Vine Spinach


Vine spinach, also known as Malabar or climbing spinach, is a food item commonly found in tropical Africa and southeast Asia. It has a slight thicker, more succulent leaf than regular spinach and a more intense flavor. It is high in vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.


Other names: Malabar Spinach, Basella Rubra, Basella Alba, Climbing Spinach, Red Vine Spinach
Translations: Vīnogulāju Spināti, Vynuogių Špinatai, Spanac de viţă de vie, Vine Špinat, Vine Rau bina, Szpinak winorośli, Vine Spinazie, बेल पालक, Vinha Espinafres, Вайн Шпинат, Αμπέλου Σπανάκι, كرمة السبانخ, 덩굴 시금치, Révy Špenát, Vine Bayam, Puno ng ubas spinach, 藤菠菜, D'espinacs, Vine Špinača, Viniča Špenát, Vine Spinaci, גפן תרד, Vine Spenat, Спанаћ вино, バインほうれん草, Vigne aux épinards, Vine Spinat, Vine Spinat, Vine Spinat, De espinaca, Вайн Шпинат, Vine Pinaatti, Лозарство спанак

Physical Description

Vine spinach grows, as its name suggests, on a vine, producing dark green heart-shaped leaves that are about five inches across at maturity. Interspersed among the leaves are small pink flowers that eventually change to small black seeds as the plant matures. The Basella rubra variety has a reddish vine instead of a green one, and its leaves have a slight reddish tinge around the edges and on the underside as well.

Colors: Green, dark green, red, burgundy, pink

Tasting Notes

Flavors: Slightly bitter (more common in the Basella Alba variety), earthy, mild, peppery
Mouthfeel: Smooth and crunchy
Food complements: Seafood, Salads
Wine complements: Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot noir
Beverage complements: Tea
Substitutes: Spinach, Basil, Leaf lettuce

Selecting and Buying

Seasonality: january, february, march, september, opctober, november, december
Peak: january, february, opctober, november, december
Choosing: Select dark green leaves that are crisp and have no visible signs of wilting or mold.
Buying: Vine spinach is widely found at markets in Asia and Africa, but is a bit more difficult to find in the United States and Europe. The best place to look for this leafy green is in Asian food stores or farmers' markets.
Procuring: Vine spinach thrives in hot and humid conditions, and in the United States, is best grown in the Southeast. It may be grown in hot, dry climates, but leaves may not mature properly. Cold and icy environments will prevent this vine from growing and may kill it. The vine should be planted in loamy soil and fertilized with a combination of organic and inorganic fertilizers. It can be left to grow along the ground or trained to grow around stakes or other vertical structures.

Preparation and Use

The leaves can be washed added directly to salads and soups, or chopped and sprinkled on seafood such as fish, clams and crab.

Cleaning: As with all leafy greens, vine spinach should be washed thoroughly with water or a vegetable rinse to remove all soil, sand and fertilizer residue.

Conserving and Storing

Vine spinach should be dried thoroughly and loosely packed into a plastic bag or container, where it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.


Vine spinach is most commonly found in Asian, Indian and African cooking, where it is used as both a vegetable and a spice. While not as common in the United States and Europe, it is increasing in popularity due to its availability at Asian food stores and restaurants.

History: Vine spinach is thought to originate in India or Indonesia, where it spread throughout Asia and into northern Africa. This plant loves heat and humidity, so was not introduced into American and European cooking until very recently. In Africa, the thick, moist and sticky roots of this plant are often pounded into a paste and used as a skin salve.



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Lindsat's picture

Please advise me on how to root this beautiful vine, do I do it in water or in soil

lyn's picture

Plant the stem on the soil.

Demaemiain's picture

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