We first became interested in Malabar spinach last year when we came across it as a mature plant for sale at a local farmers market. It’s not really spinach as we know it but a climbing vine with fleshy leaves that can be cooked or used young in salads much like our annual spinaches. The beauty of it is that it makes a really attractive climbing plant (especially the red variety) in the process and the berries too are tasty and great in salads.
Malabar spinach originates in Asia and the leaves are easily adapted for use in curries. We are growing both the green Basella alba variety and Basella alba var ‘Rubra’ which has a lovely ruby leaf and fruit. Again it’s all about succession so the first batch of these seeds were sown back in February. They are a tropical seed so we’ve followed the advice to soak them in hot water for 12 hours before planting to help with germination and they have been treated to under bench heating in our nursery and a minimum overnight temperature of 9C.
These forerunners should be the vines that grow up the living willows and provide height at the back of our GYO curry display at Hampton Court. They are coming on nicely this week and have just been repotted into 2L pots in a rich container compost with slow release feed. The plants for sale will be sold a little smaller so have been planted later but now 4 weeks after sowing g are sprouting nicely and will soon be ready for transplantation….
To save labour and ensure they have plenty of roots we’re planting them straight into deep straight sided pots… shall we have bets how far up the canes they’ll be by then?… I’m going for 70cm what the heck you never know! If they are big enough on the day we’ll be able to do tastings … so fingers crossed.
GROWING MALABAR SPINACH AT HOME
Sow Feb to April either directly into 9cm pots or into large seed modules and keep in a propagator or on a warm windowsil until they have germinated. As they are tropical seed it helps germination to soak the seed in warm water for 12-24 hours before planting and popping the seeds in a jam jar of warm water on top of a radiator is a simple way to keep them warm enough. Once the seedlings have produced 4-6 leaves they are ready for transplanting, use a good quality all purpose potting compost, a 2-3 litre pot and some kind of stake or trellis – these babies love to climb!
These beauties are coming on a treat now with the first batch already planted up our display trellises and another 200 in 1L pots and starting to put on climbing tendrils