Basella alba

Ceylon, Tropical or Malabar spinach – Basella alba

This is the tropical spinach that you will likely find in an authentic ‘Palak Paneer‘ dish.

This is a nutritious warm climate growing vine and it really needs constant warmth and water to grow well.

There is both a green and red stemmed variety – both taste pretty much the same from my experience.

It can be eaten raw and cooked but it gets a little ‘sticky’ when the leaves and stem tips are steamed or heated generally and be used as a thickener in soups or stir fry dishes.

The leaves are up to about 30cm wide.

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The main vines tend to die back down to ground level and resprout every year with the local climate – but they are fairly reliable. This also allows for a full rejuvenation of the vine stems and leaves.

I usually just let the  seeds drop in place and grow the vines in the same space every year.

The flowers and resultant small bulbous succulent shiny black seeds which form at the end of the growing season are usually numerous and seem to germinate the following season fairly easily once the heat and water levels are right for it. This usually happens for me mid summer as the hot dry period breaks with heavy rain. Then the vines grow like rockets up and out very quickly filling the growing space and trellis system I have set up. Even if the main vines die  the new seedlings take over the growing space made available.

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If you don’t have the ambient heat, direct sun and lots of water during the growing period then it is a fairly pathetic grower.