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Malabar Spinach Flowers
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Malabar Spinach flowers grow on long jungle vines. The stems are thin and smooth, but are succulent. The green, heart-shaped leaves grow spirally on the stems, and Malabar Spinach flowers appear on thick, branched spikes that grow alongside the leaves, towards the end of the vines. Flowers are white, pink or red in color. They appear as small, globe-shaped buds, then bloom into tiny node-like colored flowers, never forming large petals. They eventually form small, dark purple berries. Malabar Spinach flowers taste like a cross between spinach and chard. However, the flavor is so mild that it is almost tasteless. It has a crunch that adds texture, but can be quite slimy.
Malabar Spinach flowers are available in year-round.
Malabar Spinach flowers are botanically classified as Basella alba. There are two varieties - Basella alba L., which produces green stems and white flowers; and Basella rubra, which produces pinkish red stems and red or pink flowers. Malabar Spinahc is also known as Ceylon Spinach, Indian Spinach, and Vine Spinach. It is referred to as Pak Plang in Thai, as Huang Ti Chai ("Emperor's vegetable") in Chinese, and Saan Choi in Cantonese. Malabar Spinach flowers can be found in local markets in Asia.
Malabar Spinach flowers contain vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. They also contain anthocyanin, the natural pigment that has antioxidant properties. Malabar Spinach is known to have wound-healing effects, and is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
Malabar Spinach flowers are used as a garnish atop salads and curries. They are rarely cooked, as they can have an unappealing slimy texture. They impart a delicious crunch to a dish. In Thailand, they are added to green curries alongside other garnishes like shredded basil. To store Malabar Spinach flowers, place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they can last for up to a week.
Malabar Spinach flowers have medicinal effects. They are used in Asian traditional medicines as an antidote to poisons, and to ease the pain and discomfort of labour. The Yoruba tribe in Africa uses Malabar Spinach as a digestive aid. Its name, "Efo amunututu", translates to "calms your stomach".
Malabar Spinach is found in the tropics, and is native to Asia and Africa. It is found in India, China, Southeast Asia, the West Indies, Brazil, and Australia and America. Its exact origins are unknown. The fast-growing, frost-sensitive plant was likely brought to the United States by immigrants.