How to Plant and Raise The Egyptian Spinach

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Leafy greens are one of my favorite things to plant in the vegetable garden. They are healthy, easy to grow, and in most cases, you can get a consistent harvest. Molokhia stands out from the leafy green crowd, so as many people as possible should try to grow it.

Why? Molokhia is fantastic because you can harvest a ton from one plant, and it can be used medicinally, as a food, and to make fiber. It is also freely resistant to most pests and diseases and self-seeds.

If you are looking for a leafy green that is versatile and delicious, then Molokhia is perfect for you.

What is Molokia?

Molokhia (corchorus olitorius) is also known as Jute Mallow, Jew’s Mallow, Nalta Jute and Egyptian Spinach. In its native Egypt, it is followed by Molukhia, where it has been cultivated for centuries. It is used in Egypt to make an incredibly popular dish that goes by the same name.

This self-seeding annual is a fast grower and is often ready for harvesting within 50 to 60 days after planting. The funny thing is, Egyptian spinach is not actually related to spinach. It is from the same family as okra, durian and cocoa.

Rich in nutrients, molokhia can be used raw in teas, soups, salads, or can be used to thicken cooking liquids. While it is traditionally served with rabbit and cilantro, your choices are endless.

The lovely yellow flowers dry up in the fall and become pods. The pods are edible before they harden, and you can use them the same way you would okra.

You can also plant new seeds every two weeks for a continual harvest of young, tender plants, and this provides constant food for you and your family.

This plant is also one of the two major sources of jute.

How to plant molokhia

Egyptian spinach grows well in USDA growing zones 5-11. You can try it outside of these areas, especially if you grow it in a container. However, it tends to bolt in cooler or drier weather.

The pH of the soil should be between 6.5 to 6.8. Loamy or sandy soil with good drainage is essential. Molokhia does not like wet feet.

Plant the plant in full sun. Too much shadow will cause Molokia to struggle. Protect from high winds as the stems may drop.

planting seeds

Sowing seeds is the easiest way to start molokhia in your garden. Molokhia seeds have to be treated to bring them out of dormancy. Do not worry; this is easy. Soak the seeds in warm water for a few seconds, then soak them in room temperature water for 12 hours. Drain and plant in general.

If you plant directly in the garden, make sure the temperature is consistently around 75ºF, and you’ll see germination in as little as three days.

If your area doesn’t get to 75ºF in spring, plant indoors and transplant later when the weather warms.

Since molokhia can be sensitive to being transplanted, use compostable peat or cow pots so you can dig a hole and plant the entire pot and plant without disturbing the roots.

Keep the soil moist and pot seeds in a warm spot inside out of direct sunlight. You want to keep the temperature around 75ºF until it is ready for the garden or container.

Plant or transplant seeds 16 inches apart. When choosing such a site, keep in mind that these plants should be 90 to 120 inches tall.

You can sow additional seeds every few weeks for a consistent harvest.

care for molokia

Once it’s growing further in the ground, here’s how to grow your own Molokia.

Fertilizer

Dress your garden or container with well-rotted compost, and you shouldn’t be adding any fertilizer until later in the season. If you notice that the plant is not growing quickly or vigorously, add an all-purpose liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season.

Use sustained release fertilizer in containers and add it in early spring.

Water

Keep the soil moist. Molokhia can handle high temperatures, but it will struggle in drought. Plant binds to seed due to lack of water.

This is a plant that will benefit from a drip irrigation system to keep it consistently moist. If not, water deeply once or twice a week, but keep an eye on the soil. Scratch the surface and if it dries an inch below the surface, add more water.

Don’t forget that when you are continuously harvesting from a plant, it needs to get more nutrients from the soil. For this water is needed.

sorting out

Also, you should not prune your plant when your molokia is in a container. Just keep removing leaves to eat, and it shouldn’t get too out of control. For container plants, trim it regularly to encourage bushiness.

Grow Molokhia in Containers

Egyptian spinach grows well in containers. Use a good quality potting mix for vegetables. Water well and foliar regularly to keep the plant bushy.

Once Molokhia is about 15 inches tall, trim the tops to give a boost to the bush. If you plan to harvest seeds or use it to make jute, do not trim the plant.

If you live in a cooler area, containers may be best for your molochia because you can move it around to follow the sun if necessary.

Companion Planting for Molokia

You can plant molokhia with:

  • brassicas
  • legumes
  • Pea
  • Strawberries
  • Onion

Just make sure you give enough spacing between plants so that the Molokia doesn’t shade things when they grow tall.

Do not plant with:

  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • squash
  • Maize

Common problems and solutions for growing Molokhia

Like most leafy plants, molokhia is prone to a few issues, but nothing serious. Some seasons will get you through without any problems. Here are the most common problems you may see.

anthracnose

You usually find that this is due to overhead watering in humid conditions. Once it starts, it renders plants like molokhia unusable because you don’t want to eat the horrible looking leaves. Read our in-depth article on anthracnose to learn how to identify and control this disease.

to drop

This occurs when newly emerged plants die for no apparent reason. Older plants become dwarf and yellow. When you pull the plants out, the roots turn black and rot.

You should plant your molokhia in well-draining soil. If you buy seeds, check to see if they have been treated with a fungicide.

Once the soaking has stopped, remove the plant and do not re-plant more molokhia in that area for a few seasons. There are more tips in our guide.

fusarium wilt

Premature death, yellowing of older leaves and lesions are all symptoms of fusarium wilt. This is a common problem that may recur for a few seasons, so check out everything you need to know in our article on fusarium wilt.

snails and slugs

Like all leafy plants, Molokhia loves snails and slugs. If you want several effective ways to rid your garden of slugs and snails, visit our informative article.

aphids

There is no plant that these strange insects do not want to eat. They eat plants and leave behind a substance called honeydew. It attracts ants and wasps because they love to feed on this sweet treat. It also causes sooty mold, which is a real pain for gardeners.

We have a complete guide dedicated to helping you identify and eliminate these pests.

Molokhia Harvesting

Harvesting begins about six to eight weeks after germination. You can start harvesting as soon as the leaves are big enough to eat. Young leaves are best used.

Use sharp scissors and remove about 6 inches of the top part of the stems. This will encourage more growth so that you can continue to use again and again.

If you let the plant go to seed, you will get a bunch of new plants the following year. Be careful. It is considered a weed in some areas.

While you can use the leaves and stalks in many different ways, you can try making a traditional Molokhia dish. Or use them to make soups, salads, sandwiches, curries or teas.

saving seed

It is a giving plant. I bought seeds once and never needed to buy them again. Allow the pods to dry on the plant and harvest them when they are completely dry.

Crack the pods, and you should see little black seeds inside. Store in a paper envelope and keep in a warm, dry place.

Next season, start with the soaking method described above, and you can provide for yourself and your family again. That’s one reason I’ve always been growing molokhia in my survival garden.

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