Tag Archives: greens

Malabar spinach: the summer substitute for spinach

Malabar spinach isn’t really spinach, but it’s a similar type of greens that comes from the tropics, India in particular. It grows well in the Arkansas summers when other types of spinach turn bitter from the heat. It has more substance that the types of spinach we usually eat and it is not as slimy.  A great plus is that it produces all summer. It can keep growing until the temperatures hit 35 degrees. It grows as an annual, but often it reseeds and comes up the next spring.
Malabar spinach and tomatoes
Tomatoes and Malabar spinach both like hot climates as well as frequent watering and feeding. The Malabar spinach is interplanted with tomatoes.
Sharon Dent has been growing Malabar spinach for five summers. She first saw it at Schults Nursery in Hot Springs and then found the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. She’s found the plants in several local stores in the last few years.
Malabar spinach is a member of the Basellaceae family. Basella alba is a green leaf variety while the red leaf variety belongs to the B. rubra species, which has purplish stems. The vines are quite attractive and can be trained to grow as an edible ornamental.
Stems and seeds
The red leaf vines have beautiful stems and the seeds are white and then turn purple. You can grow Malabar spinach from the seeds or stem cuttings.
It takes 70 days from spring planting to harvest. Sharon usually starts harvesting it in mid-June. She plants it in large pots. Typically there are three to five pots of it planted with tomatoes on her front patio. Malabar spinach takes some shade which is good because her patio has filtered shade in the morning. It does fine, but in shady areas the vine tends to climb trying to reach the sun. More sun might be better.
Harvested vines
Harvest Malabar spinach by cutting the leaves. Or trim the vines and then remove the leaves. The stems of young vines are edible until they become too tough.
Malabar spinach likes moist fertile soil with plenty of organic matter. You can trellis it alone or with peas or tomatoes or cucumbers. The Malabar spinach climbs up Sharon’s tomato vines which are staked or caged. Since tomatoes are heavy feeders, she feeds the tomatoes and Malabar spinach combo monthly and waters most days to keep them growing vigorously.
Large leaves
Large (2-4″ diameter) leaves
Malabar spinach is rich in Vitamins A and C, as well as iron and calcium.  Sharon tries to serve it several times weekly because it is so nutrient rich.
Wash and cut
Wash and cut the leaves into ribbons for cooking.

Gardening Know How
What Is Malabar Spinach: Tips For Growing And Using Malabar Spinach

Dr. Weil’s Blog
Gardening: Malabar Spinach

Fall and winter gardens

by Sharon Dent

Fall is approaching and it will soon be planting time for fall and winter gardens. Greens of all types are nutritious and versatile and great candidates for your garden. I plant greens in my flower beds. A border of spinach in a winter flower bed adds unexpected green during brown months.



Greens can be used in salads, steamed, sauteed and in a wide range of recipes. One of my favorites is ham stuffed with spinach. Another is a kale and peach smoothie.

Cauliflower likes growing in cool temperatures and moist atmospheres. Plant in late summer for a late fall harvest. Cauliflower needs magnesium and without providing it, expect your heads to be stunted. Watch the acidity of the soil too; cauliflower needs to grow in neutral to slightly alkaline soil.

Among the easy-to-grow greens are kale, Swiss chard, spinach, collards, mustard, tender greens, and turnip greens. My family eats the leaves from the cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts plants too. Also delicious are arugula, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and a wide range of lettuces.

Bok choy
Bok Choy is a favorite that likes a cool growing season but a sunny growing site. For baby bok choy, harvest from the time of planting might be 45 days, but it will take 60 days for a fully mature plant. So in Hot Springs, it is best to plant seeds in mid-August.

Greens are best suited for cool weather growing. They like consistent moisture, and insufficient water will inhibit growth. Cabbage worms and slugs sometimes attack your crops. Pluck them off, or use Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) to get rid of the pests.

Plant cabbage from mid-August to mid-September. I use plants rather that seeds.

Keep the growing areas free of competing weeds.  Applying mulch helps discourage weeds and preserve moisture in the soil.

Carrots must be grown in deep, sandy loam, or the carrots will be deformed.
It is ideal to plant when night temperatures are 55 degrees and daytime temperatures are 75 degrees.
Beets like to be planted in late August to early September. It takes 60-70 days for them to mature. They must be planted in loose, sandy loam which means lots of soil amendment in Hot Springs, and it needs to be 18 inches deep or more. Beets can survive frost and light freezing temperatures.  Detroit Reds are my favorite and I especially like eating the tops as greens. Remember when planting that it is best to plant seeds as beets do not transplant easily.

Let me know your favorite greens and recipes for using them.