The Secret Of Malabar Spinach

Malabar Spinach holds a tantalizing secret. Hint: it’s not the epic nutrient profile

Malabar Spinach
Malabar Spinach is most commonly used in Southeast Asia, but it’s gaining popularity in the West.

Today I transplanted a few dozen seedlings of malabar spinach (Basella Alba)

I gotta say, I am very excited for this one.

Basella Alba, commonly known as malabar spinach, caught my eye about a year ago.

This little green plant has voluptuous heart-shaped leaves. It also holds a secret that remains hidden to most.

Commonly used in many Southern Asian cuisines, malabar spinach is a nutritional dynamo.

This semi-succulent beauty is extremely high in vitamins A and C, as well as iron, folate, and calcium. The semi-succulent heart-shaped leaves taste just like normal English Spinach and add soluble fiber for healthy digestion.

I first got turned on to malabar spinach when I learned that it is the traditional leaf used in my favorite Indian dish, Saag Paneer. I’ve been making this delicious (and nutritious) Indian delight for years in my slow cooker.

I use the recipe in this sweet Indian cookbook, The Indian Slow Cooker, by Anupy Singla. (ps. its worth it just for the awesome food porn inside). Here’s the latest version: click here.

Malabar SpinachI usually make my Saag Paneer with normal spinach I find at the grocery store. I cannot wait to try the real thing with my new obsession.

An obsession with a strange secret. So what is it about malabar spinach that is so hush hush? What is the secret that is behind those semi-succulent leaves, hiding among the vines?

Well, you might know that traditional spinach, or English Spinach, does not grow like a vine. Nor is it a succulent!

Can you guess the secret now?

That’s right, say it with me: malabar spinach isn’t really spinach! In fact, the name comes from the fact that the taste of the leaves is very similar, and the nutrient profile shows similarly high levels of iron and folate.

Beyond that, there are not too many similarities.

Malabar has voluptuous, semi-succulent leaves that will actually thicken stir-fries and soups (which makes perfect sense for the saag paneer). In addition, malabar spinach grows as a vine that you can trellis up above the ground.

I plan on using it as a natural shade for some shade-loving plants like lettuce, which is normally hard to grow in the heat of the summer.

We’ll keep you updated on how the malabar spinach does in both my home system and our larger system at Robb’s Farm.

Have you eaten or grown malabar spinach? Let me know about it on Facebook or Twitter!

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