Spinach - Red Malabar (Bachali)
- Germination Days: 10 - 14
- Hardiness Zones:3-9
- Planting Depth: 1/2"
- Plant Spacing:8”
- Row Spacing:1’
- Growth Habit:Vine
- Soil Preference:Rich, sandy, light and well-drained, 6.0-7.0 pH
- Temp Preference:warm
- Light Preference:Full sun to partial shade
- Days to Maturity:75 days
Malabar spinach belongs to Basellaceae family, not the spinach family. The taste is similar to spinach, however this crop is a very warm-season crop unlike standard spinach grown in the Northeastern US. This crop is native to tropical Asia and is extremely heat tolerant.
Malabar spinach is grown throughout the tropics as a perennial and in warmer temperate regions as an annual. There are two main species of Malabar spinach: Basella alba, which has green stems and thick fleshy leaves, and Basella ruba which has red stems.
Malabar spinach plants grow in Asia and throughout the tropics, primarily in the moist lowlands. While the dark green leaves resemble those of spinach, this is a vine type of plant that thrives in hot temps, even exceeding 90⁰ F. (32⁰ C.) Cool temperatures cause Malabar spinach to creep. It is grown as an annual, but grows like a perennial in regions that are frost free.
This is a vine type spinach with vines that can grow longer than 10 feet. With bright green leaves and stunning red/purple stems this edible is often grown as an ornamental. The most beautiful vining edible green you can grow! Red Malabar spinach is a splendid edible ornamental, and it is extremely heat tolerant, providing gobs of nutritious greens while others have succumbed to the heat.
- Malabar spinach will grow well in a variety of soil conditions but prefers a moist fertile soil with plenty of organic matter and a soil pH of between 6.5 and 6.8
- Malabar spinach plants can be grown in part shade, which increases the leaf size, but it much prefers hot, humid and full sun exposures.
- Malabar spinach also needs constant moisture to prevent the blossoming, which will turn the leaves bitter — ideally an area with a warm, rainy climate for optimal Malabar spinach care and growth.
- The vine should have trellis and two plants are sufficient for most families through the summer and fall growing season. It can even be grown up the same trellis as peas, truly utilizing the garden space. Grown as an ornamental edible, the vines can be trained to climb over doorways. To prune Malabar spinach, simply cut the thick, fleshy leaves while retaining some stem.
- Malabar spinach can be grown from either seeds or cuttings. If the stems are too tough to eat when pruning, simply put them back into the soil where they will re-root.
- Scarify the seed with a file, sandpaper or even a knife to speed germination, which will take three weeks or longer at temperatures between 65 ⁰F-75 ⁰F. Direct sow Malabar spinach seeds in USDA zone 7 or warmer, two to three weeks after the last frost date.
- If you live in a chillier zone, start the seeds indoors at about six weeks before the last frost. Wait to transplant until the soil has warmed and there is no chance of frost.
- Transplant the seedlings spaced about a foot apart. If you want to spread this plant quickly around your garden, or share with friends Malabar roots easily. New plants will sprout up wherever the stem touch moist soil. Also, propagates easily from clippings which root readily in water.
Pests / Diseases
The Malabar spinach is fairly disease resistant. Keep an eye on slugs and snails, in cool humid climates there may be several slugs on every square feet of your garden. They generally prefer to eat old decaying material and important decomposing organisms, but it that isn’t available they will eat almost any plants. You can easily identify their mollusk handiwork by the shiny trail of mucus they leave behind as they move. Hand picking is the most effective and low impact way to control slugs and snails. This is best done at night or early morning and must be done regularly if it is have much effect.