|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||79 kJ (19 kcal)|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. It is known under various common names, including Pui, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach, Malabar spinach and Ceylon spinach among others.
Basella alba is native to the Indian Subcontinent, southeast Asia and New Guinea. It is reportedly naturalized in the China, tropical Africa, Brazil, Belize, Colombia, the West Indies, Fiji and French Polynesia.
Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 metres (33 ft) in length. Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavour and mucilaginous texture. The stem of the cultivar Basella alba 'Rubra' is reddish-purple.
Soil and climate requirements
Basella alba grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates and in areas lower than 500 metres (1,600 ft) above sea level. The plant is native to tropical Asia. 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.
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). In Bengali cuisine it is widely used both in a vegetable dish, cooked with red pumpkin, and in a non-vegetarian dish, cooked with the bones of the Ilish fish. 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).
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.
Malabar spinach can be found at many Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, etc. grocery stores, as well as farmers' markets. It has been shown to contain certain phenolic phytochemicals and it has antioxidant properties.
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 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; alugbati in Tagalog and Visayan languages in the Philippines. It is known as pag pang (ผักปั๋ง) in Thai; and mồng tơi in Vietnamese.
In Latin America, it is known as espinaca china ([espiˈnaka ˈtʃina], "Chinese spinach") or espinaca de Malabar ([espiˈnaka ðe malaˈβar], "Malabar spinach") in Spanish, and bertalha ([beʁˈtaʎɐ], etymology is tentatively "creepy green", "dense green") or espinafre indiano ([ispiˈnafɾ ĩdʒiˈɐ̃nu], "Indian spinach") in Portuguese.
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Basella alba
- "Red Stem Malabar Spinach Seeds". Park Seed.
- "Dictionary of Philippine Vegetables". Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- "Uses and Health Benefits of Alugbati / Malabar Spinach". foodrecap.net.
- "WorldCrops Malabar Spinach". Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (2004) Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 2. Vegetables. PROTA Foundation, Wageningen; Backhuys, Leiden; CTA, Wageningen.
- Multilingual taxonomic information from the University of Melbourne
- Media related to Basella alba at Wikimedia Commons
- PROTAbase on Basella alba
- Photo and multilingual synonyms
- University of Florida Agricultural Extension
- Evaluation of tropical leaf vegetables in the Virgin Islands
- Malabar Spinach Basella alba, B. ruba (WorldCrops)
- Dressler, S.; Schmidt, M. & Zizka, G. (2014). "Basella alba". African plants – a Photo Guide. Frankfurt/Main: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg.