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Spinach 'Red Malabar'

Basella alba

Photo: Spinach 'Red Malabar'

General description

Red Malabar spiniach is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine.  Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavor and mucilaginous texture. The flowers, borne on axillary spikes or branching peduncles are bisexual and inconspicuous. The fruits are fleshy and purplish black and the juice is sometimes used as a dye.

Plant requirements

Malabar spinach grows eight to ten feet tall and wide and produces inconspicuous white-tinged pink flowers in its leaf axils. Upon fertilization, the flowers develop into small, highly ornamental, single-seeded purple berries. 

Maintenance

Malabar spinach excels in warm, tropical areas, where it can easily grow a foot per day. It's intolerant of any chills; thus, the only regions in the U.S. where it would be perennial are the Deep South or southern Florida. Gardeners in colder climates can grow it as an annual.

Practical use

The succulent leaves and stem tips are rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron and calcium. They may be eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. Or you can use them as a filling for quiche, omelets, savory turnovers, and potpies. Since red-stemmed Malabar spinach can lose a lot of its red color when cooked, perhaps it is best utilized (visually speaking) in raw dishes.

Properties

Height
1 - 410 cm
Color
  •   
Soil type
Loam
Sand
Sunlight
Full sun
Moisture
Moist but well-drained
Hardiness
Needs protection