Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepioides)

Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepioides) is a leafy vegetable that was relatively unknown in the U.S. until recent years. It has rapidly gained in popularity as more people grow it and become familiar with its uses.

In warm climates the plant is perennial, and will provide harvests for many years. The growth habit is upright to spreading, with the longest stems tending to flop over and trail on the ground.
Overall plant height is around 1-2 feet. The plant grows rapidly and can be kept in bounds by frequent harvest of the longest stems.
The colorful leaves are olive-green with a purplish-red underside and a pleasantly pungent flavor. The leaves and young stems can be eaten raw or cooked. This is an excellent salad green, or use the leaves on sandwiches in place of lettuce. Stems can be chopped in soups, stews, or vegetable medleys in the same way you would use celery. Leaves hold their color and texture well when cooked, making this a good choice for those who don't like the mucilaginous texture of many other cooked greens.
Okinawa spinach grows well in full sun or part shade. Growth stops in cold weather, and a hard freeze will kill top growth, but in spring the plant quickly regenerates from the root system. It is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11, but can be grown as an annual or in containers in colder locations.
In spring the plants go through a flowering cycle when little leafy growth occurs, but the plant is covered in orange blooms, attracting Monarch butterflies to the nectar. This plant is in the same genus as Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens) and the houseplant known as Purple Passion (Gynura aurantiaca), and the flowers are clearly similar.


Anonymous said...

THX for sharing

Anonymous said...

I like it very much!

Anonymous said...

what I need to know is how to harvest the leaves which you do not say

Grower Jim said...

Anonymous: Cut the longest leafy stems and eat them!

Mike said...

Hi Jim, do you know where I can get seeds of it? It has to be seeds as they will be planted on an islands where it is strictly forbidden to bring living parts of plants

Grower Jim said...

Mike, it flowers, but does not produce seed in this area. Most scholarly articles also state that viable seed is rare. Good luck in your search!