gently with some sandpaper (scarification) this also helps germination.
Sow the seeds from mid-April onwards in small pots filled with well-moistened soil. Ensure a high germination temperature (20 - 27 °C) and keep this temperature as even as possible. A temperature lower than 20 °C makes no sense. Place the filled pots in a propagator to control the temperature and humidity as much as possible. Especially at night, don't let the temperature drop. Use a spray bottle to moisten the plants when necessary.
Since Malabar spinach comes from a subtropical climate, it's important that temperatures are high before putting the plants outside. The temperature at night shouldn't fall below 15 °C. So it's important to put the plants outside only once night temperatures are high. So this may mean putting the plants outside in a sunny place with shelter and good drainage from June.
Especially in the beginning, it may take some time for the plants to start growing, but at daytime temperatures around 30 °C, the plants will start to grow in height. Malabar spinach can be grown in many different soil types. It's very important to keep the plant moist at all times. So, especially during drought, be careful not to let the plant dry out. So keep the plant moist but not wet. Good drainage is important here. As Malabar spinach is a climbing plant and grows mostly in height, it's best grown like green beans and runner beans. These varieties are grown along climbing frames and along bamboo climbing poles. Like all other leafy greens, Malabar spinach needs a lot of nitrogen. Fertilise the plants every week with a liquid fertiliser such as: liquid tomato food.
Harvest from the plants only after they are set in the open ground (June) and then wait at least 50 days before you start picking the leaves. The leaves are best prepared as fresh as possible. If really necessary, the leafs can be kept in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the fridge for 1 - 2 days. It's not possible to freeze the leaf. As this plant is not hardy in our climate, it's grown as an annual. However, it's possible to overwinter the plant as a houseplant.