Form - Climbing Vine to 10 feet long
Aspect - Full Sun, warm climate, protect from frost
Soil/Conditions - Well-drained, fertile, moist
Description - Soft stemmed, twining vine, Evergreen Perennial, Dark green, glossy, oval to heart-shaped leaves are thick and semi-succulent with a mucilaginous texture, Edible leaves, stems, flowers and berries
Special Features - Needs regular pruning to control
The edible leaves (and shoots) of Basella alba resemble spinach with a mild, slightly peppery flavour with a hint of citrus and are used in the same way. The young leaves can be eaten raw mixed in a green salad, and steamed or boiled to be used like cooked spinach. Because of the mucilaginous nature, it can also be used to thicken soups and stews. Some people do not like the somewhat slimy texture of the cooked leaves (reminiscent of cooked okra). The leaves can be eaten throughout the season, but once plants start flowering, the leaves become bitter.
Basella is stimulated to produce flowers under dry conditions or short-day conditions. The inconspicuous white or pink elongated, globular, fleshy flowers are produced in short spikes in the leaf axils. The flowers are followed by ornamental, four-parted deep-purple to black berries (drupes). The tasteless red-purple juice of the fresh berries can stain and is used as a dye or food colorant in Asia. The fruits can be dried whole for planting the following year.
Like in spinach, basella too contains oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some vegetables, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. Individuals with known oxalate urinary tract stones are advised to avoid eating them (Note-seek Health advice if necessary.)
NOTE - Living plants must be collected (by appointment) - postage not available