Malabar Spinach actually isn’t spinach at all. Although its taste is similar to spinach, it tolerates heat much more, so it’s easier to grow in the Southern states during the warm months of summer. It’s fast growing, which is another added benefit. It is high in Vitamins A and C, iron, protein, and calcium. Like okra, it has mucilaginous properties, giving it high fiber content. This, combined with the fact that it stands up to heat better than spinach, makes it a great thickener for soups and stir fries. I found it to not be nearly as “slimy” as okra, and really enjoyed it in this soup! I like that you can put it in the hot water and it doesn’t immediately wilt, as spinach does.
I was planning on making this in the slow cooker, but had a power outage that interfered. Despite that, the soup turned out amazingly good.
Mushroom, Barley, and Spinach Soup
- · ½ sweet onion, chopped
- · 8 oz sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
- · 2 cloves garlic
- · One package Lipton soup mix (I used mushroom and onion)
- · ½ cup barley, rinsed
- · Handful of shredded carrots
- · 4-8 oz Malabar spinach (or regular spinach), sliced
- · 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- · 1 bay leaf
- Put barley, soup mix, bay leaf, and 4 cups of water in slow cooker set on low.
- Once barley has softened (about 3 hours), sauté onions until browned, then add mushrooms and garlic and cook until their liquids are released. Add carrots and cook a little longer.
- Transfer vegetables to slow cooker, adding additional water if needed.
- Add sliced Malabar spinach and vinegar. If using plain spinach, do not add until right before serving.
- Cook for 1-2 more hours, until ready to serve.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can really add as many or as few vegetables as you would like. The barley makes it very hearty, and the soup mix gives it depth of flavor with little effort on your part. If you want a little spice, add one sliced jalapeno in at the very beginning.