Summer Spinach

Malabar Spinach and Hop Vines
Basella alba (malabar spinach) and Humulus lupulus (hop) planted outside the Terrace Cafe. Photo by Blanca Begert.

Malabar spinach is thriving in this summer's hot weather. This Indian vine is not true spinach, but it produces delicious spinachlike leaves. It's a much better hot-weather crop than spinach and requires very little care. It's also perfect for vertical gardening. It will grow easily up a trellis or even a chain-link fence. In the tropics it will grow up to a foot per day! It's also making impressive progress here in Brooklyn. It's climbed about 8 feet high on wire trellises alongside the Conservatory near the Terrace Cafe and is thriving in the Herb Garden. "I don’t actually plant it because it’s such a rampant self-sower," says Caleb Leech, Herb Garden curator. "Every year, when the soil temperatures are right, the Basella will emerge and shoot up the lattice in the Asian vegetables section. It likes the heat and like so many other crops at this time of year—okra, zucchini, eggplant—you can’t harvest it fast enough."

Come check it out, and then learn how to grow and cook your own Malabar spinach.


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