Big Round Leaf Malabar Spinach
Seed Count: Approx. 30 seeds
Days to Maturity: 50-60 Days
Description: Big Round Leaf Malabar Spinach isn't a true spinach, but it is a popular slow bolting, heat tolerant, nutritious leafy green used in many parts of the world. This variety grows glossy, thick, large leaves, and can be trained to go up a trellis to save space in your garden. When eaten raw, the leaves can be a bit peppery, but once cooked its taste resembles spinach. Malabar spinach naturally has a mucilaginous texture, that is mostly used to thicken up curries, soups, and stews. However, you can also make ohitashi, a blanched Japanese spinach salad, and it even tastes quite delicious when made into tempura, like you would perilla leaves. Malabar spinach can be harvested all season long, however, try to pick only the young leaves and tips, since the top 6-8 inches are the best tasting. This variety needs warm soil to germinate, anything too cool will result in no germination, and cold temperatures may harm the plant. It prefers full sun, but can be partially shaded, especially in very hot areas like SoFlo. Fun Fact: You can take stem cuttings and root them indoors, if you want to over winter the plant indoors, and transplant them outside in the spring, It can even be kept as a nutritious houseplant!
How To Grow
Sowing: Because malabar spinach thrives in warm weather and can survive hot temperatures, it should be planted only when the soil warms up. Wait until soil temperatures reach a minimum 60 degrees, and frost is no longer a threat. You can also start seeds indoors to get a head start, 6-8 weeks before transplanting outside. In places with very mild winters, you can sow your seeds year round, as long as it won't dip below 60 degrees for long periods of time. Direct sow the seeds in fertile soil 1/4" deep and 1-2" apart in rows 36" apart.
Growing: Malabar spinach grows best in moist, slightly acidic, fertile soil, however it can tolerate poor soil conditions. Malabar spinach likes to be planted in full sun, but really hot areas can benefit from partially shading it. Keep its soil moist, and thin plants to 6 inches apart once they start sizing up. Only transplant outside once all danger of frost has passed, making sure to properly harden off your plants before doing so. Pinching its tips as it grows encourages it to branch, and produce more.
Harvesting: Begin harvesting malabar spinach leaves and stems, as soon as they grow big enough for eating. Make sure to only pick the young leaves and tips, since below the top 6-8 inches can be bitter tasting. If only the top portion of the plant is being harvested, it'll continue to grow and branch out, and produce harvests for you all season long.