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Climbing Malabar Spinach

It’s edible, ornamental and space efficient. Malabar or climbing spinach (Basella alba) is a heat-loving vine that can be used fresh or cooked just like spinach.

This is not a true spinach, but has a similar flavor that is a bit more buttery and nutty. It’s high in vitamins A and C and thrives in the heat that shuts down spinach and most greens. Eat the leaves fresh, in salads or cook in place of spinach. This vine thrives in the heat and creeps along in cooler weather. Protect it from frost.

Malabar spinach tolerates a wide range of soil conditions but prefers moist fertile soils. Jump start the season by starting seeds indoors six weeks before the last spring frost or purchase transplants for greatest productivity. Scarify the seeds by scratching the seed with a file or sharp knife. And be patient, it can take 3 weeks to germinate.

A bit more information: Plants and seeds can be difficult to find. Check with your local independent garden centers or online sources. And look for added beauty --grow Basella rubra, a Malabar spinach with purple stems.

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