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Malabar spinach - want some?

daninthedirt (USDA 9a, HZ9, CentTX, Sunset z30, Cfa)
3 years ago
last modified: 3 years ago

I have accumulated, over the last year or two, a hefty stash of dried red-stem Malabar spinach (Basella alba "Rubra") seeds. This stuff produces loads of seeds in the fall, and self-seeds regularly, so it's practically invasive. Want some?

This has turned into one of my most important summer salad vegetables for the last five or six years. Delicious heart-shaped green leaves that are an inch or two across. Swiss-chardy in taste. Leaves are slightly thick. A bit fleshy. It isn’t really a spinach, BTW. Good for cooking as well. I throw some in pizza, soups, and casseroles. Some people say they're "mucilaginous" and slimy when cooked. Doesn’t seem that way to me. My wife hates okra for that reason, and she loves this stuff. Very nutritious but, like spinach and many greens, it does contain oxalates.

It is one of the few greens that loves vicious summer heat and full sun, where it grows very fast. Doesn’t like shade. Native of India. When the temp is 105F, it's saying HOTTER! HOTTER! While everything else is wilting, it shows no sign of any stress. Likes moist soil, but is not demanding, irrigation-wise. It's a fast climber, and needs to be on a trellis. Mine regularly tops my 6-foot trellis. Astonishingly productive. The stuff is perennial to some extent, such that if you don’t have any freezes you can get multiple seasons out of it. Cuttings root easily.

Years ago, late in the summer, the leaves of mine seemed to get full of holes. It was suggested to me that might be a fungal infection. I now use Daconil and or copper regularly, and I never see that problem anymore.

I'm offering seeds, because I'd like to see this vegetable get more popular. Let me say that this is for warm climates. Malabar spinach is frost intolerant and is very slow-growing in cool weather (as in, below 80F). It will not even come up until the soil temp is above 70F. That’s mid-June for you northerners.

I'm offering it now because, in my experience, germination is tricky. If you just take the seeds and plant them, expecting them to come up in a week or two, they mostly won't. Commercial seed providers don't tell you that. The seed case is a dried berry, and pretty hard. You can scarify, but the seeds are small enough that you'll end up with scarified fingers and knuckles. What I do is plant them out A FEW MONTHS EARLY. Yep, I do it on New Years Day. The soil action gradually degrades the seed shell. This is exactly what happens when they self-seed. Then, when the soil is warm enough, BOOM, they all come up.

As I said, because of the seeds they drop, they’re somewhat invasive. The only reason I actually plant seeds is that I’d like for some to actually come up in a row. The volunteers don’t do that. In the attached picture, you can barely see tiny flowers and berries/seeds.

If you’re serious about this, just send me your address, I'll mail them off, and you can be a Malabarian too. Don't bother with SASE. I'll do this for a bunch of people, and call it a job done.

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