Fine Art

Basella alba

Basella alba

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Ordo: Caryophyllales

Familia: Basellaceae
Genus: Basella
Species: Basella alba

Basella alba L., Sp. Pl. 1: 272 (1753).

Basella alba var. cordifolia (Lam.) M.R.Almeida, Fl. Maharashtra 4A: 217 (2003).
Basella cordifolia Lam. in Lam. & al., Encycl. 1: 382 (1783).
Basella crassifolia Salisb., Prodr. Stirp. Chap. Allerton 153 (1796).
Basella japonica Burm.f., Fl. Ind. 76, t. 39, f. 4 (1768).
Basella lucida L., Syst. Nat.. ed. 10, 2: 966 (1759).
Basella nigra Lour., Fl. Cochinch. 1: 183 (1790).
Basella oleracea Alef., Landw. Fl., 281 (1866).
Basella rubra L., Sp. Pl. 1: 272 (1753).
Basella volubilis Salisb., Prodr. Stirp. Chap. Allerton 153 (1796).
Gandola nigra (Lour.) Raf., Sylva Tellur., 60 (1838).


'eFloras 2008. Basella alba in Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus I: 272. Reference page.

Mansfeld's World Database of Agriculture and Horticultural Crops (1998 onwards) IPK Gatersleben. Accessed: 2016 Mar 09.

USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Basella alba in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 09-Oct-10.

Vernacular names
বাংলা: পুইশাক
Deutsch: Malabarspinat
English: Malabar Spinach
español: Espinaca de Malabar, Espinaca China
suomi: Malabarinpinaatti
français: Épinard de Malabar
Türkçe: Çin Ispanağı
中文: 落葵

Basella alba is an edible perennial vine in the family Basellaceae. It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. It is native to the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and New Guinea. It is naturalized in China, tropical Africa, Brazil, Belize, Colombia, Philippines, the West Indies, Fiji and French Polynesia.[1]

Basella alba is known by common names including Malabar spinach, vine spinach, Ceylon spinach and Indian spinach.[2][3]


Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 metres (33 ft) in length. Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavour and mucilaginous texture.[4] There are two varieties - green and red. The stem of the Basella alba is green with green leaves and the stem of the cultivar Basella alba 'Rubra' is reddish-purple; the leaves form green and as the plant reaches maturity, older leaves will develop a purple pigment starting at the base of the leaf and work towards the end. The stem when crushed usually emits a strong scent. Malabar spinach can be found at many Asian supermarkets, as well as farmers' markets.
Soil and climate requirements

Basella alba grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates and in areas lower than 500 metres (1,600 ft) above sea level. The plant is native to tropical Asia.[5] Growth is slow in low temperatures resulting in low yields. Flowering is induced during the short-day months of the year. It grows best in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0.
Vinespinach, (basella), raw

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 79 kJ (19 kcal)
3.4 g
0.3 g
1.8 g
Vitamins Quantity
Vitamin A equiv.
400 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.05 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.155 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.5 mg
Vitamin B6
0.24 mg
Folate (B9)
140 μg
Vitamin C
102 mg
Minerals Quantity
109 mg
1.2 mg
65 mg
0.735 mg
52 mg
510 mg
0.43 mg
Other constituents Quantity
Water 93 g

Link to USDA Database entry
  • Units
  • μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
  • IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central


The edible leaves are 93% water, 3% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and contain negligible fat (table). In a 100 gram reference amount, the leaves supply 19 calories of food energy, and are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value) of vitamins A and C,[3] folate, and manganese, with moderate levels of B vitamins and several dietary minerals (table).

In Sri Lanka, it is used to make different kinds of curries specially with dal. In the Philippines, the leaves of this vegetable are one of the main ingredients in an all vegetable dish called utan served over rice. It is usually cooked with sardines, onions, garlic, and parsley. In Mangalorean Tuluva cuisine, a coconut based gravy called gassi is paired with the Basella plant, making a delicacy called Basale gassi to be eaten with rice dumplings called pundi soaked overnight in the gravy, or with red rice. Some variations have tiny prawns, clams, horsegram or dried fish in the gravy.

In Bengali cuisine, it is widely used both in a vegetable dish, cooked with red pumpkin, and in non-vegetarian dishes, cooked with the bones of the Ilish fish and may also be cooked with shrimp. In Odia cuisine, it is cooked with mustard paste to make ' poi saaga rai'. In Andhra Pradesh, a southern state in India, a curry of Basella and yam is made. In Gujarat, fresh big and tender leaves are washed, dipped in besan mix and deep-fried to make crispy pakodas called "poi na bhajia".

The vegetable is used in Chinese cuisine. It has many names including flowing water vegetable. It is often used in stir-frys and soups. In Vietnam, where it is called mồng tơi, it is cooked with shrimp, crab meat, luffa and jute to make soup. In Africa, the mucilaginous cooked shoots are most commonly used.[6]

Historically, the red variety of Basella alba has also been used to make red dye in China.[7]

A seedling of Basella alba. The cotyledons are visible

A variety of Basella alba with deep red and purple stems in the Philippines

Malabar spinach fruits, Zhejiang, China

A dish from Malabar spinach in Indonesia


Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Basella alba
"Basella alba". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 7 August 2021.
Appell, Scott. "Red-Stemmed Malabar Spinach". Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
"Malabar spinach - A succulent summer green". Sustainable Food Center. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
"WorldCrops Malabar Spinach". Retrieved August 31, 2012.
Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (2004) Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 2. Vegetables. PROTA Foundation, Wageningen; Backhuys, Leiden; CTA, Wageningen.
Sanderson, Helen; Renfrew, Jane M. (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 114. ISBN 0415927463.

Plants, Fine Art Prints

Plants Images

Biology Encyclopedia

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Home - Hellenica World