Also known as swamp spinach, river spinach ,Chinese spinach and Siamese watercress, as the name suggests this is a semi-aquatic tropical plant, native to waterways and damp soils of South East Asia. It is actually more closely related to kumara than to spinach – it’s a member of the Convolvulaceae family. Water spinach is a traditional medicine in many parts of Asia and Africa, with uses as varied as treating haemorrhoids, nosebleeds, worms, jaundice and high blood pressure.Some studies have shown a blood sugar-lowering effect, and antioxidant bioactive compounds and anti-microbial substances have been detected. Other studies have shown inhibition of cancer cell growth.family, as its flowers will tell you! The long green stems are hollow (enabling them to float) and in China the plant is known as ‘hollow heart vegetable’- ong choy in Cantonese or kōng xīn cài (空心菜) in Mandarin. Stems can grow up to 2 metres in length and the leaves are arrow shaped. Both stems and leaves are edible, usually chopped into 5-10cm lengths and stir fried or added to soups or curries, or they can be eaten raw. Water spinach is used extensively in the cuisine of Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Cambodia and the Philippines, to mention a few. Water spinach has a mild, slightly mineral flavour, a little like watercress but less spicy. Cooked leaves are very tender with a similar texture to spinach.
Water spinach has also been investigated for its use in phyto-remediation (to help remove excess nutrients from wastewater), and also forms a high quality animal feed for cattle, pigs, fish, and poultry.
Water spinach is a very heat tolerant, fast growing plant. If you don’t have a convenient damp spot in your garden, water spinach can be easily grown in containers as long as enough water is provided – try growing it in a large pot standing in a saucer constantly filled with water, or even in a bathtub! It can also grow in moist clay soils, in full sun or part shade.
Certified organic plant in 9cm pot. Frost tender perennial. Available Nov – Jan only.