Malabar spinach (Basella alba or Basella rubra) is not a true spinach, but rather a climbing vine in a class by itself. Other common names include Vine Spinach, Red Vine Spinach, Creeping Spinach, and Ceylon Spinach. Even though it’s not a true spinach, it has the same taste.
The leaves and stem contain mucilage, so it can appear slimy when broken off the vine. This mucilage is a great source of soluble fiber, much like pectin in apples.
Health Benefits of Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach is high in Vitamin A (100 grams contains roughly 8,000 units), Vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It has a high amount of protein for a plant and is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Another good reason to eat malabar spinach is that it has a good amount of antioxidants, particularly beta carotene and lutein, those naturally occurring chemicals that help keep your cells from aging. Rubra seems to be slightly higher in antioxidants, probably due to the purple color.
Cooking With Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach can be used raw, in salads, or as a stand alone vegetable. You can also use it like spinach in soups and stews. Steamed malabar spinach is great and will yield more than conventional spinach due to its fleshy nature.