This year I’m growing something new to me which is a huge success: malabar spinach or climbing spinach. Not spinach at all, malabar is actually a tropical vine from south and southeast Asia. This variety from Sand Hill Preservation Center (found in the printed catalog but not listed on the website) has dark scarlet stems and glossy, succulent green leaves and is quite beautiful. The vine is climbing everything, truly thriving in this hot, humid weather. Rich in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium, malabar boasts some protein and anti-oxidants. So nice to have a really good salad green from the garden during these dog days.*
I’m chopping malabar leaves for salads. One success was malabar chopped with feta chunks and ice cold watermelon. Another chopped salad included malabar leaves with herb leaves such as basil, mint, sage, tarragon and oregano. Apparently, malabar can be stir-fried and also added to curries. The leaves become gelatinous when cooked, a texture in food I’m not crazy about: as a summer salad green, the malabar is terrific.
I pick the large leaves where I see a new tendril forming. That way the plant stays producing throughout the season. It’s best to eat the leaves the same day they’re picked as they lose a little of their crispness when stored over night in the refrigerator. When stored, the leaves soften to the texture of regular lettuce and will keep for over two weeks in the refrigerator.
*As you may know, the lettuces bolted (flowered) and turned bitter weeks ago. Now it’s probably too hot for lettuce even to germinate. Just can’t tolerate the heat in which malabar spinach flourishes.