I always like to try something new each year when growing vegetables. This year, I found some spinach that grows as a vine and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s called red-stemmed Malabar spinach, Basella alba ‘Rubra’ and it is supposed to be easy to grow and delicious to eat with it’s large meaty leaves.

This is a vigorous vine and is not related to true spinach (Spinacia oleracea) but has a spinachlike taste and form. It’s a spinach that grows better in the summertime than the spinach we are used to.

 

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Basella alba prefers a humus-rich, sandy loam in full sun. Seeds can be sown after all danger of frost has passed. You may prefer to start seeds indoors eight weeks before the last frost date, hardened off outside, and transplanted one foot apart.

The thick leaves and stem tips are rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron and calcium.  Used just like regular spinach, they may be eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. Adding them as a filling for quiche, and omelets is a special treat.

Red-stemmed Malabar spinach can lose much of its red color when cooked, so using it in raw dishes helps to retain the nice red color.  The berries may be used as a red coloring just like you would beet juice and is used as a natural food colorant for agar (vegetable “gelatine”) dishes, sweets, and pastries.

Be sure and give this one a try and let us know how you like it!

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