Ceylon spinach (Basella alba)

Basella alba, or Malabar spinach (also Phooi leaf, Red vine spinach, Creeping spinach,Climbing spinach) is a perennial vine found in the tropics where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable.

Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 m 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.

Basella alba grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates and in areas lower than 500 m above sea level. 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.

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