Tuesday, March 22, 2016

MOLUCCAN SPINACH (Gynura nepalensis)

Just looking at some of the names of this plant you can tell it comes from  Asia and that its territory stretches from Nepal to beyond Indonesia.  A more common name for it here in Hawaii is Low Cholesterol Plant as it has a reputation for helping lower your cholesterol levels if you eat several leaves every day.  Others say it can help lower your blood sugar.  I can find no proof of either on the internet but there are folks who say it worked for them..Obviously, sellers of the plant are less likely to make unproven claims so Moluccan Spinach is what I see it named at the plant stores.  It has a cousin plant out there called Okinawan Spinach that some people give similar properties.  ( See my blog post June, 2011)   Moluccan Spinach certainly has it fans in some Asian countries where it is used as a medicinal vegetable.  We do know that plant sterols help block the absorption of cholesterol in the bowel so eating any plants is all for the bodies good.

I guess I first became interested in Moluccan Spinach because of its low cholesterol claims.  Having grown it now for over ten years; I love it for its hardiness.  There are several alternative "spinaches" that I am a fan of but Moluccan Spinach and Ong Choy ( blog post April 2015) get my highest praise for ease of growing.  Just get a cutting growing and you have a perennial plant that just keeps on living and producing leafy green food for free.   My current Moluccan Spinach plant is at least 9 years old and grows in a large tub.  Every so often I have to trim it way back to keep it under control but it always comes back.  I will give it a bit of fertilizer then.  The most important thing to know about this plant is that slugs LOVE this plant.  It is one reason why I like to grow it in a container and off the ground.  I used to do slug patrols at night with the scissors of death in my hand but these days I have given in to having to pay some money for slug bait.   Sometimes I get thrips hanging out in the budding leaf tips which is signaled by the buds turning a lighter color.   A bit of soapy water and shooting the plant with strong water pressure from the hose is all I do for it.

The taste of Moluccan Spinach is not strong or unpleasant.  Because the leaves are thickish I will chop them into small pieces to add to a green salad.  I love it in stir fry and use it often.  I know a few people who add the leaves to their green smoothies.

I have never seen my plant produce flowers or seed but it is super easy to grow from cuttings.  I usually put the cuttings in water for a day or two and then plant them up before roots have started to form.  One mature plant will supply you all the leaves you need.