Thursday, July 18, 2013

Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens)

Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens) 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 health benefits.
In warm climates the plant is perennial, and will provide harvests for many years. The growth habit is spreading, with the floppy stems trailing on the ground.
Overall plant height is usually less than a foot, but the width can be several feet if allowed to grow unchecked. Prostrate stems root as they grow along the surface of the ground making this an excellent edible groundcover. Growth can be kept in bounds by frequent harvest of the longest stems.
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 texture well when cooked, making this a good choice for those who don't like the mucilaginous texture of many other cooked greens.

Longevity spinach grows well in full sun or part shade. Growth slows or stops in cold weather, and a hard freeze will kill top growth, but in spring the plant quickly regenerates from the root system. 

Gynura procumbens is native to the Philippines, Thailand and Indo-China. It is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11, but can be grown as an annual 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 Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepiodes) and the houseplant known as Purple Passion (Gynura aurantiaca), and the flowers are clearly similar.
Many healthful claims have been made for this vegetable and it has been used in folk medicine for generations in SE Asia to treat inflammation, rheumatism and viral infections. Scientific studies have shown strong anti-inflammatory action and an ability to reduce type 2 diabetes.

Buy longevity spinach cuttings! 


David The Good said...

Very cool. I need to grab some - perennials are my favorites. At first I thought it was a green cultivar of okinawa spinach... nice to see I at least got the right family.

Sheila O said...

Jim - I bought cuttings from you a few years ago. I have several plants now creeping here there and everywhere. This year it's even flowering like crazy!

Grower Jim said...

Glad to hear it Sheila! Thank you!

Unknown said...

Mine has a little problem. They are growing very slowly and I noticed that new leaves are getting smaller

Grower Jim said...

Flora, your plant may be getting ready to bloom. In late winter the growth slows, leaves get smaller, and a cluster of flower buds will appear at the tips of the stems. You can cut off the end, and the remaining stem will form new side branches that will be good eating.

Tee said...

Mine seem to have teeny little yellow bugs on the new growth. How do I kill these and still be able to eat the plant?? Help!!

Grower Jim said...

Tee, I've never seen any bugs on them here. If it's something like aphids, a strong spray of water with the hose will wash them away.