An infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute.The purplish sap from the fruit is used as a food colouring in pastries and sweets. The colour is enhanced by adding some lemon juice.
Laxative - the cooked leaves and stems are used. The flowers are used as an antidote to poisons. A paste of the root is applied to swellings and is also used as a rubefacient. The plant is febrifuge, its juice is a safe aperient for pregnant women and a decoction has been used to alleviate labour.The leaf juice is a demulcent, used in cases of dysentery. It is also diuretic, febrifuge and laxative. The leaf juice is used in Nepal to treat catarrh. A paste of the leaves is applied externally to treat boils.
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A frost-tender perennial, it is not hardy outdoors in Britain but can be grown as a spring-sown annual. A fast growing plant, capable of producing a crop within 70 days from seed in a warm climate, though it requires a minimum daytime temperature of 15°c if it is to keep growing vigorously so it seldom does well outdoors in Britain. It does tolerate low light levels plus night temperatures occasionally falling below 10°c, and so can do well in a cold greenhouse. Plants do not flower if the length of daylight is more than 13 hours per day. Widely cultivated for its edible leaves in the tropics, there are some named varieties. It is an excellent hot weather substitute for spinach.Some authorities recognize three different species, B. alba, B. rubra and B. cordifolia, they are all treated here as being part of one species[K].
Problems, pests & diseases
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- Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
- Larkcom J. Oriental Vegetables John Murray ISBN 0-7195-4781-4 (1991-00-00)
- Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
- Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
- Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Vegetables Macmillan Reference Books, London. ISBN 0 333 62640 0 (1995-00-00)
- Manandhar. N. P. Plants and People of Nepal Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-527-6 (2002-00-00)
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