Malabar Spinach 'Red Stem'
Scientific Name: Basella alba 'Rubra'
Common Names: Malabar Spinach 'Red Stem', Malabar Spinach 'Rubra', Red Malabar Spinach, Red Ceylon Spinach, Red Pui, Red Vine Spinach
Malabar spinach is native to India and South-East Asia. Red stemmed Malabar spinach is an open-pollinated cultivar meaning that you can collect the seeds from it year after year and they'll grow true to type.
Red stem Malabar spinach is a vigorous vine producing large quantities of succulent leaves rich in soluble fibre and nutrients. Younger leaves are tasty raw in salads but older leaves are better cooked in curries, soups or stir-fries. When cooked the leaves are a good spinach substitute for gardeners growing in warmer climates.
Juice collected from the fruits of the red stemmed variety of Malabar spinach is rich in pigment and can be used as a natural food colouring.
Choose a growing site for Malabar spinach that receives full sun or light shade. Plants grown in shade will be leggier with smaller leaves. Red Malabar spinach will grow as a perennial in areas that are frost free or as an annual in cooler areas where Winter frosts will kill it off. Malabar spinach prefers a neutral soil pH range between 5 and 8. Ensure your garden soil is free draining, grow Malabar spinach in raised vegetable beds if your soil is too compact or heavy with clay. Malabar spinach can be a heavy feeder so be sure to dig lots of organic fertiliser, well-rotted manures, compost and/or worm castings through the soil prior to planting. Fertilise monthly with an organic liquid-based fertiliser, worm juice or organic pelleted fertiliser to encourage ongoing growth. Grow will slow during Winter and harvests will be fewer. Mulch around plants well to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Malabar spinach plants are vigorous climbers so provide a sturdy trellis or tall wire frame for them to grow up. Water often or your Malabar spinach plants will become stressed and may start to flower which will cause the leaves to become bitter. Tip prune vines regularly to encourage them to produce additional side shoots. Red Malabar spinach grows best in hot, humid weather.
When To Sow
In temperate regions of Australia sow red Malabar spinach seeds from October to January, ensuring any chance of frost has past. In subtropical and tropical regions of Australia sow red Malabar spinach seeds from September to February.
How To Sow
Sow Red Malabar spinach seeds 12mm deep spacing plants about 45cm apart to give the vines plenty of room to grow. Scarify or soak seeds overnight in lukewarm water prior to sowing to speed up germination. Viability of the seeds of this species is often poor with up to half of fruits not producing viable seed so plant a few extra per hole.
Red Malabar spinach seeds take between 14 and 21 days to germinate once sown.
Time To Harvest
Red Malabar spinach takes 12 to 13 weeks to start producing good quantities of leaves.