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Basella alba or Malabar spinach is an edible perennial vine within the family Basellaceae. Malabar Spinach is found in Tropical Asia and Africa. It’s widely used as a “leaf vegetable”. This plant is native to the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia and New Guinea.
Malabar spinach is a quick-growing soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 meters long. The thick semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a light flavour and mucilaginous texture. It is rich in vitamin-A, vitamin-C, iron, and calcium.
You can grow them in pots or in a garden with a trellis or up a wall or fence.
There are two varieties:
1. Basella alba.
2. Basella rubra.
Basella alba: This variety produces green stem and deep green leaves.
Basella rubra: This variety produces reddish/purple stems with green leaves.
How to grow Malabar Spinach?
It can be planted from the months of February to May. It can’t tolerate frost so avoid growing in winter season. You can grow Malabar spinach very easily in tropical to sub tropical climate.
Selection Of Pot
If you want to grow in a container then use a rectangular garden container (3 feet long 2 feet depth one foot broad.) with a good drainage system.
Now place your container near up wall or trellis or fence, where it can receive direct sunlight. It prefers hot humid and full sunlight exposure for better yield.
Prepare ideal potting mix with 60% loamy soil + 20 % compost + 10% coco peat + 5% dry cow dung powder + 5 % sand.
Now fill the containers with potting mix leaving a 1.5-inch distance between the soil surface and rim of the container.
Sowing Of Seeds
It is ideal to purchase certified Malabar spinach seeds from the nearest seed seller.
For better germination soak them in water overnight the day before planting.
Now plant seeds ¼ 1nch deep, spaced 1 to 2 inches apart, and cover it with potting mix. Now wet the soil but do not apply over water. Cover the pot with transplant polythene.
It will take 3 to 4 weeks to germinate.
After germination thin the plants to 6 inches apart when they stand 4 inches height.
It requires direct sunlight of at least six to eight hours. It is advisable to keep the pot in partial shade in the afternoon in tropical areas. Adequate amount of sunlight ensures good growth of the plant.
Water Malabar spinach pot frequently to keep the soil evenly moist. Water plants around the base.
Malabar spinach requires consistent moisture, so water deeply and keep the soil around your plants covered with a 2-inch layer of mulch to minimize evaporation.
Feed with NPK (10:10:10) ½ teaspoon in every 15 days. You can also apply Vermicompost and cow dung manure to the plant in adequate quantity to produce thick big fleshy leaves.
Pests & Diseases
Any small water-soaked spots on leaves can enlarge and turn tan or brown in colour with papery mix texture. In this situation use copper fungicide.
You can start harvesting leaves from your plant quite early in the growing season and when you need it. You can also harvest by trimming down the vine and use all the leaves that are growing along with it.
Benefits Of Malabar Spinach
1. Malabar spinach used in various recipes.
2. Malabar spinach is an excellent source of iron, calcium, vitamin-C and vitamin-A.
3. It contains high protein and a great source of phosphorus and potassium.4. It has a great amount of antioxidants such as lutein and beta carotene.