Malabar spinach is a great heat-loving vining spinach that does really well in a container as you see in the photo here of my friend Grace's plant. Towards the end of the summer, you’ll see pretty pink round flowers that turn into dark blue/black berries. These berries are mostly tasteless but have historically been used as a bright pink/red dye for products like fabric and paper. The berries can also be used as an edible food dye.
To save seed, wait until the berries are nearly dry (but before they drop all over your garden) and pull the berries off. Let them fully dry on a screen or a shallow bowl. When the berries fully dry, seeds will be easy to remove or sift and save. Malabar spinach plants do produce a lot of seeds and some people have complained of rampant re-seeding. My father allows his Malabar spinach to ramble in rows in the garden, but removes the plants shortly after they produce berries and before seeds dry and fall. He has never had a problem with unwanted reseeding.
People often ask about good Asian vegetables to grow in containers. Immediately, my friend Grace’s pots of Malabar spinach come to mind. This vining spinach thrives in the heat. When the fordhooks and other similar leafy greens have gone kaput for the summer, Malabar spinach looks as gorgeous as can be, as evidenced by the containers you see in the photo! On the left is the spinach Grace planted this season. On the right, is spinach she’s kept going year round! You can see that this season’s greens look a bit more tender with larger leaves that last year’s.
Grace will cut leaves as she needs them and come frost, will just bring the containers inside and tend to them as houseplants. In the winter when she’s enjoying soups and stews, she’ll go over to her pretty houseplant, cut some leaves off, chop them up, put them in the bottom of a bowl, and ladle hot soup on top. Doesn’t that sound so easy and perfect?
I'm Wendy Kiang-Spray, gardener, home cook, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. Learn more about the book here. Enjoy the blog and be sure to like The Chinese Kitchen Garden Facebook page for notifications when there are new posts.