Climbing spinach, or Malabar spinach (Basella alba), isn’t really spinach at all. It is a fine, leafy alternative when warming temperatures force true spinaches to bolt. This versatile, edible vining plant doubles as an attractive ornamental and begins to produce edible stems and leaves about 70 to 80 days after planting the seed. Count on a bountiful harvest all summer and into the fall.
Things You'll Need
- Scissors or knife
Check on climbing Malabar spinach plant every day, beginning in early summer. Examine the main stalk closely. When it appears to be strong and growing well, begin harvesting leaves and tender shoots.
Snip leaves and new stem tips 6 to 8 inches long with scissors or a knife, as needed.
Prune this plant aggressively if you wish to coax it into taking on a bush-like appearance rather than sprawling into a vine. Snip all stem tips back when Malabar spinach reaches the desired height. Keep cutting it back throughout the season to prevent it from vining. Climbing spinach will respond by producing a thicker, fuller habit.
Harvest climbing spinach as long as the plant continues growing actively and producing new shoots all summer and into the fall, or until it begins to flower.
Serve climbing Malabar spinach leaves and stems raw in salads, or steam for vegetable side dishes.
Tips & Warnings
- Experiment with only two or three climbing spinach plants to begin with to see how you’re going to like the plants. You may or may not care for the taste as a food source, or for its decorative qualities.