Basale soppu / Malabar Spinach Farming and cultivation
When it comes to farming and agriculture everything becomes commercial, big and largescale. there is nothing wrong with it but the way most people see agriculture is different. For instance, a permaculture farmer will have more than 100 crops growing on his land at the same time while a traditional farmer will have one or maybe two. There is nothing wrong with commercial cultivation if that’s what you like but there are endless possibilities with permaculture and organic farming.
one of the few interesting plants that all permaculturists (if I am allowed to call them so) is the baselle soppu, or the Ceylon spinach also referred to as the Mayalu plant or Malabar spinach. The Baselle soppu or Malabar spinach is not a commercial crop which you will see in the market. it’s a gardener’s plant which is grown for personal use in most cases. you will rarely find seed from companies like mahyco or VNR. You will rarely find seeds of these plants from anyone at all except some farmer who has a few plants growing for their personal use.
The Basale Soppu is a plant which has little to no commercial value but it has high nutritional value and for those who start liking its taste, well the benefits just add on. These plants are grown for their leaves. The leaves have a peppery taste when raw and taste just about the same as all the other spinach when cooked. They are a great addition to salads as a raw ingredient or can be added to dal when cooked. The basale soppu is rich in proteins, vitamin a and vitamin c.
You should also know that basale soppu comes in both red and green varieties. the scientific name for the green is basella alba and the ones with red vines are called basella Rubra there isn’t much of a taste difference between either but then, some people do cultivate these plants as ornamentals. Being perennial plants, they do add colour to the garden and live a longer life. In most places where the weather is warm and frost is not a problem can grow baselle soppu as a perennial. They can grow up to 30 feet long but if well maintained can look good to about 10 feet in height. In your garden, these plants, especially the Rubra variety can add a splash of red where all plants are usually green.
If you live in a tropical area, you can start the Malabar spinach plant throughout the year. the plants can be propagated from seeds or their stem if the stem is hard. Just place the base of the stem 3-4 centimeters deep in soil and water regularly. The plants will take shape within a week or two. When germinating from seeds, the y germinate in 3 weeks.
The soil for growing basale soppu needs to be moist throughout the growing season. the ph should be between 6 and 7 and should have a lot of organic content. Lack of water will start producing flowers and turn the leaves bitter. at some point in time, the leaves will turn bitter but then you will have seeds to plant for the next season watering the plants regularly even after the flowering period will turn the leaves edible.
basale soppu needs full sunlight though they will grow large leaves in partial shade. For excellent growth, the plants will require at least 6 hours of sunlight. Leaving the plants in partial shade will provide larger leaves but the distance between the leaves will be more. This usually does not look good in a garden and the plants look stretched out and viney.
when it comes to fertilizers, add enough urea to the plant. If you intend to grow the plant organic for consumption, then add enough cow manure or vermicompost and enrich the soil regularly. adding rice water, panchagavya and organic liquid fertilizers can benefit the growth of the plant.
There are a few pests of concern and the major ones are snails and slugs. unfortunately, manual removal is the only way to get rid of them if you don’t want to spray any chemicals on to your plants.
Malabar spinach starts producing flowers in about 100 days. Do not worry if the leaves are bitter at this point. Providing sufficient water to the plants will get the leaves to taste better over time. You can also use the seeds to germinate more plants or share them with other farmers or gardeners who are interested in them.
When planted in the ground and not in a pot, ensure proper mulching. mulching helps retain water for a long and reduces evaporation. Mulching also prevents weed emergence near the root area which is very important. Weeds can take up essential nutrients you provide for the plant and deter the growth of your Malabar spinach.
When the plants grow around 10 feet, start harvesting the leaves and the vines. If the vines are too fibrous and non-edible, plant them and they will start growing from them. Harvest the leaves regularly for better growth of the plant and to see new leaves throughout the year.
2 good healthy plants should give you enough leaves for a meal and you could harvest them every other week. For a large family or if you also want to give it to your friends, try planting it in 10 square meters. it will provide you with over 40 kg of leaves in a year.
Remember the basale soppu is a vine variety of spinach and requires a place to climb. Provide a trellis and grow it like you would grow peas or other climbing vegetables.