Ceylon Salad Spinach (aka Malabar Spinach)
Basella Rubra, Basella alba
Origin: Highland climate – wet, cool
Plant: Sept – Jan
Harvest: when leaves are at a size you desire
Propagation is by seed or cuttings
A perennial, soft-stemmed sprawling plant which prefers to climb if given the opportunity. Lush-green, heart-shaped leaves (up to 20cm length) form alternately along the stem (red and green varieties available). They have small flowers and dark black seeds, which are great for use as a natural dye. Plants adapt to any soil but prefer richer soils for fast growth. Ceylon Spinach can be used as a living mulch to shade trees from the Western sun and then pulled back or cut and harvested when no longer needed.
People living in flats or with only a small back yard can grow them in a bucket-sized pot providing a stake or fork for climbing growth. Tip pruning allows stems to develop multiple branches and flowers can be nipped off early in their season to encourage further leaf growth.
Delicious in salads, stir frys, soups, and stews.