Alugbati – Malabar Spinach, Ceylon Spinach – is a fast growing vine with light green heart-shaped leaves. There is also a variety where the vine has a pronounced red coloring, (Basella rubra). The succulent young leaves and tips are use for cooking and as a substitute for spinach when out of season. The leaves are slimy just like saluyot and okra. The plant will bear cluster of flowers that are pinkish on spikes when just starting and turned into green berries that will turned black eventually when mature. Birds love to eat these berries, so if you are a birdwatcher, make sure to incorporate this vigorous plant into your garden. I see group of finches swarming the vines in the garden almost everyday.
Alugbati or Malabar spinach is native to Asia and the East Indies. It needs full sun and lots of moisture. The plant is so vigorous it needs trellis and room to grow. Constant pruning is a must if you want to prevent the plant from overrunning the garden. It reseeds itself so no need to plant again. You will find that there are lots of volunteer young plants of Malabar spinach in the garden after you clean the old plant.
The plant does not seem to be bothered by any pests or insects except birds. The birds love to hang around the clusters of berries.
The leaves contain Vitamin A, C, and B-vitamins. It also is a good source of calcium, iron and fiber.