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Water spinach has thin, hollow stems with long, flat, arrowhead-shaped leaves. Leaves range in size from one to six inches in length and up to three inches in diameter depending on the plant's maturity. Water spinach has a similar flavor and succulent texture to common spinach, with mild, nutty undertones. Its young shoots and leaves are preferred to mature leaves as they are texturally more tender and sweeter in taste.
Water spinach is available year-round.
Water spinach, botanically classified as Ipomoea aquatica, is a semi-aquatic pantropical herbaceous vine grown for its leaves, which are harvested both young and mature. It has hundreds of other common names including: swamp cabbage, Chinese spinach, asagaona, ong choy, phak bung and ensai. The most widespread name used is kangkong, which refers to the wandering nature of the plant and its ability to grow vigorously and take over vast expanses of water. Water spinach is a member of the morning glory family and shares the same genus as the sweet potato.
In much of southeastern Asia, water spinach is considered a tonic as certain species contains several vitamins, including A, B, C, E, and “U” (S-methyl-methionine). It is used to treat stomach and intestinal disorders.
Water spinach is utilized in many standard Asian cooking methods, particularly stir fry with garlic and chiles, steamed to accompany soup, even tempura battered and fried. The hollow stems can also be cooked on their own as a crunchy side dish. Store refrigerated in a plastic bag, and use within 2-3 days of purchase.
Growing Water spinach is deeply embedded throughout much of local cultures in tropical Asia; it is a common food that is eaten by all social groups. It is also used in limited quantities as fodder for animals, including pigs, chicken and ducks.
Water spinach was first documented as a vegetable in 304 A.D. during the Chin Dynasty. The plant is native to India and Southeast Asia, where it is a dominant vegetable in food cultures throughout the region. It has since naturalized in South America, Australia, the Pacific Islands, Africa and Asia. Water spinach has been introduced as a non-native crop to the United States in 1973 with much less fanfare. It has grown so prolifically in waterway regions of Florida that it is listed locally and federally as a prohibited plant and "noxious weed".
Recipes that include Water Spinach. One is easiest, three is harder.
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