A frost-tender perennial, it is not hardy outdoors in Britain but can be grown as a spring-sown annual. A fast growing plant, capable of producing a crop within 70 days from seed in a warm climate, though it requires a minimum daytime temperature of 15°c if it is to keep growing vigorously.
It does tolerate low light levels plus night temperatures occasionally falling below 10°c, and so can do well in a cold greenhouse. Plants do not flower if the length of daylight is more than 13 hours per day.
A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits.
Requires a well-drained moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter and a warm sunny sheltered position. Prefers a sandy loam. Tolerates fairly poor soils but does much better in rich soils. Tolerates high rainfall. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 7.
Sow March or April in a warm greenhouse. The seed requires a minimum temperature of 18 - 21°c in order to germinate, it germinates within 10 - 21 days at 20°c, pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water shortens the germination time. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots of fairly rich compost and grow them on fast, planting them out after the last expected frosts.
Leaves and stem tips - raw or cooked. A pleasant mild spinach flavour, the leaves can be used as a spinach or added to salads. Do not overcook the leaves or they will become slimy. The mucilaginous qualities of the plant make it an excellent thickening agent in soups, stews etc where it can be used as a substitute for okra, Abelmoschatus esculentus. A nutritional analysis of the leaves is available.