“This dark green beauty grows with zest,
As garden athlete, it’s simply the best”
Malabar spinach is a leafing veggie that is very popular in South Indian and Konkan cuisines. It is a nutritious, cheap and versatile green that is also extremely easy to grow and propagate.
SEASONS: Malabar spinach is a perennial. It is very well suited to the tropics and can be easily sown and grown in Mumbai through the year.
PROPAGATING: This plant is very easily propagated from seed or cutting.
GERMINATING: Germinate seeds all year round. However, warmer temperatures and the monsoon humidity is always a better bet. Sow seeds in 1/4 inch holes in soft, compost-rich soil in semi shade and water well. Water daily until seedlings emerge in 7-14 days.
PLANTING OUT: Optimally, these plants should be germinated pre-monsoons and then planted out to grow rapidly through the rains and humidity. Plant out your seedlings when they are sturdy in stem after about 2 weeks of growth. If planting out cuttings, then make an oblique cut at the node of any sturdy stem, strip off foliage and top leaves, and use as a cutting. Seedlings and cuttings can be planted in 4-6 inch deep holes about 6 inches apart, in acidic, well-composted and manured, moisture retaining soil in strong sunlight. They also need to be placed near a vertical support so that your growing Malabar spinach vine will have something to lean on and grow between. Water deeply. Malabar spinach grows well in open plots and in small to medium containers.
NURTURING: Water deeply each day, twice a day in summer. This is a water-retentive, sweetish and succulent plant, and tends to attract leaf-eaters and fungus. Regular harvesting, removal of infected parts and mixed cultivation with marigold, garlic and basil will lower the risk of harmful insects and fungus. Other than that, it is a relatively easy plant to grow and is amazingly fast and productive. It will grow tall very quickly, so train it to grow along a vertical support.
HARVESTING: Your plant will keep growing, so harvest its tender leaves at any stage of growth. Leaf production will be higher in summers than in winter. Regular harvesting of leaves will delay the onset of flowering. Once flowers are formed, leaves tend to lose their sweetness and the plant can then be used for ornamental purposes, or to collect seeds. If you plan to collect seeds then dry them thoroughly before storing in a cool, dark place. When leaf productivity declines you could cut back the plant for new growth in the monsoons, or change your crop. In the latter case, uproot, compost, replenish your soil and then use that space for growing fruiting or rooting veggies next.
A healthy Malabar spinach vine, ready for harvesting
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