Thursday, July 16, 2009

Malabar Spinach, should be renamed Spinach Steak

I have NEVER been able to get real spinach to grow here and discovered this little beauty:
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basella_alba)
MALABAR SPINACH. More like, Spinach Steak, more like Great Wall of Spinach here:

I was seduced into getting 2 packets of these seeds from Park Seed (http://www.parkseed.com/gardening/PD/5660/), and was saddened when I saw the 50 seeds to look very little, needing about 3-5 seeds per hill it stated on the packet and that germination was "lower" when seeded outside. Hmmm... I needn't have worried.

I am impressed by the reddish color of the stems (it is often grown as an ornamental), and it's vigor... looks wilty in the heat, but perks right back up at night and in the morning. It seems a little upset by the space I've given it and is invading the area I devoted to scarlet runner which I thought was vigorous. Oh woe Scarlet Runner, you may have met thy match!

It's oddly pest resistant, possibly due to its muciliginous nature (good for thickening soups like okra), but the leaves, OMG, the leaves are so juicy and have gotten as big as the size of my head(!) and hold so much water that when you bite into the leaves, or bend the main leaf stem you can SEE water MOVING through the veins/cells!

EVEN MORE EXCITEMENT abounds on my part to find out that this lovely vine can be propagated by cuttings, and I can overwinter it/let-it-overtake-my-home-over-the-winter-instead-and-become-eaten-by-its-sheer-enormousness!

I understand that if mulched well it might return, so... maybe I won't take cuttings...?

For $1.75/packet, I think I've made it back pretty easily. I may need to call in the neighbors though to keep it in check!

(Also, as my husband says, why the hell does anyone eat real spinach if we have this??? It grows vertically thus takes up less space, is relatively carefree, healthy for you, handles heat well, has few pest problems... duh?)

On another note, it is time to once again due battle with the cucumber monster plant:
The base has strawberry plants and between the cucumber and strawberries are okra plants... I hope they are not eaten by cucumber, vegetable cannibalism can be so cruel.

2 comments:

A Home Made said...

As an FYI. The cuttings for the Malabar Spinach that you gave me, not only made it through the flight home but they were placed in a cup with water on a window sill since I knew they were moving and wanted to take them with me... They're thriving still.

They grew the roots straight through the news paper and it looks like blossoms are growing. I guess it's a plant that would do well with hydroponics cause I almost don't want to take it out of the glass for fear it might not take in the soil. Just something I thought you would like to know

persephone said...

Yea, the malabar spinach is pretty damn hardy! You might want to put it outside so the flowers can get fertilized and maybe have some seeds. If I get seeds this year I will share!