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malabar spinach

 
Leah Sattler
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who has experience with this in their garden and on their table? I am on a quest for greens that I can grow here and that I actually like. most regular greens seem to get burned up in the summer. is it bitter at all? I never have been able to develop a taste for bitter greens.

I have been very frustrated with chard. terrible germination. maybe it was bad seed. I only got one full plant and a handful of seedlings that didnt' make it out of 3 whole packets of seed from spring and fall planting. I will try again next year but I want to experiment with other alternatives.
 
Fred Morgan
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Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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We have nothing but this kind of spinach. There are more than one kind, one is bitter, the other taste just like beet greens (yummm!!!).

Grows great and you just cut off a piece and stick it in the ground for more. Of course, ours never stops growing because we have no winter.

It is the best greens we have.
 
Gwen Lynn
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I have been meaning to mention this plant to you, Leah. I haven't grown it, but I know you are always looking for easy plants (just like me) and I'd read about this one in my Oklahoma Gardening book. Plants in this book are recommended for our area.

Quote from Steve Dobbs on Malibar Spinach: 

"This annual vine hides unsightly areas or provides an upright backdrop & thrives in the heat of summer. It grows easily on adjacent fencing and provides ornamental qualities in the vegetable garden. The plant can grow as a ground cover if no support system is provided. Only the young leaves are eaten. To prepare, boil & discard water. Or add the fresh, young leaves to a salad.

The red stem cultivar is my favorite. This easy to grow plant has showy leaves & stems."

Other common names are: Red Vine Spinach, Climbing Spinach, Ceylon Spinach
The plant is often listed as a reseeding annual since fallen seeds may germinate the following spring.
 
Leah Sattler
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the more I read the more sure I am that I want this on my short list of 'new things to try" next year. fast growing vine tall vine would be awesome. I want something to help shield my peppers a bit from sunscald. something that has grown up to shade them right about the time the real heat rolls in would be perfect. 

oooooh. this is what happens to me! I start going through seed catalogs and getting all excited about what to plant next year. 
 
Fred Morgan
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Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Leah Sattler wrote:
the more I read the more sure I am that I want this on my short list of 'new things to try" next year. fast growing vine tall vine would be awesome. I want something to help shield my peppers a bit from sunscald. something that has grown up to shade them right about the time the real heat rolls in would be perfect. 

oooooh. this is what happens to me! I start going through seed catalogs and getting all excited about what to plant next year. 


I know what you mean about losing control with the seed catalogs. I just put in a preliminary order of nearly 100 dollars at rare seeds. 
 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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Fred Morgan wrote:
We have nothing but this kind of spinach. There are more than one kind, one is bitter, the other taste just like beet greens (yummm!!!).

Grows great and you just cut off a piece and stick it in the ground for more. Of course, ours never stops growing because we have no winter.

It is the best greens we have.


So do you grow beets? Anyone/everyone?  
 
Leah Sattler
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I have grown beets. I don't recall being turned off by the flavor of the greens when it was cool. but I do recall them having the same issues as other greens here. not something that is too happy in the garden in july.
 
Fred Morgan
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Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Jennifer Hall wrote:
So do you grow beets? Anyone/everyone?  


Yes, we grow them. If they aren't working, there is a couple of things to check. First of all, they don't seem to like acidic soil, make sure the soil is not too acidic. Ours is 5.5  so we had to work at it.

Secondly, since the seed is large, they need to be kept moist when planted, at least that is what I have found. Beet seeds for me tend to be a bit of a problem, but we have a good stand now after liming and fertilizing well.

Each seed will often create 4 plants, so keep that in mind when seeding, it is a composite seed.

One other thing to realize is the beet seed needs to be tamped in, in other words, make sure it is mashed into the soil. If your soil is light (sandy), plant 1/2 deep and after covering, step on it! If more like clay, just press down with the hoe.

The seed actually has an inhibitor, so you have to make sure there is plenty of moisture and that you do it right.  I read as well that more than 85 degrees is a problem for germination.
 
                        
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Yes, malabar spinach is great.  It tastes as good as spinach, raw or cooked, and it's as easy to grow as dandelions. It thrived in the hot Carolina summer, and it was super easy to harvest- I could just cut a five foot vine and bring the whole thing inside.  I'm not sure how much each plant produced; the vines grew larger than I expected, forming a tangle of tasty salad.

It had very few bug problems, and it overran all weeds.  Only complaint is that it hasn't flowered or produced seeds. 

Someone brought up beet greens- swiss chard is a beet bred for tasty leaves.  The root isn't genrally eaten, but it does enable the plant to survive a hard freeze or summer heat that kills the leaves.

With malabar spinach for the hot season and chard for the frost seasons, it is easy to keep a family supplied with fresh greens in the Southeastern US. 
 
Leah Sattler
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I didn't know blanching them would make them less bitter? weather just seems so erratic here that I can't get consistent results based on temps. and I want greens in the summer dang it!
 
rose macaskie
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    I find a salad dressing, olive oil and vinegar and a bit of salt take the bitterness out of things even rather spoil somethings by reducing their flavour too much, water cress loses all its mustardyness.
      I read that bitterness helps the liver, this seems stupid, like you produce bile for digestion and so anything bitter is good but it was written in a respectable magasine, thinking it was good for me made me like it better.
        My father once cooked up beetroot leaves and they are just the same as good spinach. Beetroot leaves can be found here in the pactets of mixed salads i recognise them inside the packets because of their red stalks. Maybe sugar beet has spinach like leaves too, i don't know. I buy some beetroot and a packet of spinach together, then the beet leaves can be put with the spinach ones and i get more spinach and i get beetroots too. Beetroot is a winter vegetable.
      My grandmother used to cook a dish of hot baby beets covered in white sauce that was very good a bit sweet but very good and pinkish. It is the only hot beetroot recipe i know.

    Violets are a eatable wild flower leaf, the leaves of the violet flowers. My garden is full of mats of wild violets now, maybe i can encourage them to grow bigger in some way, Paul Wheaton says dandylions like calcium in his article on lawns, so if i want more i have to increase the amount of calcium in the soil in some parts of the garden.
  Spinach leaves make a nice sophisticated salad too. I went to the house of some freinds who gave us a spinach salad, they had poured boiling water over the leaves to change them somewhat before turning them into a salad but i have tried them as a salad without blanching them and they are very good with out blanching them.
  agri rose macaskie.

 
Leah Sattler
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baby spinach salad is my favorite! I have had 'wilted' salads made with them too but i prefer them fresh and crisp. alot of times i buy the organic butter lettuce and baby spinach mixes at the store. a little vidalia onion dressing...mmmmmmm. i also love to cook spinach and tomatoes in with my eggs in the morning. yum.
 
rose macaskie
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  In america you all have such a nice amount  of different sorts of lumber, here everything is pine, it seems wood merchants only know how to work with pine, there is ronie making his cold frame from mulberry fire wood and locust whatever that is and nice thick bits of it. I am dead jealouse of his lumber. agri rose macaskie.
 
                          
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Worldcrops.org has this to say about this wonderful plant:

Malabar spinach is in the 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, probably originating from India or Indonesia, and is extremely heat tolerant.  [I disagree about it tasting like spinach.  It does not contain the oxalic acid that spinach does.  I'm not at all fond of spinach, but I love malabar "spinach." -Shivani]

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 Basella ruba which has red stems. Both have thick fleshy leaves,.  The mucilaginous texture is especially useful as a thickener in soups and stews. [The red forms vnes and cllimbs up to 6 ft., the green forms a bunch on the ground. -Shivani]

Other names for Malabar spinach include: Ceylon spinach, Vietnamese spinach (English); Saan Choy, Shan Tsoi, Luo Kai, Shu Chieh, Lo Kwai (Chinese); Tsuru Murasa Kai (Japanese); Mong Toi (Vietnamese); Paag-Prung (Thai); Genjerot, Jingga, Gendola (Indonesian).

Malabar spinach is a warm season crop and should be direct seeded when all danger of frost has passed and night temperatures are above 60 degrees F. Plant seeds 1 inch deep, 1 inch apart in rows in rows 2.5 feet apart. Thin germinated seedlings to 1 foot. Malabar spinach can also be started as transplants eight weeks before the last frost.  [It's also easy to root cuttings.  If you have a greenhouse you can eat the leaves all year.  I think the plant is hardy to 5 degrees, but am not positive about that.  - Shivani]

Malabar spinach tolerates high rainfall. This is a fast growing vine plant and produces best when trellised. Stem tips (6-8 inches) are harvested 55-70 days after seeding. Repeated harvests of new growth stems can be made through out the season. [The vines will grow rapidly to 8-12 feet tall.    Most of us would be hard put to provide a trellis that tall.  A 5 or 6 foot trellis is enough.  You can wind the sturdy vines around it.  We did not get all the plants trellised.  Those with no trellis at all just wound around themseles and sprawled along the ground or twinded around other plants nearby and used them as trellises as best they could.  A couple even used raspberry plants to grow up on.  -Shivani]

Malabar is a good source of Protein, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.  For a very detailed nutritional analysis of it, see: www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/3049/2

That website has similar data on all major and many minor world foods.

Here's a bit more interesting information about the plant, from http://wwbota.free.fr/XMLPublication/decode-markup/Amar-Capsi_.htm

Description: The plants are twiners, and can climb two metres up a trellis or bush. Otherwise they will sprawl over the ground and twist themselves gently. ....
Cultivation: Although basella grows well in a climate with a wet summer, it will grow almost anywhere. The hotter and wetter, the better. Basella is very easily grown organically because it is rarely attacked by insects. The seeds germinate readily and can be planted directly in the garden, or in seedling punnets or trays.
Propagation: Take cuttings from well-established basella plants and bury them at least half way up the stem in good soil. They will quickly send down their own roots in warm and wet weather.
Saving the seed: Basella goes to seed as the weather cools down. Pick the berries when they are dark purple. They have only one seed in each of them. Rub them clean with gloves and wash them under a tap until the water runs clear. Alternatively, leave the skin and flesh on them. Dry on a wire screen before storage.
Storage: The seeds look like peppercorns and store for five years in a cool, dark and dry place. There are fifty seeds to the gram.
Usage: The mucilaginous leaves and tender stalks are used as a spinach, or in soups and stir fries. Their oxalic acid content is low and they are very rich in minerals and vitamins. Cooking should be brief to retain these nutrients – more than a minute creates a sloppy mess. Our kids write on their bodies with the inky berries.
G.A.C. Herklots, whose knowledge about Asian vegetables was already profound by the time he was interned in Hong Kong during World War Two, records that, in China, basella was grown for its seeds, the flesh of which were used as a dye in rouge and sealing wax (Herklots, 1972). This dye is also a safe, natural colouring for jellies, pastries and sweets. [end quote]

We have eaten the leaves both raw and cooked.  Brief steaming is all that's needed if you want to eat the leaves by themselves as cooked greens.  Boiling would be a shame.

This is a wonderful way for those with a Vata Ayurvedic constitution to get their greens.  Most leafy greens are of the brassica family, and thus imbalancing for us Vata folks.  (Vatas are thin, and often chilly.  We do not do will with much raw food.)  I'm delighted to have discovered basella.

The seeds are used as a colorant.  They will turn your fingers bright red if you pick them when they still have juicy plant material around them. 

I hope you'll try this spinach that is not a spinach in your garden next season. [I offer these and other seeds.  I hope that's OK to mention here?  I just joined today.]

Shivani
 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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I would like to try MS if you are selling or trading seeds.  I have amaranth seed and plan to grow it for chicken feed (and it is pretty)
 
                          
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I'm glad to exchange seeds for postage stamps.  6 stamps for one kind of seed, 4 stamps for each additional kind. ( I also have a listing in the Seed Saver's Exchange, but seeds cost more through SSE and it must be $.)

Trading seeds is fine, too, if someone has seeds I happen to want.  (I do have amaranth already, thanks.)

If you want a list of the various seeds I have to share, just e-mail me.  I have more than I listed in SSE.

Anyone is also welcome to receive the free, blind-copy e-lists I hostess:
- gardening and sustainability
- natural wellness
- EMF/EMR health effects and how to protect yourself (Also website on this: www.LifeEnergies.com )
- energy/peak oil
- socioeconomic/political
- "swine flu" hype and dangerous policies

Shivani
 
Travis Philp
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Leah,

Have you tried growing your greens in the shade of say, a staked tomato plant, or on the north or east side of a building? I've had great success with both and would highly recommend trying either method. The key is to simply plant in a place that blocks out the mid day sun, or at least gives dappled shade.

Just be careful about not planting too close to the shade-casting plant. I made that mistake with some Endive lettuce and the tomatoes crowded them out so much that I forgot about the endive until one day I saw their little purple flowers shining through.
 
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