Basella, also known as Malabar Spinach and Ceylon Spinach, is a
climbing plant with lush, succulent green leaves . These leaves are very popular in Asian countries and increasingly popular in Australia.
Basella is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in warm climate gardens and deserves to be more widely grown. It is one of my favourite vegetables to eat – when it is cooked properly and not overcooked!
Basella is a climbing plant that climbs by twisting around a support. Once established it produces spikes with relatively insignificant white to pink flowers. The flowers are followed by black berries. These yield a rich red dye which can be used as a natural colouring for deserts or icing.
Basella is a tough and vigorous vegetable. It loves hot wet and humid conditions so is an ideal vegetable for our summer months. Under ideal conditions, it grows lushly and rapidly, producing large fleshy leaves. It will grow on most soils, but best growth is on moist fertile soils with high levels of organic matter and animal manure. Once established, it
will tolerate periods of dry and cooler weather, however growth will slow or cease and the leaf quality will suffer.
Basella has a mild spinach flavour and is used as a spinach substitute in a variety of recipes. Basella leaves and young shoots are popular in stir fries and curries. However, take care, Basella cooks rapidly but if overcooked it turns to an unpleasant slimy gelatinous mush. With practice, you will learn when to add the leaves to the dish so they cook whilst retaining their succulent nature.