Malabar spinach (Basella alba) is an edible perennial, fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, growing to 10 m in length. It has thick, semi-succulent, dark green, heart-shaped fleshy leaves that have a mild flavor and mucilaginous texture. The flowers are white, pink, or red in short spikes and are located in the leaf axils. The fruits are round and soft and can be red, white, or black in color. The seeds are round and black. The leaves and stems are cooked and eaten for their laxative properties. The taste is bland and mucilaginous, with no odor. The fruit sap is used as a food coloring in pastries and desserts.
Species: B. alba
Scientific Name: Basella alba
Synonyms: Basella rubra, Basella lucida, Basella japonica, Basella cordifolia, Basella nigra, Basella crassifolia, Basella volubilis, Basella ramosa, Gandola nigra.
Common Names: Malabar spinach, vine spinach, Red vine spinach, Indian spinach, and Ceylon spinach.
Manipuri: Urok Shumbal
Konkani: Valchi Bhagi
Tamil: Kodi pasalai keerai, Pasala keerai
Kannada: Basale, Potaki, Mandakaali
Gujarati: Valchi Bhagi
Sanskrit: Upodika, Potika
Bengali: Pui Shaak
How to grow and maintain Malabar spinach (Basella alba):
It grows best in full sunlight, but partial shade increases the leaf size. They need 6-8 hours of sunlight each day.
It grows well in moist, rich, organic, well-drained, fertile soil and a soil pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0.
It prefers normal room temperatures between 60 – 75°F / 16°C – 24°C.
Water moderately but consistently during the growing season, Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Allow the top one inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering during the winter season.
Malabar Spinach needs a lot of nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Lots of vermicomposts & cow-dung manure should be provided to the plant to produce thick, big fleshy leaves.
It can be easily propagated from seeds or stem cuttings and stems touching the ground quickly produce roots. To speed germination, be sure to scarify the seeds by rubbing them with sandpaper or pricking them with a knife. Plant the seeds about half-inch deep in potting mix or directly in the garden and keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate in around three weeks. Additionally, properly stored seeds stay viable for up to four years.
Pests and Diseases:
It has no serious pest and disease problems. Watch for mealybugs, thrips, mites, and aphids.
Benefits of Malabar spinach (Basella alba):
- Basella alba is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, minerals like Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin A & C. The essential amino acids present in it are Arginine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Threonine, and Tryptophan. Thus, it is utilized for checking malnutrition in children.
- The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, and iron, with many other vitamins and minerals in lower quantities. It is utilized in constipation, poultice for sores, urticaria, and gonorrhea. It is also used in poultice local swellings, intestinal complaints, etc.
- A decoction of the leaves is suggested as a safe laxative in pregnant women and children. Externally, the mucilaginous leaf is crushed and applied in urticaria, burns, and scalds.
- Shoots have many medicinal properties, and are febrifuge, diuretic, and laxative, whereas roots are used to treat diarrhea. Leaf poultice is applied to treat boils and sores. The purple fruit juice is used to treat eye infections and as a food colorant and dye.
- It is also rich in mucilage and is credited with antioxidant properties. The mucilage present in Basella alba is reported to have hypoglycemic activity.
- It has been attributed to gastro-protective activity, ulcer healing, anti-inflammatory activity, wound healing activity.
- It is reported to improve testosterone levels in males, thus boosting libido.
- It has been reported for its antifungal, anticonvulsant, analgesic, antiinflammatory, and androgenic activities and for the treatment of anemia. The leaves of B. alba are traditionally used in the Ayurveda system of medicine to bring sound refreshing sleep when it is applied on the head about 30 minutes before bathing.