This is Malabar Spinach, but it's not spinach at all, it just tastes a lot like spinach. The heart shaped leaves are mild and tender and grow on long red vines that are beautiful.
It loves hot weather and the vines will ramble or climb eight feet. I got these started late, they aren't in full sun where they would be happier, but that's the only spot I had left in the veggie garden. I direct sow them in good soil and let them grow up strings along the garden fence.
"Real" spinach can be a fickle plant in the garden. It loves cool weather and goes to seed (bolts) at the first sign of the heat of summer. In our climate it's hard to get the seed started soon enough in the spring to get decent sized plants before they bolt.
So I plant "fake" spinach like the Malabar, or another one called New Zealand spinach which imitate the flavor of the real deal. Even Swiss chard will act as a substitute for spinach.
If you didn't get any Malabar Spinach in the ground, this is the perfect time to plant the real stuff. Sure there are plenty of hot days left, but there's something about the end of the season with cooler nights that makes spinach happy.
I'll probably plant two crops, some now and another sowing in a few weeks. I sow the seeds thick and thin the small plants for tender salad greens.
As the season winds down, I'll cover the spinach from the last sowing with a floating row cover. It's a spun bound translucent fabric that helps the plant survive the winter. They are easy to find at a good nursery, are cheap and reusable from season to season.
About half of the spinach will make it through the winter and those plants hit the ground running in April, producing a nice crop before most gardeners have planted seeds.
I do the same thing with many cool loving crops like lettuce and kale, even root crops like beets.
It's fun to brag about picking something during the January thaw, but it'might ever be better to have the first greens of spring.