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Growing Malabar Spinach

Are you looking for a hardy, heat-loving spinach that can withstand both hot and cold temperatures? If so, you should look no further than Malabar spinach! This fast-growing, nutrient-rich plant is an excellent choice for overwinter production due to its extreme cold hardiness and its ability to store more sugar in its vasculature as the temperature decreases—acting as a natural anti-freeze. From its high levels of vitamins A and C, to its magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and protein content, Malabar spinach has a lot to offer! Keep reading to learn more about how to grow and harvest this amazing plant.

Planting and Eating Malabar Spinach

Growing Malabar spinach from seed can be a rewarding experience. To get started, the seeds should be planted indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. After 10 days to three weeks, germination should begin to occur. To quicken this process, you can try scarifying (such as filing or sanding) the tough seed coat or soaking them in water overnight prior to planting.

Once the seedlings have emerged, they should be transplanted outdoors in a sunny spot with moist soil. The leaves, tender shoots, and seed berries of Malabar spinach are all edible and can be used in a variety of dishes. There are many simple ways to incorporate this vegetable into your meals.

From stir-fries to salads, the possibilities are endless. After planting from seed, the days to maturity range from 70 to 85 days. With proper care and maintenance, you can expect your malabar spinach harvest in about two and a half months.

Aside from being a delicious addition to your meals, Malabar spinach also offers several nutritional benefits. It is an excellent source of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium and contains a high amount of protein for a plant. Moreover, malabar spinach contains a high amount of antioxidants such as beta carotene and lutein which help prevent your cells from aging naturally.

Moreover, the leaves and stem tips of Malabar spinach are rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron and calcium. You can eat this vegetable raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried or added to soups, stew, tofu dishes or curry.

Eating Malabar spinach daily can be beneficial in preventing bone degeneration (osteoporosis) and iron deficiency anemia. Furthermore, the diuretic properties of leaf juice can be useful in reducing fluid retention.

When deciding what to plant with Malabar spinach, it is important to note that they will not do well if planted next to potatoes. However, they make a wonderful companion for Brassicas, eggplant, leeks, lettuce, peas radishes and especially strawberries.

Despite the many health benefits of Malabar spinach, it is important to keep in mind that it contains a high amount of oxalic acid. If consumed in excessive amounts, this can lead to calcium-oxalate stones and hyperoxaluria. Therefore, moderation is key when adding this vegetable to your diet.

What makes Malabar spinach unique is that it contains a significant amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. As stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid, it is an essential omega-3 fatty acid present in both oils of Malabar spinach, allowing them to function as surfactants and softening agents in soaps, cosmetics, and detergents.

Growing and Collecting Malabar Spinach Seeds

Another unique feature of Malabar spinach is its ability to self-seed. Dropping berries can reseed the plant and allow volunteer seedlings to grow in your garden. If you want them to grow in a certain spot, you can always transplant them there instead. Additionally, the purple flesh of ‘Basella rubra’ can be used to make a richly colored dye as well.

Malabar spinach is considered a perennial in frost-free regions, meaning it will come back every year. It’s a climbing vine that thrives in hot temperatures and can even handle temperatures of up to 90°F (32°C). In cooler weather, the vines tend to creep rather than climb.

If you want to collect Malabar spinach seeds, let the plants go to seed in the garden. If it’s not a hybrid variety, its seeds will be true and will grow the same type of spinach. Once the seeds are in the garden, you can either collect them for next year or leave them to grow on their own.

Growing Malabar Spinach from Cuttings

Can you grow Malabar spinach from cuttings? The answer is yes. Cut the cutting to about 6” and place it just below a nodes to encourage root growth. Allow the vine to root in a growing medium and then pot it or plant directly in the desired area. While this method may take longer than starting with seeds, it can be an effective way of ensuring your crop thrives.

When it comes to malabar spinach, temperature plays an important role in its growth. To ensure optimal growth, the ambient temperature needs to reach at least 80°F or even exceed 90°F. Growth is retarded when the temperature falls below 80°F and it cannot survive in climates where temperatures are consistently below 60°F, so be sure to take this into consideration when deciding on a planting location. Furthermore, Malabar spinach cannot tolerate frost.

When it comes to spacing, Malabar spinach requires one to two feet apart when sowing seeds that are planted one inch deep in well-drained soil. In 2-3 weeks, sprouts will appear and the same spacing can be used for planting transplants. To maximize its growth potential, consider planting your Malabar spinach near a fence or trellis so that it has something to climb on as it grows.

The spinach from the Malabar region is a vigorous climber that requires support and will overtake other plants quickly.

The best time to grow it is in full sun and it likes moist soil with a pH level between 6.5 and 6.8. Growing Malabar spinach in pots, on a trellis or wall is possible as long as you provide adequate support for the vines.

How to Harvest Malabar Spinach

Harvesting Malabar spinach is relatively straightforward. There is no trick to harvesting Malabar spinach. The leaves and tender new stems should be snipped with scissors or a knife when they are 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) long. Aggressive pruning by Malabar will not harm the plant, so feel free to take as much as you need from your crop without fear of damaging it. If the vine continues growing, it will quickly re-shoot and produce more leaves for harvest in no time.

At the end of the growing season, Malabar spinach will set flowers. These will be followed by deep purple drupes (berries) that contain seeds. You can save these for next year’s planting if you dry them out whole. Dropping berries can also reseed Malabar spinach, so it is possible to have a self-sustaining crop with minimal effort.

When the plant begins to bolt, it is best to pull it up and use the leaves. To slow down bolting, you should pinch off the flower/seed heads, keep the soil moist, and provide some shade.

Propagating and Freezing Malabar Spinach

Once the plants begin to flower, the leaves of Malabar spinach can become bitter. However, if you have a large harvest at the end of the season, you can freeze it for later use. To do this, first wash off any dirt or debris from your Malabar spinach and then boil it for a couple of minutes. Allow it to cool before transferring it into an air-tight container and placing in your freezer. This will help preserve its flavor and texture so that you can enjoy its nutritional benefits all year round.

Propagating Malabar spinach is relatively easy. Vine tip cuttings and stems can be used to grow more of this plant. You can either plant them directly into most soils and keep them moist, or let them root in water before planting. If you choose the latter option, ensure that the water is changed regularly to prevent it from becoming stagnant.

Growing Malabar Spinach in Winter

Does Malabar spinach grow in winter? As a tropical plant, Malabar spinach is extremely frost-sensitive; not only does it die in cold temperatures, it requires heat in order to thrive. You won’t see much growth at daytime temperatures below 80 degrees F and nighttime temperatures below 60 degrees F. When growing Malabar spinach during the colder months of the year, you will need to provide some extra protection such as a cold frame or greenhouse. This will help keep the temperature warm enough for optimal growth and development. Additionally, you may also want to consider using an overhead heater or row cover with stakes and strings to support it if necessary. If you live in an area where winter temperatures drop significantly (below 60°F), then your best bet would be to grow this vegetable indoors instead of outdoors during this season. To do this, start by planting your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date for your area and make sure that temperature remains above 80°F at all times once germination begins. You can then transplant them outdoors once all danger of frost has passed or keep them inside until next spring if necessary

. Additionally, you may also want to consider growing spinach in a container that can be brought indoors when the temperatures drop too low. Despite its tropical origins, spinach is actually quite cold hardy and can survive all winter if given the proper protection. The plant has more sugar in its vasculature as the temperature decreases, which acts as an anti-freeze to protect it from freezing temperatures.


Malabar spinach is a great plant for home gardeners and is a great choice for regions with mild climates. It is a vigorous climber and requires a trellis or other means of support, and it grows optimally in temperatures of at least 80°F. It is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, added to soups, stew, tofu dishes, and curry. It can be planted from seeds or cuttings, and is easy to harvest. It is a great companion plant and can be a source of dye, soap, and surfactants. For those looking for a unique plant to grow in their garden, Malabar spinach is a fantastic choice.