SPINACH, Red Malabar
Seeds per packet- 30
Germination 97% Packed for 2024
Red Malabar spinach, scientifically known as Basella alba 'Rubra', is a tropical climbing vine that is highly valued both as an ornamental plant and as a leafy vegetable. Unlike true spinach (Spinacia oleracea), which thrives in cooler temperatures, Malabar spinach loves heat and humidity, making it an excellent choice for summer gardens in warmer climates. Red Malabar spinach is a resilient and low-maintenance plant that can add both beauty and functionality to gardens, providing fresh greens throughout the hotter months when traditional spinach would not survive.
Native to India and Indonesia (Malabar is a coastal region in southwestern India), Malabar spinach has similar green leaves and mild flavor as the greens in the spinach family. However, the plant, also called Indian spinach or Ceylon spinach, is not actually a spinach, but a member of the Basellaceae family. Unlike most greens we enjoy, it thrives in high heat and quickly twines up trellises in heat that would wilt most gardeners. As the days get shorter in later summer, it produces flowers, which marks the end of the edible stage.
The plant features glossy, heart-shaped leaves that are deep green with a red-purple tinge, especially along the veins and stem, giving it a distinctive and attractive appearance. The vines have a vibrant red or purple hue, which becomes more pronounced as the plant matures. The stems are thick, succulent, and twining, allowing the plant to climb up supports. It produces small, inconspicuous white or pink flowers in the summer, which then turn into deep purple or red berries. The berries are edible but are primarily used for natural food coloring.
Malabar spinach can grow quite rapidly in the right conditions, often reaching heights of 6 to 10 feet or more. It requires a trellis, fence, or some form of support to climb on. It is a perennial in tropical climates but is often grown as an annual in temperate zones where it cannot survive the winter frost.
The leaves and young stems of Red Malabar spinach are edible and have a mild, slightly peppery flavor with a succulent texture. They can be used raw in salads, or cooked in a similar way to spinach, making them a versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes. The leaves are particularly popular in Asian and African cuisines, where they are used in stir-fries, soups, and curries. Malabar spinach is rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and other minerals, making it a nutritious addition to the diet.
Red Malabar Spinach prefers a sunny location but can tolerate partial shade. The plant needs a rich, fertile, and well-draining soil to thrive. Regular watering is necessary, especially in dry conditions, but the soil should not be waterlogged. Red Malabar spinach is easily propagated from seeds or cuttings. The seeds are usually sown directly into the ground in spring or started indoors in cooler climates. Aside from its culinary value, Red Malabar spinach is also grown for its ornamental appeal, particularly in landscape designs that utilize vertical space.