Talinum triangulare is a small succulent plant that is used as a leafy vegetable in many tropical counrties, with scarce but growing popularity as a herbal medicine. It is commercialy cultivated in Nigeria (as one of the most profitable vegetables in Southern Nigeria), Cameroon, Carribean, Brasil and the Philippines. It is esspecialy appreciated in regions with dry season. As it is not only very tasty and healty vegetable, but also grows well in strong heat, cope well with scourching sun and even long term drought. Whole tops of Waterleaf are remaining fresh, juicy and crunchy for long after cutting, even if kept outside the fridge. The reason for that is that as a typical succulent plant it storage a lots of water in its leaves, steems and roots. It also makes its flesh looks like swollen and being easy to crush.
Talinum triangulare can be found growing wild in many tropical regions of the world and its origin is uncertain but it is probable to come from South America. It was introduced to Java in 1915 from Surinam and is very closely related to Talinum paniculatum called Jewels of Opar (because of beautiful look of its tiny scarlet fruits, more showy than those of T. triangulare, thanks to its multiplity and longer steem ) and Ginseng Java (as its root is used in same way as true Ginseng, sharing many of its values). Roots of T. triangulare are also appreciated and used for being very healty but its common name become Leaf Ginseng.
Its other common names are Philippine Spinach, Ceylon Spinach (but this name is also used for Basella alba and Basella rubra), Surinam Purslane, Fameflower, Water Leaf, Sweetheart, Florida Spinach, Water Letuce (in English speaking countries), Trekanttalinum (in Danmark), Surinaamsche Postelein (Holland), Grasse Grand Pourpier, Pourpier Tropical, Talina de Java (France), Blatt-Ginseng, Ceylonspinat, Javaspinat (Germany), Pasali, Samparchera (India), Beldrogea-Grauda, Lustrosa-Grande (Portugal). Espinaca de Filipinas, Espinaca de Java, Espinaca de Surinam, Verdolago Frances (Spain), Lagos Bologi, Gbure, Ntuoka (Nigeria), Bolki, Belok Sup (Cameroon), Busummuni, Adwere, Boroboro, Senuma (Ghana), Som-kaoli, Som-chin (Thailand), Cariru (Brasil), Talilong (Philippines - Tagalog), Kumu manus (Papua New Guinea), Basella di giava, Spinacio di giava, Spinacio di Suriname (Italy), Krokot Belanda (Indonesia), Gasnivithi (Sri Lanka).
Talinum triangulare had many botanical synonyms, but nowadays only those few like Talinum fruticosum, Portulaca triangularis, Talinum racemosum and Talinum crassifolium might still be found used in some places.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Talinum triangulare is short-live perrenial, tropical succulent shrub, that ussually reach no more than 80cm in height and 50cm width. Like in most of succulent plants Waterleaf leaves and steems (esspecialy young ones) are easy to crush. It is also very sensitive to cold conditions and its roots will rot when water is logging in the soil. This tenderness often makes it to appear growing wild only as an annual plant. It trives in humid conditions in temperatures around 30'C, in rich compost, acidic, well drained soil under partial shade, and is cultivated in the margins of the Amazon River. But it can also grow on fully sun exposed places, on pore sandy soils and in places on elevations up to 1000m. Waterleaf can stand scourching sun, excessive heat and draught. It can be easily propagated from seeds and cuttings, and planted either way it is ready to be harvested after less than two months. In fact it spreads so easily from seeds, that in some places it becomes agricultural weed.
On commercial scale the whole tops of stems are cutted, as it keeps the leaves unwilted for longer time and is easier. But if you grow it for your homeuse, you can pick seperate leaves, saving stems that will produce new leaves soon. Older plants are not very productive and therefore are usually replaced by new one. Even though I haven't found any informations, and have no experience with this plant as a house plant. Consider all preferances and habits of growth of Talinum, it should be very easy to cultivate in pots indoor, so you could enjoy its taste and health benefits even living in Iceland. Cariru is quite resistant to pests and diseases, but snails like it and it is even used as fodder for raising giant snails for consumption.
Its tiny flowers are ussually pink but some plants have white or yellow ones. Ornamental variegated cultivars are hybrids of Talinum triangulare with other Talinum species and therefore their edibility is doubtfull.
Philippine spinach have become one of my favourite vegies from the very first time. It is nutritious, tender, juicy, crounchy, bit muciligeus and mild in taste, with truly refreshing note of sourness and bitterness. Unfortunately it cannot be eaten fresh in big quantities as it contain oxalic acid, which in excess might couse kidney stones, but eating it cooked or blanched minimalize the risk. Fresh leaves and young stems of Waterleaf can be used raw for salads and sandwiches. All parts of this plant including roots can be added to soups, stews etc. but leaves are best when not overcooked.
Talinum is used as a softening agent for other vegetables that it is cooked with. Softening action of Waterleaf was confirmed by studies that showed it contain high amount of pectinases - enzymes that brake down pectin. In Brasil Waterleaf is used as a substitute for spinach. In Florida it is added to make omlet. In Nigeria sauce is made from Tallinum, tomatoes and onion with palm oil and salt. A tonic drink is made from Leaf Ginseng root.
Blanching and cooking reduce amount of oxalic acid in Talinum, as well as hydrocyanic acid and nitrates, but cautious is adviced when feeding it to infants. People that suffer from kidney stones, gout or rheumatoidal arthritis should avoid consumption of raw Cariru, as it might agrevate those conditions.
Talinum triangulare have been consumed for its nutrtious value and health benefits for many years in many tropical countries. But it didn't appeared in any medicinal plants encyclopedias till recently, and it is still very hard to find in any list of herbs. In recent years though, there was a good number of studies made, testing Waterleaf chemical composition and terapeutic actions. Most of those studies was conducted in Nigeria, but few also in Brasil, India, Taiwan, China, Pakistan and Indonesia. It have proved its strong antioxidant action, antidiarrhoeal (but it might be laxative in bigger ammounts), hepatoprotective, nefroprotective, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiinflammatory and anti-hyperglycemic, also that it act as immunostimulant and increase stamina. Talinum triangulare tests have showed, that it can inhibit proliferation of tumor (HepG2) cells (thanks to Talinum polysacharides) and leukemic cancer cells (U937). Other studies have been focused on its cerebral-protective potential and it indicates that consumption of Philippine Spinach, enhances brain activities, protect brain tissue by inhibiting peroxidation, have pro-cognitive and neuroprotective effect.One research work also deducted that Talinum triangulare is genoprotective and can reasonably avert chromosomal disordered-related diseases coused by the effect of long-term lead exposure.
All those healing actions of this vegetable-herb are caused by its content of : flavonoids (kaempferol), alkaloids, polyphenols, tannins, saponins (steroidal saponins, saponin glycosides), steroids (glucopyranosyl steroids, campesterol, sitosterol, stigmasterol, scotenol ), cardioglycosides, allantoin, malic acid, oleanolic acid, oleanolyc acid glycoside, phaeophytins, talichlorin A. Kariru have hight oxalate content, is high in fibre and rich in essential amino acids, and contain aspargine, omega 3-fatty acids, resins, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, cadmium, copper, lead, manganese and zinc. It is also rich source of carotenoids, vitamin C, A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, alfa and beta tocopherols. Waterleaf is highly nutritious and contaim more proteins than cashew nuts (Talinum muscilage contain over 50% protein), more pectin than apples, and also have high level of dietary fiber. Talinum triangulare is also rich in pectinases - enzymes that break pectins, and is used as a softening agent for other vegetables that it is cooked with, softening activity of pectinases increase with temperature.
And those things made Leaf Ginseng effective herbal medicine used in fighting gastrointestinal disorders, diarrhea, peptic ulcers, inflammations, dysentery, hepatic ailments (like paracetamol coused liver damage), measles, polyuria, edema, diabetes, cancer, schistosomiasis, anemia and high blood pressure. It is also used externaly for ailments like scabies, varicose ulcers, fresh cuts, wounds, burns, swellings, and decoctions are used for painful eyes and to aid recovery from blows and falls.
Maya people call Talinum triangulare - '' dzum yahil '' - which means '' shrinks swellings '' and refare to its useage, as its crushed leaves are applied on swellings, inflammations or sores and plastered. They also use it in the same way to cure external tumors. In Nigeria soup made from Waterleaf is eaten as a remedy for hypertension. In India Talinum is used as an afrodisiac and powdered leaves are mixed with milk and drunk by diabetics. In Sri Lanka leaves and stems are consumed for lung disorders, male infertility, impotence, loss of energy, spleen disorders, diarrhoea and dysmenorrhoea. In Indonesia tonic drink is made from the roots of Leaf Ginseng.
Philippine Spinach shouldn't be eaten fresh by people with kidney stones, gout and rheumatoidal arthritis as it contain oxalic acid that might agrevate those conditions.
Cooking or blanching of Talinum significantly reduces its amount of oxalic acid, as well as hydrocyanic acid, saponins and nitrates. It is said to be good and safe ingredient for soups made for children but caution should be keept in use of Waterleaf in ininfants foods. It is also said to be safe for pregnant women and growing children and might boost their blood level.
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