Super Survival Crop – Malabar Spinach (Indian, Vining, or Ceylon Spinach)

I recently discovered my new favorite survival crop to supplement long term food storage. Malabar spinach is one of the best kept secrets on this side of the world.

What is the best supplemental survival crop? Malabar spinach meets all the criteria for a survival crop to supplement your basic food stores. It is a nutritional powerhouse, can be grown indoors or outdoors, is pest and disease resistant, produces consistently high yields, and has a nice mild flavor that everyone can enjoy.

Before my latest adventure growing Malabar Spinach in my indoor survival garden, I would have told you that my top pick for survival food would be Swiss chard because it is easy to grow, high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and produces copious amounts in a small place. I think that I may have changed my mind.

Survival crops are intended to supplement the nutrition of our basic stored foods which includes wheat, white rice, dry beans, rolled oats, pasta, potato flakes, and salt. The missing nutrients are Vitamin A and Vitamin C. That is where your survival garden comes in. It can extend your stored food supply and provide the missing nutrients. You can learn more about basic long-term food storage here.

Growing a garden can make all the difference in your family’s ability to stay healthy and eat well every day, as well as when times get tough. Survival gardening is explored and simplified in these articles.  

Indoor Garden Leads to Awesome Discovery

We have been expanding our indoor survival garden and experimenting with a variety of crops. Although most of our greens grow incredibly well, I found that I was struggling to get regular spinach to germinate and thrive. A viewer recommended Malabar Spinach and I decided to try it.

I think it is interesting how a failure can lead you to discover something exponentially better. We are now growing both red and green Malabar spinach in our indoor garden and it is thriving. It has become my new favorite green.

You can learn more about growing greens indoors in our post, How to Grow Fresh Greens Inside Your Home All Year Long.

What is Malabar Spinach or Basella Alba?

Malabar spinach is a tender perennial that is native to the warm, tropical regions in Asia and Africa. It does not tolerate the cold. Malabar spinach will be a perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 through 11, but fortunately it can be grown as an annual in many other regions. It will readily reseed as an annual.

Malabar spinach is available in both red and green varieties. It is a gorgeous low-maintenance addition to any landscape and makes a nice privacy screen. The red variety makes an especially attractive edible houseplant.

Malabar spinach is a vigorous vining plant that typically grows to about 6 feet but can grow up to a foot a day and reach 30 feet under optimal conditions. It is incredibly insect and disease resistant, a quality that makes it especially attractive as a survival crop.

One great benefit to growing Malabar spinach is that it is heat tolerant. It will continue to produce delicious spinach-like leaves after regular garden spinach varieties have bolted and are gone for the season.

You may also see Malabar spinach called Indian spinach, vine spinach, Ceylon spinach, or by its scientific name, basella alba. You may have to hunt around a little bit to find the seeds. I found them at Johnny’s Seeds. You can also purchase them on Amazon – Red Malabar and Green Malabar.

How to Prepare and Eat Malabar Spinach

Both the leaves and the stem are edible. You can prepare it just like you would regular spinach. It has a lovely mild flavor that does not detract from the other ingredients in a recipe. These are a few of our favorite ways to eat Malabar spinach.

  • Raw blended in a smoothie
  • Raw chopped in a salad. Click here for my favorite salad dressing recipe for spinach salad.
  • In a quiche or frittata
  • Boiled or steamed with lemon pepper
  • Chopped and tossed into muffins or bread for extra nutrition
  • Added to stir-fries, soups, chilis, stews, or curries

The deep purple berries are often used as a food coloring.

Malabar Spinach Nutritional Benefits

The greatest benefit of Malabar spinach is that it is incredibly high in both Vitamin A and Vitamin C, the two nutrients missing from basic food storage. One 3½ ounce (100-gram) serving contains 160% of the daily value of Vitamin A and 170% of Vitamin C.

In addition, it is a great source of potassium, calcium, Vitamin B-6, magnesium, and even iron. Malabar spinach even contains 1.8 grams of protein. Not bad for a plant that grows like crazy.

How to Plant Malabar Spinach

Malabar spinach is super easy to plant and grow. It prefers soil that is moist, slightly acidic, and fertile. However, it will tolerate poor soil conditions and still produce well, which is another great characteristic for a survival crop. 

Direct sow the seeds outside once the danger of frost has past or you can start them indoors 6 to 8 weeks before last frost date. Plant Malabar spinach seeds ¼” deep and 2” apart. Transplant out in the garden after all danger of frost has passed. Transplant or thin to 6” apart in rows 3 feet apart. Be sure to provide trellis supports.

Malabar spinach is perennial in warm, tropical climates. We live in a cold climate so it will not survive outside over the winter. I start the plants inside and let them feed us all winter long. Once the danger of frost has past, I will prune them and transplant the potted plants in the garden to produce all summer long.

Then it is time to start a new crop indoors. It takes about 3 weeks for the seeds to germinate and a few months for the plants to get established. By the time the first frost hits, my new indoor crop will be established and ready to supply us with fresh spinach all winter long.

Malabar Spinach is Good Animal Fodder

We raise both chickens and rabbits on our little homestead. Malabar spinach is something that we can produce easily as animal fodder to supplement their feed. We like to grow a variety of plants for animal fodder. See our post, How to Create a Survival Food Forest in Your Own Backyard for a list of plants that make great chicken fodder.

Malabar Spinach is Our New Favorite Survival Crop

This Indian vining spinach plant is the answer to our search. The ideal survival crop must be a nutritional powerhouse, easy to grow, prolific, pest and disease resistant, and tasty. Malabar spinach has proven to be all these things.

Red Malabar spinach is so beautiful that it can be grown to enhance your landscape. No one ever needs to know that this incredible red and green vining plant (with the lovely lavender and white flowers that turn into deep purple berries) are part of your food supply.

The best part is that once you taste Malabar spinach you will become an instant fan. I like regular spinach, but I love the mild flavor of Malabar spinach. Try it and start growing!

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones


Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.

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