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Malvaceae, Hibiscus manihot, vauvau, Hibiscus spinach, bele

April 4, 2008

Malvaceae, bele

Hibiscus manihot, or Bele, (syn. Abelmoschus manihot), is a tropical perennial that can grow to over 3 metres high under good conditions. In the Pacific Islands Bele is one of the most utilized green vegetables, along with taro-leaf, spinach, and wild ferns, which are found throughout homegardens and fallow areas. It is reportedly one of the most nutritious green vegetables, being very high in vitamins A and C and in iron, and having 12 per cent protein by dry weight (Standal et al. 1974), which makes it a valuable food in interior villages where animal protein is scarce. The large leaves are very mucilaginous and have demulcent  properties.

Bele is easily propagated from cuttings, requires little cultivation, is relatively disease-resistant and drought tolerant. Aside from its use as a vegetable it is also considered to have medicinal value. Planted along borders of gardens or as an intercrop throughout gardens, it will yield for a long time. See below for more info in the comment forum. One commenter, Amy, claims that there are more then 70 varieties of bele in PNG… Not sure if all of these are edible.

Click this link for more posts on members of the Malvaceae famiily

57 Comments leave one →
  1. Henry Escudero permalink
    March 9, 2009 10:08:00 pm

    Hey Spencer,

    It’s Henry from Bahia Honda. Have you found a scientific name for this bele? If you look on google you’ll see that what is called Bele in Polynesia is in fact Abelmoschus manihot (formerly Hibiscus manihot) and although it looks similar to our bele it appears to be a different plant. I’ve never seen our bele flower–have you? In any case, we’re thinking of feeding it to our 7-month old baby and wanted to make sure it was safe.

    When are you coming back around these parts.

    Take care,

    • Helene-Nicole permalink
      October 18, 2009 10:08:18 am

      I am looking for this Bele leaves in Loma Linda or in California…. Can someone tell me where I can find its seeds or where they are sold….. we have an abundance of this leave in the Pacific Islands and Im trying to locate areas or supermarkets where I can buy this from…..

      If you have any information please let me know….

      • Craig permalink
        July 16, 2010 10:08:18 am

        Hi did you have any luck ? i have been trying to find so i can grow here in New Zealand !I would appreciate knowing if you found any.

      • September 4, 2011 10:08:22 am

        you can buy it in any polynesian market. they come frozen in bags.

        • September 4, 2011 10:08:24 am

          Very interesting. How is it used in cooking? Thanks for the comment.

      • Maurice permalink
        January 2, 2012 10:08:34 pm

        Question for Craig. Did you find a source in N.Z. I am also keen to grow bele here if possible. My Tongan family don’t know of any supplies here.

        • bob chandra permalink
          January 22, 2013 10:08:05 am

          hi craig i have bele plants in manukau had 5 plants for sale which has all gone will plant some cuttings in nov this year n put on trade me,bob

          • binod kumar permalink
            November 8, 2013 10:08:14 am

            hi bob. I’m interested in buying a bele plant from you. do you still have with you. I can make arrangements to pick sometime. I live in Northland whangarei.

      • Anonymous permalink
        May 7, 2012 10:08:12 am

        It’s very delicious kind of slimy if you stir it too much….First cut your meat in cubes i.e pork, chicken, or lamp cook them till a little tender in coconut milk with your spices then add your chopped up pele leaves let it cook for 15 mins or more then enjoy it with plantain, taro, yam, sweet potato, or tapioca.

        • Anonymous permalink
          November 8, 2013 10:08:59 pm

          hi i got some plants will be on sale in early dec or end of dec get in touch on my mbile contact ,thks

          • Maurice Eddy permalink
            November 10, 2013 10:08:41 am

            Hi! I have been trying to some seeds or plants for some time and have not had any luck.
            I don’t follow Trade Me but would like some. I live in Whakatane and have many relatives in Auck.

            • Bob Chandra permalink
              November 10, 2013 10:08:09 am

              get in touch in 2nd week of dec if you want to buy a bele plant ill keep one aside havent got much this year ,mother plant died .thks maurice eddy.

      • October 22, 2013 10:08:52 pm

        The scientific name is Abelmoschus Manihot. It is our stable food in Vanuatu ( South Pacific Island).

        • October 22, 2013 10:08:04 pm

          Yes I believe Abelmoschus manihot is now the accepted Latin name… It used to be Hibiscus manihot when it was considered to be a Hibiscus.

  2. November 3, 2010 10:08:43 am


    I am interested ingrowing this “bele” green leafy plant.

    Helen Nicole – about 20 years ago i was trying to grow vegetables via the Jacob Mittleider system of “box gardening”. I think that he was a “professor” at Loma Linda and had done some assignments in the Pacific for the SDA mission. He would know this plant and availability. You may be able to trace him mor quickly. Cheers for now. Nik

    • November 6, 2010 10:08:16 pm

      I’ve grown this plant for years. It is very easy to propagate from large cuttings and grows fast with minimal care. It seems to do well in both dry and wet conditions. Makes for a fantastic tropical climate edible leafy green.

      • treena permalink
        October 9, 2013 10:08:07 pm

        Hi where r u located I’m in Australia n trying to find this plant.

    • Maurice permalink
      January 2, 2012 10:08:48 pm

      I am in N.Z. and would like to grow bele here. Unfortunately the days of being able to put a cutting in your pocket are well gone and it is difficult to get some of the traditional plants from other countries. My Tongan family don’t know of any supplies here.

      • January 3, 2012 10:08:15 am

        I would try to check with some of the local permaculture/sustainable ag people in NZ. Maybe you already have…. Alternatively, bele seeds are small and easier to accidentally be in the pocket of a pair of pants you pack in your suitcase.

    • October 22, 2013 10:08:55 pm

      Oh it’s our stable food in Vanuatu. I believe you can find the seed online for sale. But it’s easy to grow and it’s very nutritious

  3. Amy permalink
    May 15, 2011 10:08:25 pm

    HEAPS of Bele here in Fiji, just poke a cut stem into ground you can eat leaves within weeks, grows pretty fast. I don’t know how you can take it out of Fiji given strict border control of plant products.

    • May 21, 2011 10:08:00 am

      Thanks for the comment. Is Bele commonly eaten raw in Fiji or cooked/steamed?

  4. Amy permalink
    July 9, 2011 10:08:22 am

    hi Anthrome,

    we boil, steam or cook Bele in coconut milk with fish. It’s never eaten raw(unpalatable ). One of main green leafy veggies of our diet, also belief there are more then 70 species in PNG.
    Most of indigenous Fijians would prepare it for infants that have started solids and gives beautiful texture when blended with babies food..

  5. mipstudiof8 permalink
    September 14, 2011 10:08:30 am

    A lawyer I once knew told me of a strange case, a suffragette who had never married. After her death, he opened her trunk and discovered 50 wedding gowns.Marguerite Young

    • September 15, 2011 10:08:37 pm

      How peculiar.

      • Maurice permalink
        January 3, 2012 10:08:21 am

        Thank you for your response.
        Our sniffer dogs here have amazing noses so I wouldn’t try bringing them that way.

        • January 3, 2012 10:08:22 am

          Ah, yes, I’ve heard its next to impossible. Well, good luck with your search. I’ll let you know if I ever come across any sources over that way.

  6. Frank Rex permalink
    November 30, 2012 10:08:35 pm

    I grow the large leafed variety here in Brisbane and yes very easy to grow. I wonder if anyone knows where I can get/purchase/acquire the thin leafed variety as it does not have that slime associated with bele when being washed.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 3, 2013 10:08:59 am

      Yes hi there if you go to northey st farm in brisbane they may have some I got mine there and in fact is not slimey and can be eaten raw sorry though I only know it as tree spinach and not the particular variety name good luck

    • treena permalink
      October 9, 2013 10:08:13 pm

      Hi do I hav seeds or willing to sell cuttings thanks

    • ytreena permalink
      October 9, 2013 10:08:34 pm

      Hi wld u be wlling to sell cuttings thanks

  7. bob chandra permalink
    January 22, 2013 10:08:07 am

    hi i got some some bele plants but have sold it to few friends will sell some in nov or u can call me 02102714197 bob chandra

    • kauila permalink
      October 21, 2014 10:08:10 pm

      how much do you sell plants for

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  27. Tilani Ilaoa permalink
    August 27, 2014 10:08:56 am

    T in Tutuila
    This plant is known as lau pele in Samoa. It can be cooked in any variety of ways – steamed, stir fry, baked – w/ or w/out fish, chicken, pork,etc. It is slightly viscous like okra, but that doesn’t detract at all from the delicious taste & it’s a nutritive powerhouse – full of vitamins A & C, riboflavin, thiamin & minerals – iron, potassium & calcium. One person asked if it could be eaten raw — I wouldn’t!

    • September 24, 2014 10:08:57 pm

      Thank you very much for visiting the site and for the informative comment. Come again soon!

  28. koolau framers permalink
    October 31, 2014 10:08:11 pm

    we have the plant at koolau framers kaneohe hawaii

  29. Dherendra Kumar permalink
    November 6, 2014 10:08:58 pm

    I have Bele Plants in Modesto,California.Will sell some next year in April 2015.


  1. Food on the Road: Fiji | A Couple on the Road

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