Sunday, October 9, 2011

Water spinach cultivation

water spinach

Water Spinach - [Swamp Cabbage; Ong Choy - variously spelled (Cantonese); Pak Hung, Pak Bung (Thai); Kang Kong (Malay, Filipino); Kang Kung, Rau Muong (Vietnam); Toongsin Tsai (Mandarin); Chinese Watercress, Water Convolvulus, Water Morning-glory; Ipomoea aquatica also Ipomoea raptans

Specific Primary Habitats

Requires warm, humid conditions. A primary invader of man-made aquatic environments such as canals and ditches, and may potentially invade rice fields. Also found in natural wetlands, lakes, and river shorelines.

Identifying Characteristics

As a floating herbaceous vine, it has long, branching stems containing a milky sap, with roots extending from leaf nodes. Leaves are alternate, simple, and generally arrowhead-shaped. They are 2 - 6 inches long and 0.75 - 2.25 inches wide. Petioles are 1 - 4 inches long. Flowers are white to lavender and funnel-shaped (morning-glory-like). Fruit is oval to spherical, and is 0.5 inches long and woody when mature. Fruit capsules contain 1 - 4 seeds.

Reproduction Characteristics

Reproduces both vegetatively and by seed. Stem fragments and seed capsules are readily transported by water to new areas where the plant may re-colonize. In addition, nodes of existing stems readily root to establish new plants.

Growth Characteristics

Water spinach can grow at a rate of 4 inches per day, producing 84 tons of fresh weight biomass per acre in 9 months. Branching stems can reach 70 feet in length.

Ecological, Economic, or Social Impact

Water spinach completely covers the water surface, reducing light penetration and dissolved oxygen in water. Alters native plant and fish communities and elevates mosquito breeding. Impedes boat traffic; clogs drainage canals. Threatens rice fields.

water spinach
This semi-aquatic plant is a controlled substance within the USA. Importing plants or seeds and/or growing plants without a permit are all illegal. Growing it or even transporting it is totally illegal in some states.

There are two varieties of this vegetable, a long leafed variety that can be grown in damp soil  and a wider leafed variety that requires free water . The wider leaf variety is preferred in Asia but is not much available here, probably to keep the growing areas farther from our waterways.

water spinach
 This semi-aquatic plant is widespread and of uncertain origin, but is a common vegetable in the wetter parts of India and China, and through Southeast Asia to the Philippines. It is highly nutritious, provides a very high yield per acre and grows as much as 4 inches a day. Within the U.S. it is a controlled substance where importing plants or seeds and/or growing plants without a permit are all illegal .

The broad leaf variety  is said to be preferred in Asia . When it is available it is generally sold as "Water Ong Choy". Note that the stems of this variety are much larger than those of the narrow leaf.

 Spinach Cultivation in Asia

Water spinach is a mild green eaten throughout Asia. Nutritionally, it is very similar to spinach. It ca be
 prepared  with garlic and soy sauce or adding it to stews or noodle stir-fries. Water spinach, also known as
water spinach sapplings raised from seeds

swamp cabbage , is in the same genus as sweet potato, and a member of the morning glory family. Water spinach grows wild in aquatic environments, but can also be grown in well irrigated fields. Water spinach is
water spinach field

considered a noxious weed in the U.S. where it has invaded aquatic ecosystems in warmer latitudes. Cold Massachusetts winters prevent water spinach from spreading and therefore the USDA Animal and Plant
water spinach grown in beds

Health Inspection Service allows its cultivation by licensed growers. Water spinach is a favorite within many Asian cultures and indeed amongst many New Entry farmers.
flowering water spinach


Water spinach was first documented as a vegetable around 300 A.D. during the Chin Dynasty. The plant is

water spinach flowers

native to India and Southeast Asia, but has since naturalized in South America, Australia, the Pacific Islands, Africa and Asia. Water spinach now thrives in the warmer climates of the United States.


Water spinach is rich in iron, water spinach provides a source of vitamin A and dietary fiber.


Seed Source: Water spinach seeds are not widely available and their sale is banned by some states of USA.
water spinach seed

Fukuda Seed Store, Inc. is the only legal source of seeds in the U.S., but their sale requires a permit outside of Hawaii.In Asia and other countries it is a very good green vegetable and  widely encouraged one .

Invasive: Due to its aggressive growth rate, water spinach has the potential to invade moist cultivated areas,
water spinach field

such as rice and sugar cane fields, and wetlands such as the Everglades, natural lakes and rivers, drainage canals and ditches. It can displace native plants that provide the vital habitats for fish and wildlife.

Fried Vegetarian Sambal Water Spinach


1 pound water spinach

12 sliced shallots or small onions

5 sliced large fresh red chilies

3 dried red chilies

3 sliced hot chili peppers

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons roughly chopped macadamias or cashews

2-3 tablespoons oil

salt to taste


Soak the dried chilies in water until they become soft. Drain the water. Slice the chilies in half down its length and remove all the seeds. Cut the chilies into strips.

Cut the water spinach into 3 inch lengths, separating the stem from the leafy part of the vegetable, discard any hard stems.

 On low heat, fry the shallots or onions in 2 Tbsp of oil until golden brown. Add the garlic and carry on frying on low heat for about 1 minute. Add the dried chilies together with the nuts and fry for another 30 seconds. Make sure that there is sufficient oil in the wok – all the ingredients should be covered in oil. If not, add another tablespoon of oil. Turn the heat up to high, and add the stems of the spinach. Fry for about half a minute. Add the water spinach leaves, the dried chili and the fresh red chilies. Fry for one minute on high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water and salt to taste. Serve with rice or noodles.

Water Spinach  with Seven Garlic Cloves


 1 1/2 to 2 pounds water spinach(morning glory greens), trimmed to tender leaves and about 6 inches of stem (you should have about 3/4 pound)

1/4 to 1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

7 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised

1 to 2 Thai chile peppers, sliced (optional)

water as needed

2 teaspoons (or 2 cubes) of Chinese fuyu or Tofu, mashed


To trim greens: Use only those parts that can easily be pinched off with your fingers. The usable part of the main stem should not exude a milky, white liquid. Wash in several changes of water and drain but do not spin dry. You want some water to cling to the leaves.

To stir-fry: Heat a wok until it is too hot to touch. Add the oil and heat. Add the salt, garlic and chili. Move the ingredients around in the oil until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the greens all at once. You should hear a loud sizzling sound of water droplets hitting the oil. Toss the vegetables in the oil, adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary.

When the greens are thoroughly coated with oil and begin to wilt, cover the wok for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the liquid just comes to a boil. Add the fuyu/tofu, toss quickly to incorporate and serve.

Stir-Fried Water Spinach
stir fried water spinach a Thai recipe


2 tablespoons crushed garlic

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3-5 red crushed medium-sized Thai chilies

1 teaspoon salted bean paste

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

20 stems of water spinach

1 tablespoon water
stir fried water spinach


Lightly smash the chilies. Smash the garlic and remove the skin. Set aside. Wash the water spinach, shake it dry and break off the leaves at the base, and the stems every inch and a half.

Heat pan and oil to very high temperature. If you’re using an electric stove, leave the stove on high for about 3-5 minutes. You want almost smoking oil, where the oil is dancing around in the pan.

Throw the garlic in, stir quickly until it just starts to turn light brown. If your pan is hot enough, this should be less than 10 seconds. Then throw the vegetable in with the chilies. It should sizzle violently. Flip the vegetables and spread out a few times to make sure they evenly cook. Then add the water, bean sauce & oyster sauce, and stir for maybe 1 more minute, until the vegetable are finished. They’re done when the leaves are dark green and wilted and the stem is medium green. Be sure not to overcook.

Water Spinach with Sesame Seeds
water spinach with sesame seeds


1 large bunch water spinach

3 carrots

5 medium red radishes

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon Japanese soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

3 teaspoon thinly sliced scallion greens
boiled spinach with soy and sesame seeds


Remove leaves from stems. Rinse, dry and cool.

Cut stems into 1/4 inch pieces. Soak for a few minutes in lukewarm water to crisp.

Dry and refrigerate, covered, for 1/2 hour or more.

Thinly slice both carrots and radishes and chill each separately in a bowl with ice water for 20 minutes. In a small pan, toast sesame seeds for about 5 minutes, or until tan. In a small dish, stir together lemon juice, honey, and soy sauce. Add oil. Toss leaves with half the dressing and 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds.
Arrange on plates. In a bowl, toss together stems, carrots, radishes, scallions, and the remaining dressing and seeds. Arrange on leaves and serve.


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