Indian Spinach (Basella alba)

Botanical Name :Basella alba
Family : Basellaceae
Genus : Basella
Synonyms :   Basella rubra – L.

Common Names:   Malabar spinach, white stem Malabar spinach, Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, white vine spinach, vine spinach, Malabar nightshade, country spinach, bertalha vermelha, Malabarspinat, basela branca, bertalha branca, basela vermelha, melao de soldado, sabao de soldado.
Vernacular Names:
English:
Malabar-, Malabar climbing-, Ceylon-, Indian-, East-Indian-, Surinam-, Chinese-, Vietnamese- or buffalo spinach (although it is not closely related to spinach), as well as Malabar nightshade or broad bologi.
Bengali: Pui shak
Oriya: Poi saaga
Konkani: Valchi bhaji
Kannada: Basale soppu
Telugu: Bachhali
Tamil: Kodip pasaLi .
Marathi: Mayalu
Filipino: Alugbati
Vietnamese: M?ng t?i
Other:
Poi baagi, calaloo, alugbati

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Species: B. alba


Habitat :
Range E. Asia. Africa.   Moist places in hedges to elevations of about 500 metres in Nepal .Cultivated Beds;

Description:

A coarse, trailing or twining vine with short-petioled, cordate, and succulent leaves. It has black berries. USES Boiled as a green vegetable. The berries are dried, the pulp ground and used as food coloring.It is a  Short-lived fast-growing, soft-stemmed  Perennial  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. it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. Harvest period 55-180 days after transplanting.

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It is hardy to zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

Cultivation :
Requires a well-drained moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter and a warm sunny sheltered position. Prefers a sandy loam. Tolerates fairly poor soils but does much better in rich soils. Tolerates high rainfall. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 7. A frost-tender perennial, it is not hardy outdoors in Britain but can be grown as a spring-sown annual.   A fast growing plant, capable of producing a crop within 70 days from seed in a warm climate, though it requires a minimum daytime temperature of 15°c if it is to keep growing vigorously so it seldom does well outdoors in Britain. It does tolerate low light levels plus night temperatures occasionally falling below 10°c, and so can do well in a cold greenhouse. Plants do not flower if the length of daylight is more than 13 hours per day.   Widely cultivated for its edible leaves in the tropics, there are some named varieties. It is an excellent hot weather substitute for spinach. Some authorities recognize three different species, B. alba, B. rubra and B. cordifolia, they are all treated here as being part of one species.

Propagation
Seed – sow March or April in a warm greenhouse. The seed requires a minimum temperature of 18 – 21°c in order to germinate, it germinates within 10 – 21 days at 20°c, pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water shortens the germination time. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots of fairly rich compost and grow them on fast, planting them out after the last expected frosts. Stem cuttings.  These can be taken in the late summer, overwintered in a greenhouse and then be planted out in late spring or early summer.

Cultivars
‘Eclipse’
Producing a crop in 55 – 60 days in warm areas, this is a very early cultivar producing small and compact plants that can be planted close together. The leaves are thick and medium to deep green in colour.   Yields very well under warm humid conditions.
‘Red’
The leaves, stems and flowers are tinged with red. The colour is lost when the plant is cooked and so it is best used in salads.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves.

Edible Uses: Colouring; Tea.

Leaves and stem tips – raw or cooked. A pleasant mild spinach flavour, the leaves can be used as a spinach or added to salads. Do not overcook the leaves or they will become slimy. The mucilaginous qualities of the plant make it an excellent thickening agent in soups, stews etc where it can be used as a substitute for okra, Abelmoschatus esculentus. A nutritional analysis of the leaves is available. An infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute. The purplish sap from the fruit is used as a food colouring in pastries and sweets. The colour is enhanced by adding some lemon juice.

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 Bangladesh it is widely used to cook with Hilsa fish.

The vegetable is used in Chinese cuisine. Its many names include flowing water vegetable.

In Vietnam, particularly the north, it is cooked with crab meat, luffa and jute to make soup.

In Orissa, India, it is used to make Curries and Saaga (Any type of dish made from green leafy vegetables is called as Saaga in Orissa). In Maharashtra, India, it is used to make bhaji.

In Africa, the mucilaginous cooked shoots are most commonly used.

Malabar spinach can be found at many Chinese/Vietnamese/Korean/Indian grocery stores, as well as farmers’ markets

Constituents:
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.

Leaves (Dry weight)
275 Calories per 100g
Water: 0%
Protein: 20g; Fat: 3.5g; Carbohydrate: 54g; Fibre: 9g; Ash: 19g;
Minerals – Calcium: 3000mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
Vitamins – A: 50mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.7mg; Riboflavin (B2): 1.8mg; Niacin: 7.5mg; B6: 0mg; C: 1200mg;
:
Medicinal Actions &  Uses

Antidote; Aperient; Astringent; Demulcent; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Laxative; Rubefacient.

Astringent – the cooked roots are used in the treatment of diarrhoea. Laxative – the cooked leaves and stems are used. The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons . A paste of the root is applied to swellings and is also used as a rubefacient. The plant is febrifuge, its juice is a safe aperient for pregnant women and a decoction has been used to alleviate labour. The leaf juice is a demulcent, used in cases of dysentery. It is also diuretic, febrifuge and laxative. The leaf juice is used in Nepal to treat catarrh. A paste of the leaves is applied externally to treat boils.

Other Uses
Dye.

A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits. It has been used as a rouge and also as a dye for official seals.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

 

Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Basella+alba

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basella_alba

http://www.greenchem.biz/Images/ProductImages/pageproducts.php?no=17

http://www.friendsschoolplantsale.com/archives/date/2009/03/

http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/cropView?id=504

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