Alugbati is also called vine or Malabar spinach. It is an edible herb that grows in warm climates and is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 7 and above. The plant is originally from India, and is widely used in the Philippines both as an edible and for its medicinal properties. The plant has a climbing growth habit and has oval to heart-shaped leaves with heavy veins and purple stems. Late in the season alugbati bears small round purple fruits that are used as dye. Alugbati is usually steamed and eaten as a vegetable, but it yields a thickening starch when boiled heavily.
Things You'll Need
- Medium grit sandpaper
- Alugbati seed
- Seed flat with lid
- Plant mister
- Trellis or stakes
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Prepare the garden bed in full sun when soil temperatures are at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and ambient temperatures are between 65 and 75 F. Germination will not occur in temperatures that are lower. Till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and incorporate 3 to 5 inches of compost. Rake the bed to remove roots, rocks and other debris.
Scarify the seed to break through the tough seed coat and enhance germination, which can take up to three weeks. Start the seed indoors six weeks before the last frost. Fill a seed flat with starter mix and sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart. Mist the flat and keep the lid on. Keep the flat in a warm room, and mist daily or when dry.
Plant the seedlings out two to three weeks after the last frost. Bring the seed flat outside for gradually longer periods over the course of a week, to acclimate them to the weather and light.
Dig small holes just deep enough to accommodate the seedlings. Plant them 12 inches apart. Water the seedlings immediately and don't let them dry out. Keep weeds from forming around the alugbati plants. Spread a layer of 2 inches of manure around the plants.
Set up a trellis or stakes within 3 inches of the seedlings, so they have something on which to grow up. Alugbati can be grow up a trellis with beans or peas. Harvest the leaves when they are small, before they get bitter. Use them in salads or cooked recipes.