The very prolific Racquel--Perennial Garden Lover--had a post titled Seedhead and Berries on Oct.9. Reading that interesting post, I thought about this particular plant. The seedhead does look a little strange and some are almost grotesque in shape. There are several names for this plant; Malabar spinach, Ceylon spinach, Vietnamese spinach, Slippery vegetable and Vine spinach. It does taste like spinach but it has a mild flavour. Whereas spinach is smooth in texture when cooked, this one becomes slimy if over-cooked. This is because of a thick gluey substance rather like okra, so care must be taken not to cook it for long.
Said to be originally from India, it is found all across south- Asia and Africa. The botanical name is Basella alba or Basella rubra. The B. alba is the light green variety whereas the purplish-stemmed ones are B. rubra. I have the latter, but it is slightly different from the ones you might see on certain web pages. The leaves and stems are smaller and the leaves are not thick. In our area, the smaller type grows like weeds, which is why I could separate the various stages of seeds for the photos. I treat them like weeds too, uprooting them as they spring up even in pots, ready to twine and choke the plant the pot was intended for!
I remember reading in someone's blog ( I can't remember the name) that one should never be happy about really fast-growing plants as they tend to be invasive. How true about the basella! Propagation is by seeds and stems. Cuttings do not take long take root. A very easy to grow plant indeed!
This soft-stemmed vine tolerates high rainfall and humidity. Even if the soil is fairly poor, it'll still do well. Like any other leafy green vegetable, it is high in vitamin A, C, iron and calcium. LIke berries, the ripe seeds yield a rich purplish- red colour when crushed. The dye is used for official seals, rouge, and even food colour. The colour is enhanced by adding lemon juice. The last photo is a mixed vegetable I cooked. It has bits of pumpkin, potatoes and basella. Here I've added only the leaves but tender stems are consumed too. I like to have the stems in mustard sauce. We also add the finely chopped leaves to fish curry.
Glory be to God for dappled things- For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings; Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough; And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him. Gerard Manley Hopkins
The first flowering shrub I planted on our land
Every flower is a soul blooming in Nature.-Gerard De Nerval
Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself? -Henry David Thoreau