Energy, Ecology and Environment

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 195–205 | Cite as

Indian spinach: an underutilized perennial leafy vegetable for nutritional security in developing world

  • Ajeet Singh
  • Pradeep K. Dubey
  • Rajan Chaurasiya
  • Nitin Mathur
  • Gangesh Kumar
  • Sujeet Bharati
  • P. C. AbhilashEmail author
Original Article


Exploration and sustainable utilization of wild crops are essential for the dietary diversification and also for ensuring the nutritional requirements of growing human population. In this background, the present study was undertaken to evaluate the occurrence, distribution and habitat characterization of two underutilized perennial leafy vegetables of Basellaceae, i.e., Basella alba and Basella rubra, commonly called as Indian spinach or Malabar spinach. For this, extensive field surveys and habitat analysis have been conducted in selected districts of North and West India and national and global distribution maps were prepared based on the available literature. The habitat analysis clearly indicates that Basella species can luxuriously grow in diverse soil conditions (i.e., from acid to alkaline conditions and also in degraded and nutrient poor soils). However, the fresh leaves and stems of both Basella species are rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, Ca, Fe, Mg, P, K, Na, Zn, Cu, Mn and Se and also having essential amino acids and flavones. It can be directly used in salads or can be used as a standalone vegetable for making soups, stews, steamed and oil fried items. In India, it is also being used to make snacks (pakoda). Though it was widely cultivated in Southeast Asia and China since ancient times, it is being gradually neglected and replaced by other greens. Owing to its adaptability to grow luxuriously in hot and humid tropical climate, it can be exploited as a promising leafy vegetable for the warming climatic conditions. However, suitable agronomic practices and crop improvement programs are necessary for improving the adaptability and nutritional quality of Basella species.


Indian spinach Underutilized crop Nutritional security Developing world 



Authors are highly indebted to Mr. Ram Charitra Singh, Mr. Paras Nath Singh, Dr. Tripunjay Singh and all other administrative, academic and supporting staff of Krishak P.G. College, Rajgardh, Mirzapur, UP, for extending their heartfelt cooperation and support for doing the agro-biodiversity survey in Mirzapur District. Ajeet Singh is thankful to Jawaharlal Nehru Trust, New Delhi, for the Jawaharlal Nehru Scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Joint Center on Global Change and Earth System Science of the University of Maryland and Beijing Normal University and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentBanaras Hindu UniversityVaranasiIndia
  2. 2.Agroecosystem Specialist Group, Commission on Ecosystem ManagementIUCNGlandSwitzerland

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