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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Basella alba

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Basella alba


  • Annual
  • This member of the Madeira vine family is a frost-tender perennial, grown as an annual in cold areas.
  • Malabar Spinach is an edible fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine that can reach 10m in length.
  • It has thick, green semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves with a mild flavor and mucilaginous texture.
  • Small white flowers are borne in clusters on the end of short stems at the nodes.
  • They are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs).
  • Needs full sun or light shade and will grow well in any well-drained soil - even very acid soils.
  • Tolerates a pH ranging from 4.3 to 7.0.
  • An excellent hot weather substitute for spinach.
  • Originally from tropical Africa and Southeast Asia.

Culinary Uses

  • Malabar Spinach has a pleasant, mild spinach flavor - the leaves can be used as a spinach.
  • The leaves and stem tips can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • To prepare, boil the young leaves for a few minutes, strain and season to taste.
  • Do not overcook the leaves or they will become slimy.
  • The mucilaginous qualities of the plant make it an excellent thickening agent in soups and stews.
  • Raw leaves can be added to green salad/ stir-fries with garlic and chili peppers/ steamed with tofu and ginger/ used as a substitute for okra.
  • An infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute.
  • Malabar Spinach is a common vegetable in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia.

Parts Used

  • The roots, young leaves and stem tips.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • Like other leaf vegetables - Malabar spinach is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium and a good source of chlorophyll.
  • It is low in calories by volume, but high in protein per calorie.
  • The succulent mucilage is a particularly rich source of soluble fiber.
  • Astringent - the cooked roots are used in the treatment of diarrhea.
  • The cooked leaves and stems are used as a laxative.
  • The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons.
  • A paste of the root is applied to swellings.
  • The plant is febrifuge, its juice is a safe aperient for pregnant women and a decoction has been used to alleviate labor.
  • The leaf juice is a demulcent and used in cases of dysentery.
  • The leaf juice is used in Nepal to treat catarrh.
  • A paste of the leaves is applied externally to treat boils.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff

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