Although technically not a true spinach, Red Malabar is a delightful choice for anyone who has issues with spinach bolting. Because this cultivar was brought to us from India, it has developed a tolerance to heat and does wonderfully well throughout most of the summer here in the Northeast.
This beautifully green-leaved veggie has lovely red stems and it easily climbs up a fence or trellis. When it does finally bolt, it produces pretty pale pink flowers and becomes a fabulous ornamental addition to any garden.
From the flowers you will get plenty of purple seeds to save, but be careful, as Red Malabar will also reseed itself to the point of aggression. As you can see we kept ours confined to a pot, and heavily guarded.
To grow, you can start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before your last spring frost, but don’t plant outside until it is warm. Unlike common spinach, this plant doesn’t like cool temperatures.
Pick the leaves a little at first, giving it time to grow. Pinching back the vines will encourage side shoots and a larger harvest.
Some gardeners have told us they do not care for the texture of this variety, but that of course is a personal choice. We found it was a wonderful addition to a mix of greens for salad.
You can also propagate by rooting a cutting. If you love houseplants, consider growing Red Malabar spinach indoors. It really is just that great looking.
Botanical name: Basella rubra
Spacing: 6″ but we just put a few seeds in a pot.
Days to Maturity: About 50 for light harvesting.
Hardiness: Loves the heat, does not like cold. Full sun to partial shade.
Height: Can get over 5 ft. if not pinched back. Trellis needed.
Gardening Jones is a Pennsylvania master gardener. Learn more at her blog.