There is a plant in my garden that is taking over. I’m not too fussed as it is a great source of greens. What is this plant that is taking over? Why it’s Ceylon Spinach!
This plant’s botanical name is Basella alba. I call it Ceylon Spinach but it is known by many names – Malabar Spinach, Climbing Spinach, Creeping Spinach, Buffalo Spinach – just to name a few variations.
I can’t remember how this vine found its way into our garden. All I remember is we have had it here since 2008. I know this because I have photos of my little one looking quite tribal with her Ceylon Spinach berry paint. The kids would mash up the purple berries with water to create a ‘paint’. At first I was concerned as they were dying their hair with it and painting their squishy bodies. Finding out that the berry paint was non-toxic was a relief! Finding out that this paint washed out was also a relief – I had visions of my little one having permanent purple hair .
Ceylon Spinach has never been consciously planted in any part of my garden. Fast forward to 2015 and the fact that it has popped up randomly in my garden and is thriving, shows how tough this plant is. I have noticed it does die down during the colder months – only to make a vigorous comeback once the weather starts to warm up. I do not look after this plant at all – no water, no fertiliser. This plant fits in perfectly with my vision of creating a low maintenance food forest.
Funny story about Ceylon Spinach – we had a friend that came over. He had bought a bag of Ceylon Spinach from the fruit and veg shop. We laughed when we saw that bag and when we saw how much he paid for it. He is now creating his own garden. I have offered him Ceylon Spinach cuttings so he can pop them in his new garden.
My guinea pigs do like Ceylon Spinach as well but only in small quantities. Being the little eating machines that they are, I thought excellent, that crazy Ceylon Spinach will have its growth kept under control – my guinea pigs will just eat their weight in leaves every day! But no, they will eat small amounts but not the large amounts that I imagined.
Maybe they don’t like the mucilaginous texture that the leaves have. I know I don’t like eating these leaves raw because of the sappiness. My partner can eat it raw in salads but I can only eat the leaves cooked. One of my favourite ways of using the leaves is in cheese and spinach triangles.
Although in saying that, I tried ceylon spinach in a smoothie. One of my 2015 goals is to drink green smoothies. I have loads of Ceylon Spinach in the garden so I’ll add the green factor to my smoothies by using Ceylon Spinach. On the day I made this smoothie, I only had mangoes, limes, blueberries and apples in the kitchen. So here is my first try at using Ceylon Spinach in a smoothie.
Into a blender, throw in:
- 1 chopped Mango
- 1 chopped Apple
- Juice of 1/2 Lime
- Handful of Blueberries
- Handful of Ceylon Spinach leaves
- Sprinkle of Chia seeds
- Enough water to get those ingredients smoothied up!
Taste test: At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by the Ceylon Spinach flavour in this. I thought I may have added too many spinach leaves! I also am used to fruit only smoothies. After a few sips, I liked this smoothie. Next time, I would like to add a banana – it will add that sweetness that will balance out the spinach flavour. More lime juice as well…I love lime and just couldn’t taste it with the amount I used.
Now over to you – Do you have a Ceylon Spinach plant in your garden? What are some of the ways that you use this plant? We would love to hear it! Please share in the comments below.
If you would like to read more about growing Ceylon Spinach, check out this fact sheet by Gardening Australia.