One of the biggest challenges to gardening in Southeast Texas is the intense heat and humidity. One of my goals this year was to have greens all summer long. Anyone who knows anything about greens (lettuces, kale, collard, chard, spinach) knows that they do not tolerate heat well, so to find a green that does well during the hottest parts of the summer, is a huge gardening win.
This year I planted Malabar spinach, and it has not disappointed. Perhaps you haven’t heard of this vining plant. To be honest, I had not either until I started studying heat tolerant plants. Something else I learned is that this green is actually not even related to spinach. It is an edible vining plant that hails from Asia, India, and New Guinea. It goes by several names including red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach and Ceylon spinach.
Not only has it done well in the 95 degree weather, it has exploded. It loves the hot, humid climate of coastal Southeast Texas. It grows well in temperatures above 90 and will slow during the cooler temperatures, the opposite of most greens. My hope is that it will seed itself, and since it grows as a perennial in frost free areas, we may be able to enjoy it year after year.
The other advantage of Malabar is that it is a vining plant so I can utilize vertical space leaving room for other plants to be planted.
Growing Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach can be grown from either seeds or cuttings. Direct seeding can be done from zone 7 or higher. We live in zone 9 and had no problem doing direct seeding the first weekend in March. If you live in a chillier zone, start the seeds indoors at about six weeks before the last frost. Wait to transplant until the soil has warmed and there is no chance of frost. Be aware that it does have a long germination period, almost 3 weeks, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it sprouting as fast as your other greens.
“Malabar spinach is high in Vitamin A (100 grams contains roughly 8,000 units), Vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It has a high amount of protein for a plant and is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.” It also has antioxidants, particularly beta carotene and lutein.
This green can be used much like spinach. The leaves are thicker and fleshier so they hold up much better in sautés and soups. It can also be used in salads or steamed.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy Malabar is the following recipe. Let me know what you think!
Butternut Squash with Sausage and Malabar Spinach
- 1 butternut squash peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 cup chopped Malabar spinach
- Coconut oil
- Sea Salt to taste
- 1 lb of your favorite link sausage sliced (we like alligator-we are in gator country after all)
- Heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and butternut squash. Sauté until brown and caramelized.
- Add the chopped spinach and sausage. Sauté until spinach is wilted and sausage heated through. Add salt to taste.