Tetragonia tetragonioides

New Zealand Spinach makes a tasty substitute for regular spinach in hot climates.

Most vegetables grow to maturity in a relatively short season. No matter where you live, you can find a good selection of edibles for a vegetable garden. There are, however, vegetables and fruits that are more demanding. Long season vegetables are best started indoors or bought as small plants for people with short growing seasons. People who live in mild-winter climates are often envied because they can grow edibles all year round. Yet some of these warmer climates have high-heat summers which preclude growing edibles that have a limited heat tolerance. One favorite green vegetable, spinach, can be a problem where temperatures rise too high.

If you live where summers are too hot to grow spinach but you want green, leafy crops that won’t wilt or bolt into setting seed, there are some charming plants you can grow as spinach substitutes. Some are climbers, some trailers and some are downright decorative. All have nourishing green leaves that can be used raw or cooked and have flavors resembling spinach. You may even like them better than regular spinach.

Malabar spinach (Basella alba is a climbing plant with large, thick leaves. It is heat tolerant and a decorative vegetable with red stems.

New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) has triangular green leaves and clambers along the ground or up supports. Some people prefer the flavor to ordinary spinach.

Sbanach spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is less known in the United States. It is a wild spinach-type plant from Galilee. This one is very tolerant of heat and dry. It also sports triangular leaves.

Strawberry Spinach (Chenopodium capitatum) is a heirloom plant grown from very tiny seeds. It is well know in Europe where it has been grown for centuries. Decorative, with small strawberry-like fruits, its edible leaves also form a triangular shape.

Try one or more of these spinach substitutes to see which one grows best in your garden. You might find they are easier and tastier than the traditional spinach. Give them all a good garden soil, regular water and plenty of sun. Then watch them defy the summer heat.