Sunday, June 7, 2009

MALABAR SPINACH vs WORLD HUNGER


Think I may have found a tool to help with world hunger or at the very least, your hunger. Malabar Spinach. Though it all ready grows in many areas,perhaps we should push its boundaries. This really isn't a spinach but is very similar in appearance and taste.


The succulent leaves and stem tips are rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron and calcium. They may be eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. Or you can use them as a filling for quiche, omelets, savory turnovers, and potpies.

Since red-stemmed Malabar spinach can lose a lot of its red color when cooked, perhaps it is best utilized (visually speaking) in raw dishes I love it in salads or on sandwiches. The leaves are sandwich sized and fit a slice of bread perfectly giving that satisfying crunch.



















It is a lovely vining plant that grows best on a trellis or makes a great ground cover. File photo on left which makes me want to try a trellis this year. Be warned, it grows fast, as much as a foot a day. Malabar spinach grows eight to ten feet tall and as wide. I would be thinking Kudzu except this plant is very edible. What makes it so great to me is that it loves hot weather. It is a summer green that can only be killed by frost.


Native to India and Indonesia (Malabar is a coastal region in southwestern India), the plant is used in traditional cuisines as far westward from its point of origin as Japan and eastward as Africa. It has also been introduced to South America and the Caribbean so I do believe someone else has seen this as a source to end world hunger.



This will very soon be decorating a salad.


Spreading babies from last years seeds

One thing makes it extra special to me but also a bit of a nuisance, is that it is self seeding. Frost kills the plant instantly but next year, thanks to wind and birds, your yard can be alive with baby Malabar plants. Yes, it is invasive. But it is easy to pull up and if you put your plants were they will blow into the yard, the lawnmower will do the weeding for you.


I was given one 2 inch plant a few years ago at a garden club meeting and I have been eating spinach every year since with little effort except a little bending exercise to get the wayward sprouts. What is not to love?


I have never cooked it but have heard that is not its best use. It is supposed to lose color and some say it gets a bit slimy. Never tried it so I can't say. Raw, it is wonderful. I will admit to a guilty pleasure here and I am sure I will be able to here you groaning from here. The only cooked spinach I like is canned spinach. I LOVE canned spinach. OK, I've said it. Now I do rinse it to remove much of the salt, but sorry, Popeye got me going on it as a child. But in defense, I have always used raw spinach as my salad green of choice. Hope that balances out.

I do think we should spread this into counties who have trouble feeding its masses. Its rapid growth, nutritional benefits and tolerance of heat(it does best in full sun) should make it a very useful food. I have checked several seed companies and they are sold out. Hopefully they have gone where needed.

If you love spinach but hate that it goes to bolt in hot weather, think Malabar.

5 comments :

  1. I have never heard of it, but I'll try it if it's available here. I also love canned spinach, but I love fresh in salads and on sandwiches.

    Isn't it too bad that kudzu is edible!

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  2. Interesting Patty. I have never heard of it--but it sure must be healthy. We eat lots of fresh veggies with our meals since they are so good for us (broccoli, baby carrots, tomatoes, etc.)... And we have eaten spinach salads alot... SO---guess I'll have to find out about Malabar Spinach.

    Thanks!!!
    Hugs,
    Betsy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well I am with you on the canned spinach, especially POPEYE.

    In Morocco I bought fresh spinach but spent a fortune washing the sand out of it.

    If I want to cook fresh spinach I buy washed fresh spinach and cook it. I figure the expense of labor washing it is offset by savings on my water bill!

    I do like spinach raw but not exclusively. I like it mixed with other greens.

    If it is that prolific, we ought to promote it, especially in semi-arid countries.

    I'm still hooked on baby bok choy.

    WOW we just had a lightning bolt and thunder far too close to my house. I'm getting off this electronic genius.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well I am with you on the canned spinach, especially POPEYE.

    In Morocco I bought fresh spinach but spent a fortune washing the sand out of it.

    If I want to cook fresh spinach I buy washed fresh spinach and cook it. I figure the expense of labor washing it is offset by savings on my water bill!

    I do like spinach raw but not exclusively. I like it mixed with other greens.

    If it is that prolific, we ought to promote it, especially in semi-arid countries.

    I'm still hooked on baby bok choy.

    WOW we just had a lightning bolt and thunder far too close to my house. I'm getting off this electronic genius.

    ReplyDelete
  5. kenju
    I agree about kudzu, that really could end world hunger.That stuff is scary.

    Betsy,
    It really is a lovely vine also. It keeps me in greens for months, plus filling in a bare spot.

    nitwit,
    Hope your storm missed you or at least did ot damage.
    The beauty of Malabar is no sand. It grows off the ground on a vine but even as a ground cover, I have no problem with cleaning it.

    ReplyDelete