What Is It?

Red malabar vine spinach

Spinach that grows on a vine

Malabar Spinach (Basella alba) is an edible perennial vine that is commonly used as a leaf vegetable. It goes by many common names, including Pui, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach, malabar spinach and ceylon spinach.  We call it “red malabar” at the house to differentiate between our other green variety.  Malabar is actually the name of a southern region of India where it’s native.  It’s also found in southeast Asia and New Guinea, China, tropical Africa, Brazil, Belize, Colombia, the West Indies, Fiji and French Polynesia.

When Malabar Spinach goes to seed, it does so in the form of small tasteless black/blue berries that germinate easily.

Why Plant Malabar Spinach?

Because it’s salad on a vine!  It’ll add some nutritional diversity to your meals.  It’s a perfect sister plant for Sisoo Spinach.  We have them growing side by side and are able to collect a family salad on a near daily basis.   This is a perennial crop that likes to climb.  We recommend perennials such as this due to their ability to produce food for long periods of time.  It does fine in full sun or partial shade.

How To Grow It?

Malabar Spinach seeds germinate easily.  They’re easy to transplant if you’d like to start them indoors first.  You can also grow from cuttings rooted in water.  You’ll need to plant next to trellis for the spinach to climb.  In warm climates, it will self seed and within months you’ll have tons of new plants popping up.

Malabar Indian Spinach

This is the result of planting only 2 plants. Self seeding plants means less work more me!

If you’re up north, protect it from frost in a greenhouse and it will continue as a perennial. But if you don’t have the luxury of a greenhouse and live where winters are cold, any bit of frost will finish the vine for the season.  No worries, though, the seed are easy to collect and dry out.  Pick the little blue berries, place them on a paper towel for a few day and store them for next season.

Links and Sources

Dr. Weils Write-up on Malabar Spinach