The plant is perennial, but it can’t survive frost. Nor, though, will it bolt in the heat, as regular spinach does.
It grows as though it were a vine, up to 6 to 14 feet (almost 2 to 4 metres) long. It has broad, round to oval, meaty, glossy leaves. The leaves and stems can be either purplish-red or green. The purplish red-leafed and stemmed variety is “Basella rubra”; the green-leafed and stemmed variety is “Basella alba.”
It is a pick and come again plant. You harvest the leaves when they are 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) long.
The young leaves can be eaten fresh in salads. The older ones can be used as a potherb. It is mucilaginous, though, when cooked, and the longer it cooks, the slimier it gets. The colour of the red leaves fades when cooked.
The stems have a bitter taste, and the consistency can be disconcerting if you’re not used to it.
The plant will produce bright red berries, whose juice can be used as a food colouring.
Possibly native to India or Indonesia.