Basella aka Malabar Spinach, Vine Spinach, Pui Saag, Remayong, Red Vine Spinach, Climbing Spinach, Creeping Spinach, Buffalo Spinach or Ceylon Spinach, is an edible plant from the Basellaceae family that grows all around the year. It is native to the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and New Guinea. It has two chief species- Basella alba, which has green- stems and deep-green leaves, and Basella rubra with purplish stems and dark green leaves with pink veins- and both taste the same. It bears white or white-pink colour tiny flowers depending upon the species and purple to black colour berries. A strong scent is released when its stem is crushed.
Basella alba grows to about 33 feet in length and 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 is low in calories and has a fair amount of most minerals. The succulent mucilage is a rich source of soluble fibre. Also, it has been shown to possess certain phenolic phytochemicals and antioxidant properties.
It can be grown in home gardens and if you are planning to do so, make sure that you provide it something to climb on. Being a vine, it requires trellising for its spread.
Malabar Spinach is distantly related to Spinach and does not taste like it when eaten in its raw form. However, when cooked, Malabar spinach does look and taste a lot more like regular spinach. But it is better in the sense that it does not wilt as fast and holds up better in soups and stir-fries. You can read about the nutritional comparison between them on https://skipthepie.org/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/malabar-spinach-cooked/compared-to/spinach-raw/
Selection: This plant can easily be grown at home but if you are opting to buy it from the market then look for fresh harvest featuring shiny, succulent leaves, and firm stems. Needless to say, avoid sunken, dry, bruised, and discoloured leaves.
Cleaning: Like we do with all leafy vegetables, wash the leaves in cold running water to remove any surface grit. Then use a paper towel or soft cotton cloth to dry it. Trim away the tough stems and chop the remaining part to add in dishes.
Storage: According to sources, it is recommended to consume it before a maximum of 2 days. If you need to keep it longer, just cut 1/2 inch off the bottom of the stems and place it in a jar with fairly deep water. It will keep a long time and will start to root in less than a week. Rooted plants can be planted and will grow vigorously with normal care. You can cut some off now and then for cooking. (Source: http://www.clovegarden.com/ingred/cn_malabarz.html)
Basella leaves are low in calories but packed with nutrition. They are rich in proteins, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B9 (folic acid), riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron.
Find the entire nutrition chart at https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/malabar-spinach/
- Basella has a very low amount of calorie count and fats (100 grams of raw leaves contain only 19 calories). Also, it is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- It acts as an astringent and its cooked roots are used for treating diarrhoea.
- Basella alba is administered orally for the treatment of hernia.
- Its leaves have a laxative effect.
- Because of being vitamin A rich, Basella leaves are good for eyesight, prevention of lung and oral cancers, etc.
- In addition to natural fibre (roughage) that is found in the stem and leaves, its mucilaginous leaves facilitate smooth digestion. Fiber diet is helpful in the reduction of cholesterol absorption and in the prevent bowel problems.
- Basella, like Spinach, is a rich source of iron which is required for RBC production in the body.
Read more about the medicinal uses of Basella Alba on http://oaji.net/articles/2014/364-1401974410.pdf
Due to the presence of oxalic acid in Basella, it may promote the formation of kidney stones. Thus, individuals prone to such conditions are advised to consume it in regulated quantities with an adequate amount of water.
Among many other possibilities, Malabar spinach may be used to thicken soups or stir-fries with garlic and chili peppers.
Try out the following Basella recipes:
Malabar Spinach Kuzhambu (Spicy Mung Bean & Basella Stew) http://www.geethaskitchen.com/2009/08/malabar-spinach-kuzhambu-spicy-mung.html
Lemony Rice Salad With Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olives http://www.geethaskitchen.com/2009/07/lemony-rice-salad-with-feta-cheese-and.html
Malabar Spinach Lobia Curry http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/mangalorean-malabar-spinach-curry-recipe/
Chinese Stir-Fried Malabar Spinach or Tsuru-Murasaki https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/169411-chinese-stir-fried-malabar-spinach-tsuru-murasaki