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The initial narrow leaves of Ipomea aquatica widen as the plant matures
and gets ready to throw out its runners.
The photos above show the distinctive pointed leaves and light green
color of the water morning glory or water spinach. I first came across
the seeds in Iowa of all places, on a seed rack of seeds from Thailand.
The yellow cayenne from that same seed rack is still growing in my
garden, the water spinach- struggled that first year and I figured it
was just not the right environment for it.
This past summer I planted seeds again and like before, they germinated
and slowly grew and then at about a foot tall they didn't do anything-
at least I didn't think they were doing much. All of a sudden, in early
August I noticed the distinctive leaves in my lawn and traced the vines
10 feet or so back to that little bush and then I followed another vine
into my squash patch and another into the tomatoes. My gosh, I thought
to myself, it's taken over. Sure enough, in the 90 degree days and the
slow and steady drip of my t-tape, the water spinach was rooting at
each node and then sending new branches in all directions. It was
remarkable growth which had to be several inches a day.
I began to pick bunches of the leafy, hollow stems to chop up into half
inch pieces and then stir fry with garlic and olive oil, salt and
pepper. What an excellent vegetable. Much better than spinach. Very
pleasant, tender and without any trace of the oxalic acid taste that
makes spinach low on the best veggies list of most folks. The more I
tossed it into my frying pan, the more I appreciated it's mild flavor
that depends on seasonings for character. No wonder it's the most
popular "green" in southeast Asia.
I remember the days you could get the seeds mail order (just a few
years ago, actually) before it was illegal to buy the seeds and plant
Because it has the potential to become an invasive plant in some
of Florida and the Gulf Coast, it is a restrictive import that now
requires a permit from USDA in order to obtain the seeds. Silly,
like so much of the red tape that controls the free exchange of
seed. Water Spinach has been a listed invasive of gulf coast
states for many years yet continues to be grown from cuttings there by
families who have immigrated from tropical Asian countries. Yes,
it is that good. Recent legislation against the purchase of seed
will not diminish the threat to the aquatic habitat but a good
educational outreach about where not to grow it could help.
Kind of like planting Kudzu Vine which was actually encouraged by
the USDA for years as an erosion preventative and now is targeted for
irradication (probably not likely). Just seed on the bare slopes
left by road construction. Kudzu followed the growth of the
interstate system through the southern states and continues to take
over vast acrage in the South and is now overwintering as far north as
Long Island. At least Water Spinach is deliceous and we can eat
it back into submission.
Availability: Sorry, not
from us- you can usually find fresh water spinach (in season) in asian
markets, it easily roots.