Water spinach (Ipomoeia aquatica) “Kangkong” — an easy-to-grow vegetable and “survival” food
Water spinach (also known as “kangkong” in the Philippines and a few other Asian countries) is a tropical vegetable that grows in water, or in moist to wet/soggy soil. It is fairly easy to grow as long as it can get full to partial sun, constant moisture, and the temperature stays warm.
Water spinach (scientific name: Ipomoeia aquatica) is a cousin of the Morning glory, Whitestar potato and sweet potato. In winter, it can be taken indoors or in a greenhouse where it should survive until the next warm season (it is a perennial in warm climates).
Water spinach can be grown from seed, but I prefer to use cuttings — which easily grow roots in water or wet soil. Use a tub or pot that doesn’t drain and fill it with soil and water so that the water comes up to around an inch above the soil level. Get your cuttings from Asian stores that sell it by the bunch (choose the freshest looking ones). Set them in water or your prepared pots as soon as you can. In a few days, the cuttings should start developing roots along the sides.
This vegetable was an important survival food during the Japanese occupation of such countries as Singapore and the Philippines, where residents grew the vegetable indoors in pots and basins, next to windows.
Among other nutrients, it contains vitamins A, C and many B vitamins.
Studies conducted with pregnant diabetes-induced rats have shown a blood sugar lowering effect of I. aquatica “by inhibiting the intestinal absorption of glucose. This is very important in managing gestational diabetes and preventing side effects in mothers and their babies… ” (Wikipedia)
There is a narrow and a broad leafed variety.
Water spinach can be used like regular spinach. My preferred method of preparation is to stir fry the leaves and stems in butter or coconut oil, adding a few garlic cloves and a few hot peppers to taste. Add salt or soy sauce if you wish. You may want to separate the leaves from the stems and cook the stems first, adding the leaves a few minutes later. Remove from heat when the leaves look wilted. Serve and enjoy.
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