Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica)

Ipomoea aquatica is a semi-aquatic tropical plant grown as a leaf vegetable. It is known in English as Water Spinach, Water Morning Glory, Water Convolvulus, or by the more ambiguous names “Chinese spinach” and “swamp cabbage”. It has many other names in other languages. It is found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world; it is not known exactly where it originated.

Ipomoea aquatica grows in water or on moist soil. Its stems are 2–3 metres (7–10 ft) or more long, rooting at the nodes, and they are hollow and can float. The leaves vary from typically sagittate (arrow-head-shaped) to lanceolate, 5–15 centimetres (2–6 in) long and 2–8 centimetres (0.8–3 in) broad. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, 3–5 centimetres (1–2 in) diameter, usually white in colour with a mauve centre. The flowers can form seed pods which can be used for planting.

Ipomoea aquatica is most commonly grown in East and Southeast Asia. Because it flourishes naturally in waterways and requires little if any care, it is used extensively in Malay and Chinese cuisine, especially in rural or kampung (village) areas.

It has also been introduced to the United States where its high growth rate has caused it to become an environmental problem, especially in Florida and Texas. It has been officially designated by the USDA as a “noxious weed” (the term “noxious” refers to its effect on the environment, not to any toxicity)

n the Philippines, Ipomoea aquatica or kangkóng, is usually sautéed in cooking oil, onions, garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce. This dish is called “adobong kangkong”. It is also a common leaf vegetable in fish and meat stews such as sinigang. There is also an appetizer in the Philippines called “crispy kangkong”, in which Ipomoea aquatica leaves are coated with batter and fried until crisp and golden brown.

In South India the leaves are finely chopped and mixed with grated coconut in order to prepare Thoran , a Kerala cuisine dish.

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