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Plant Description: Malabar is not a true spinach, but its leaves, which form on a vine, resemble spinach and are used in the same way. Malabar spinach is fast growing and tolerates high rainfall. This is a fast growing vine plant and produces best when trellised. Stem tips (6-8 inches) are harvested 55-70 days after seeding. Repeated harvests of new growth stems can be made through out the season.
Scientific Name: Basella rubra
Common Name: Ceylon spinach, climbing spinach, gui, acelga trepadora, bretana, libato, vine spinach, and Malabar nightshade.
Distribution: It comes from India and is distributed widely in the tropics, particularly in moist lowlands. In Florida, it is rare, even in home gardens.
Importance: When cooked, Malabar spinach is not as slick in texture as many greens, such as spinach. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium and iron, with many other vitamins and minerals in lower quantities. It has over 3 times more vitamin C than spinach, and over 1.5 times more vitamin A than kale. Shoots have many medicinal properties, and are febrifuge, diuretic and laxative, whereas roots are used to treat diarrhea. Leaf poultice is applied to treat boils and sores. The purple fruit juice is used to treat eye infections, and as a food colorant and dye.