Malabar spinach might be the most amazing thing you're not growing. Yes, really.
Let's start at the beginning. "Malabar spinach" isn't even really a spinach, it's a semi-succulent vine that just loves our hot Arizona summer. There are two main varieties, green-stemmed and the more popular red-stemmed.
Why grow it? Besides its hardiness, it's a quick-growing vine that adds visual interest to your garden and can be eaten raw in a salad or used as a thickener in soups. And we know who's growing it: Suzanne Vilardi. Vilardi says, "Here at Vilardi Gardens, we cannot keep Malabar spinach in stock. The plant often reseeds itself in the garden after winter frost. It vines aggressively and performs best on a trellis of any kind. It is also beautiful to see in any garden setting. When we display the plant at our farmers market booths, more people comment on its beauty than any of our other edibles."
This plant is native to Asia and really gets going when the temperatures hit 90 degrees and grows to be about 10 feet tall. It starts easily from a seed, and if you'd like to pick up a transplant, Vilardi says, a few local nurseries still have some of her plants, or you can contact her directly via her Facebook page, linked above. Malabar spinach will do well until a freeze, so it could be around until the end of November in your garden. Vilardi says "It will 'winter over' and thrive on for a second season," if there's no frost this year.
This easy-to-grow leafy green is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, and calcium. And it is a good source of soluble fiber, so it's easily added to dishes that need some nutritional flair. If you decide to grow Malabar spinach, be sure to provide a place for it to vine, poles, supports, or even chain-link fence.
This vine also is insect -resistant, which makes it great for first-time food growers. The juice from the berries is extremely purple and can be found in a variety of things as a colorant. So, if you're itching to get gardening again before the official fall season, be sure to try Malabar spinach.