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Basella alba


Leaves from West Bengal, India
A variety of Basella alba with deep red and purple stems in the Philippines
Malabar spinach fruits (Zhuji countryside (Zhejiang, China), 2005).

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Basella alba is an edible perennial vine in the family Basellaceae. It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. It is native to the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and New Guinea. It is reportedly naturalized in China, tropical Africa, Brazil, Belize, Colombia, the West Indies, Fiji and French Polynesia.<ref name=r>Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Basella alba </ref>

Basella alba is known under various common names, including Malabar Spinach, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach and Ceylon spinach among others.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="ibiscan.tripod.com">Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching Template:Convert in length. Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavour and mucilaginous texture. It is rich in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. It has been shown to contain certain phenolic phytochemicals and it has antioxidant properties.Template:Citation needed

It is also called Malabar Spinach. There are two varieties - green and red. The stem of the Basella alba is green and the stem of the cultivar Basella alba 'Rubra' is reddish-purple; the leaves in both cases are green. The stem when crushed usually emits a strong scent. Malabar Spinach can be found at many Asian supermarkets, as well as farmers' markets.

Soil and climate requirements

Basella alba grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates and in areas lower than Template:Convert above sea level. The plant is native to tropical Asia.<ref name="WorldCrops Malabar Spinach"/> Growth is slow in low temperatures resulting in low yields. Flowering is induced during the short-day months of November to February. It grows best in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0.


Typical of leaf vegetables, Malabar spinach is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It is low in calories by volume, but high in protein per calorie. The succulent mucilage is a particularly rich source of soluble fiber. Among many other possibilities, Malabar spinach may be used to thicken soups or stir-fries with garlic and chili peppers.

In the Philippines, the leaves of this vegetable is one of the main ingredients in an all vegetable dish called utan that is served over rice. It is usually cooked with sardines, onions, garlic, and parsley.

In Karnataka Cuisine (Karavali and Malnad regions), the leaves and stems are used to make Basale Soppu Saaru/Curry (Especially in combination with Jackfruit seed) and soupy raita with curd. Beary Muslims of coastal Karnataka prepare Basalede kunhi Pindi (small rice dumplings smeared in gravy prepared from Malabar spinach and dried tuna ). In Bengali cuisine it is widely used both in a vegetable dish, cooked with red pumpkin, and in non-vegetarian dishes, cooked with the bones of the Ilish fish and may also be cooked with shrimps. In Andhra Pradesh, a southern state in India, a curry of Basella and Yam is made popularly known as Kanda Bachali Koora [Yam and Basella curry]. Also it used to make the snack item bachali koora bajji. In Odisha, India, it is used to make Curries and Saaga (any type of dish made from green leafy vegetables is called Saaga in Odisha). In the Western Ghats in Maharashtra, India, it is used to make bhaji (भजी). It is also known as daento or valchi bhaji in Konkani. A popular Mangalorean dish is "Valchi Bhaji and Shrimp - Curry".

The vegetable is used in Chinese cuisine. It has many names including flowing water vegetable. It is often used in stir-frys and soups. In Vietnam, particularly the north, it is cooked with crab meat, luffa and jute to make soup.

In Africa, the mucilaginous cooked shoots are most commonly used.<ref name="prota">Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (2004) Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 2. Vegetables. PROTA Foundation, Wageningen; Backhuys, Leiden; CTA, Wageningen.</ref>


Basella alba is usually referred to as the "spinach" equivalent of a certain country in English, even though it is not related to the true spinach (Spinacia oleracea). Examples include "Malabar spinach", "Ceylon spinach", "Indian spinach", "Surinam spinach", "Chinese spinach", or "Vietnamese spinach". Other common names include "vine spinach", "red vine spinach", "climbing spinach", "creeping spinach", "buffalo spinach", "Malabar nightshade", and "broad bologi".

In South Asia, it is known as pui shak (পুঁই শাক) in Bengali; poi ni bhaji in Gujarati; basale soppu(ಬಸಳೆ ಸೊಪ್ಪು) in Kannada; valchi bhaji or daento or vauchi bhaji in Konkani; vallicheera (വള്ളിച്ചീര ) in Malayalam; mayalu (मायाळू) in Marathi; poi saaga (ପୋଈ ଶାଗ) in Odia; vel niviti (sudu) in Sinhalese; kodip pasaLi (கொடிப்பசலை) in Tamil; bachhali (బచ్చలి) in Telugu; and basale in Tulu.

In Southeast Asia, it is known as kubay in Ibanag; libatu in Kapampangan; and alugbati in Tagalog and the Visayan languages of the Philippines. It is known as pak plang (ผักปลัง) in Thai; mồng tơi in Vietnamese andVor Chunlung ( វល្លិ៍ជន្លង់ ) in Khmer .<ref name="WorldCrops Malabar Spinach">Template:Cite web</ref>

In East Asia, it is known as 潺菜, 木耳菜, 落葵 or 蚕菜, being saan choy, xan choy, shan tsoi, luo kai, shu chieh, and lo kwai in some of readings of Cantonese; and tsurumurasaki (つるむらさき) in Japanese.<ref name="WorldCrops Malabar Spinach"/>

In Latin America, it is known as Template:Lang (Template:IPA-es, "Chinese spinach") or Template:Lang (Template:IPA-es, "Malabar spinach") in Spanish, and Template:Lang (Template:IPA-pt, etymology is tentatively "creepy green", "dense green") or Template:Lang (Template:IPA-pt, "Indian spinach") in Portuguese.

In West Africa, specifically among the Yoruba tribe in South West Nigeria, it is known as "Efo amunututu" translated in Yoruba as the vegetable which “calms your stomach”.



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