Thursday, June 30, 2011

Okinawa Spinach (Gynura crepioides)

Growing a regular western style vegetable garden is not really my thing.   For one, growing vegetables in a tropical climate seems more difficult because of soil problems, rampet weeds, insects and disease.  The other reason is because I am a lazy gardener who does not want to spend a lot of time and effort with fussy plants.  I am also very cheap.  I like the idea of growing free food and recognise that eating fresh vegetables is good for my health.

My search for easy grow edibles has lead me to a lot of interesting "spinachs" that come from many different cultures around the world.  Usually these "spinachs" are some wild growing perennial plant in their place of origin that was first just gathered. Now they are propagated, usually by cuttings, and grown in the garden but need very little care.  You get the plant established, and just pick the leaves or young shoots as needed.  My type of vegetable gardening!  In this blog you will sooner or later be introduced to lots of these spinachs.  The first one I want to introduce you to is Okinawa Spinach as it is called here in Hawaii.

Okinawa spinach is an Asian leaf vegetable that is very easy to grow in any kind of soil and in full sun or semi-shade.  It has few disease and insect problems except one.....the slugs love it.  This is why I grow mine in a large tub up off the ground.  It is easy then for me to check for slugs on my weekly hunts in the garden with my flashlight before I go to bed.  The slugs get chopped with my garden knife.  If this plant is left to grow on the ground it can develop into a high and thick spreading ground cover that needs tips harvested frequently to keep it in control.  It would be good for that rocky unused slope in your garden.

I have not been able to find nutritional value information on Okinawa spinach but being a leafy green vegetable one would expect it to be a good source of minerals and vitamin A.  The raw young leaves can be added to a green salad,  I use this spinach most in stir-fries.  Because of the purple color on the bottom of the leaves it is a colorful addition.  I especially like to pair it with yellow sweet peppers to make a really pretty stir-fry and to sweeten things up although the taste of Okinawa spinach is agreeable on its own.

I have seen Okinawa spinach being sold at farmer's markets on Oahu, and you could easily get some started from a few cuttings. You can put the cuttings in a glass of water for a few days to get the roots started but make sure they are planted within 3 days or they will lose their vigor.

Around Christmas time my Okinawa spinach blooms.  It has fluffy little orange flowers on long stems.  I usually just cut them off to keep the strength of the plant going to the leaves.


PS   After growing Okinawan Spinach for over several years now, I have decided that it is best to pull the plant up every few years and plant another one.  They just seem to loose their vigor and get aphids and root death from too much rain.  The thing is to get those new replacement cuttings going while your plant is still healthy and strong.  One plant in a large container is enough.


  1. Is this the same as the low cholesterol plant?

  2. @ Jan

    No it is not the same plant but grows and looks similar so I think it may be a relative. Aloha