If you haven’t heard of Malabar spinach, it’s a tropical perennial vine that has nutritious leaves that taste similar to spinach. It’s so great that owners of this vine want to save seeds for their friends and family or grow the following year.
Malabar spinach seeds can either be dried on the vine or air-dried after picking. Keep in an air-tight container or bag and they’ll stay good for 1-3 years. Be sure to get all of the moisture out of the seeds to prevent mold buildup. You can also use Malabar spinach seeds as an edible and safe dye.
The tough part is deciding how to best save these seeds.
In researching this, I found a few different ways to save these seeds along with several tips. Let’s take a look at 7 things to know about harvesting Malabar spinach seeds.
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1. The Berries Can Be Used as an Edible Dye
If you’re like me and love minimalism and multi-purposing everything, you’re in luck. Malabar spinach berries can be used as a food-safe dye. With a color stronger than beets, it’s a great option if you need a purply dye to use with your food or artwork (my food is my art).
After about 100 to 150 days, your Malabar spinach should have plenty of berries. To harvest, simply twist the berries off the vine.
You can press the berries to separate the dye and the seed. Remember, the juice stains easily, and it will be tough to get off of your skin or clothes.
2. You Can Dry Them on the Vine
For those who want to skip the dye, you can simply leave the berries on the vine to sundry. Wait to pick until you see shriveled berries, but don’t wait too long as they can start to fall on the ground.
The berries should be completely dry, but if there’s some moisture, you may want to dry them further with a towel or leave them on a plate for a short time.
3. You Can Manually Dry Them
If you don’t want to wait for the sun to dry your Malabar spinach seeds, you can pick the berries when they are ripe and dry them using a few methods.
One way of drying them is to press them into a strainer, submerged in soap and water, and scrub to separate the seed from the berry. Once this is done, wash with water and place the seeds on a plate to dry.
If the seeds aren’t completely dry after this, you could continue to let them dry in a dishtowel. After about eight hours they should be dried and ready to be stored.
4. Dry Seeds Won’t Mold
An advantage of drying the seeds and completely removing the berry is to prevent mold buildup. If one of your Malabar spinach seeds gets mold, then it’s likely it will spread to the rest of them.
To ensure your seeds don’t get ruined, dry them completely using one of the two methods above.
5. The Seeds Stay Good for 1–3 Years
Depending on how they’re stored, dried Malabar spinach seeds can stay good for up to three years. Use air-tight containers such as plastic bags, envelopes, or mason jars and store in a cool, dark place. The less moisture and sunlight there is the better the seeds will store. Store in a refrigerator for the best results.
Preparing them in these ways will help make sure you have plenty of high-germinating seeds to last multiple seasons or to give away to others as gifts.
6. You Can Store the Entire Berry
Other than simply storing the seed, you can store the entire berry, as long as it’s dried enough. The best way to do this would be to dry on the vine, as mentioned above, but other drying methods will work too.
Keep in mind that the berry is more likely to mold than the seed as it’s carrying more moisture.
7. Trellises Work Best for Collecting Seeds
You can allow your Malabar spinach to run along the ground, but this will make for a hard time collecting the seeds. Instead, try growing the vine up a trellis so you have easier access to the plant and berries. This will also help you manage the plant better.
There are a few different ways to harvest Malabar spinach seeds, but it comes down to your preference. If you want to save the dye, you might have to go through some extra steps. Or stick to the easy method of leaving the berries on the vine to sundry.
Keep in mind that before harvesting, the Malabar spinach plant should be in full sun, and thinned 12 to 18 inches apart for best fruit growth.