Basella alba


BOTANICAL NAME :- Basella alba


SINHALA : Niviti, Rat-nivithi 
TAMIL : Pasalai, Shivappluvaslakkira, 
ENGLISH : Indian Spinach, Ceylon Spinach, Vine Spinach, Malbor Nightshade


Perennial, straggling, succulent climber with very long, slender, glabrous, much branched succulent stems.

LEAVES:- Simple, alternate, 10-18 cm long 6.5-17 cm board, broadly ovate, subcordate or obtuse at base.

FLOWERS:- Regular, bisexual, few, sessile, about 4 mm long in short, lax pedunculate spikes. (Flowers September to December).

FRUITS:- A membranous, somewhat globose, about 5 mm long, embryo coiled in ailat spiral (Jayaweera, 1981).


Centre of origin is Tropical Asia (Tindall, 1993). Grows in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Tropical Asia and Africa.

EDIBLE PARTS : The whole plant
FOOD USE: The green leaves and unmatured stems are prepared as a vegetable.


Moisture - 92.1 g, 
Energy - 26 kcal, 
Proteins - 2 g, Fats - 0.7 g, 
Carbohydrates -3.2 g, 
Minerals - Calcium - 73 mg, 
Phosphrus - 21 mg, 
Iron - 10.9 mg), 
Carotene - 5.58 meg, 
Thiamine 30 meg, 
Riboflavin - 260 meg, 
Niacin - 0.5 mg, C-28 mg (Perera et al., 1979).

The entire plant is an excellent source of calcium, iron and vitamins Al, A3, B, B3 and C. The leaves contain saponin. Medicinally, the roots are used as a poultice to reduce swellings. A decoction of the leaves is a good laxative for pregnant women and for children (Jayaweera, 1981).


Most cultivars are tolerant to wide range of soil conditions and grows well in fertile soils with high contents of organic matters. Well adopted to high temparetures and high humidity. Grows well at altitutes below 500 m. Normally Basella is a short day plant. Flowering does not occur in daylength longer than 13 hours. Basella has a C4 - cycle photosynthetic pathway.


Propagation is by seed, root or long tip cuttings. In Asia cuttings are favoured for growing, whereas seed is more commonly used in Africa. Plants grown from seed are more productive than those grown from cuttings. Seed rate/spacing - short-term crop 300 seeds/m x m in rows 10 cm apart, thinned to 100/m x m at 15 day cotyloid on stage.
Long-term crop 3-4 seeds/hole, shown directly into beds, in double lines either side of supports 1.2-1.5 m high, with 60 cm between plants in the row.

Irrigation - Watering should be liberal until seeds and cuttings are well established. There after only during dry periods.

Fertilizer - Grows without fertilizer, but production is greater when well supplied with organic manure.

Time to harvest - Short-term crop harvesting begins about 3 weeks after sowing. The tips are pinched out weekly for a period of about two months. Long-term crop-first leaf harvest in 5-6 weeks from seed, less for cutting. For transplanted seedlings, 5570 days after transplanting, counting at regular intervals for upto 6 months.

Field - Commercially grown cultivers yeild 50 T/ha and more.


Leaves do not keep well. At 20-30°c they will last for 1 day.