Indian Spinach (Basella alba) also popularly called malabar Spinach, is a distant relative of the Spinach family. It grows as a vine and can attain length of up to 10 meters. it is a fantastic source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C & calcium. other names are In Kannada Basale soppu, in Konkani Valchi bajji, In bengali pui shak.
The main characteristic feature is the presence of thick mucilage in the leaves & stem, which apart from high nutritive value, also is used in variety of dishes to get thicker gravy, or in soups.
Following are the methods used in the cultivation of Indian Spinach Basella Alba under monsoon conditions.
1. Selection of vines
this is the most important criteria for getting a long and steady harvest. The vines can be obtained in the local market , which are sold as wreath bundle. only the best and healthy vines should be used to transplant in the main field while the diseased, old, weak ones are left out. then they are thoroughly washed & kept in a moist place, or water is sprayed on them everyday till the day it is planted.
2. Cutting the vines
Here the selected vines are cut to a length of up to 2 feet, and all the lower leaves removed, keeping only the leaves at the tip/apex of the vine. This is done for polarity to identify which part of the vine is planted in soil & which part is to be trained over a supporting structure.
3. Providing support
since this is a monsoon technique, support must be provided to the growing vines as they should not come in contact with the wet soil, as the growing tips will be succeptable to rot and other fungal diseases.
Making the trellis
- the land selected to make the trellis to train the vines must have little slope to prevent water from stagnation.
- rows are dug with width of about 2 feet & pits are made in these rows to a depth of about 2 feet
- at every 2 meter distance bamboo poles must be placed along the length of the row
- a concave cut must be made on top of each bamboo pole so that it can support the weight of additional poles and sticks which will be placed on it (see fig 1)
- the poles are then tied with the help of GI wire, or rope (see fig 2)
- between the 2 poles , sticks of certain thickness are placed diagonally as shown and tied with wire or rope.
- the already cut vines are then planted on the south side of the poles & it is tied with thin rope to make it erect (see fig 3)
- the growing vines will climb over the trellis , not coming in direct contact with the soil
- vines will be ready for harvest after a period of over 2 months.
fig 4 one view of trellis
fig 5 after 21 days,
fig 6 after 30 days, weak vines must be pruned to allow more shoot development
since this is a monsoon technique of growing spinach, no irrigation is needed, however care must be taken to note that at this critical stage of its growth, there must be no water stagnation at the base of the vine. this will result in rotting of the stem & death of the entire vine
Fertilizer application & inter culture
- at the time of planting the cut vines in the soil, the land must contain good amounts of decomposed farm yard manure and compost.
- application of certain strains of bacteria also help in quick root formation and absorption of soil nutrients
- each vine must have a minimum of 2 to 3 buckets of manure. & application is repeated at an interval of 21 days.
- care must be followed to see that the growing stem does not come in direct contact with the manure. so the manure must be added at a little distance. This is when the vine is just transplanted. since its tender , it might not be able to handle the manure load.
- At every interval of manure application, weeding must be done & soil is loosened at allow good aeration or it will result is hardening of the soil.
fig 7 75 days after transplanting
since temperature and light are 2 main limiting factors, the growth of the vines is slow & harvesting can be done on commercial scale only after gap of more than 50 days. but regular pruning of long , weak vines is done at weekly intervals to facilitate growth of new shoots.
when the monsoons subside harvesting can be done after 90 days from date of transplanting.
fig 9 90 days after transplanting
Photos and content by Pritham 'Heavy metal farmer' denzil dsouza