Waterleaf is a herb with purple flowers native to West Africa, Central and South Americas. It is widely grown as a green leafy vegetable in many parts of the world including Africa and tropical Asia including India.
The plant might have reached south India from Sri Lanka. So it is also called Ceylon Spinach.
The accepted scientific name is Talinum fruticosum or Talinum triangulare. It belongs to the family Talinaceae.
Plant Type: Perennial herb
Scientific name: Talinum fruticosum or Talinum triangulare
Height: 50 cm to 1 m
Flowers: Pink, 5 petals, 2 cm wide
English: Waterleaf, Ceylon Spinach
Malayalam: Sambar Cheera
Main uses: Leafy vegetable, medicinal, ornamental
Distribution: Tropical Asia, Africa, South & Central Americas
The plant has high water content with fleshy roots and succulent stem, so the name Waterleaf. It is perennial and grows about 60 cm tall.
The flowers are light pink and almost 2 cm across. There are 5 petals.
The leaves are long with broader ends and a
Benefits & Uses of Waterleaf
The main significance of Ceylon Spinach is its nutritional benefits for which it is cultivated worldwide. It is a common leaf vegetable in tropical African countries like Nigeria. However, it is often undervalued and does not have a significant commercial value.
- Waterleaf is a good source of protein and fiber. The amount of protein content is comparable to that of Red Amaranth – another leafy vegetable.
- It is rich in important minerals like Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium.
- The vegetable contains abundant levels of flavonoids and antioxidants. This may help to maintain a healthy heart [ref].
- It contains Vitamin C, beta-carotene and omega 3 fatty acids [ref].
However, it is not recommended for people with kidney disorders [ref]. The vegetable contains a high amount of calcium oxalate although cooking dissolves much of it.
- In Kerala, the leaves of Ceylon Spinach is added to Sambar and other curries and with rice. So it got the name Sambar Cheera.
- It is great for preparing Kerala-style
thoranby adding coconut, chilly and turmeric.
- It is used to prepare a wide variety of sauces.
Because of the beautiful pink flowers and thick leaves, it serves well as an ornamental plant.
As researches show the presence of alkaloids, it can also serve to be useful in modern medicines.
How to Cultivate
Ceylon Spinach prefers humid and hot climate where it thrives. It likes to grow under shade although sunlight is not a problem. Propagation is via seeds. Sow the seeds in fertile and moist soil after plowing. It germinates after a few days and the plant will be ready for harvest within a few months.