quickly becoming my favorite vegetable of the moment, beating out even
old favorite garden-grown
varieties. I only wish I discovered it years ago.
Although I may have had it as part of stir fries at Asian
restaurants when I ate cooked food, I had no idea that water
spinach was so ridiculously tasty raw, as well as incredibly easy to
My friend, Stephen, a raw foodist and permaculture practitioner,
recently introduced it to a gathering of raw foodists in Chanthaburi,
Thailand, that I was attending. I've since used it for a replacement
lettuce in salads as well as for a stand-alone munching food.
many vegetables, not only are the leaves tasty, but the stems
are even better, possessing a unique, somewhat salty taste that's
absolutely delicious. The stems are hollow, not very fiberous, and easy
to chew and digest raw. I love ripping into the stuff. You feel like a
good little primate :)
Many Names, One Plant
One of the reasons so few
people will know what you're talking about when you bring up water
spinach is that it goes by so many different names in English. The
botanical name for it is ipomoea
aquatica, but English has at least six words that are often
applied to it.
To make things even more confusing, some of those names are also
commonly applied to other plants. Finally, it's not uncommon to see one
or more of the words used by Asian languages to describe water spinach
in use in the English-speaking world
Below are some of the commonly used names.
Names For Ipomoea
In English-Speaking Countries:
morning glory, water spinach, swamp cabbage, water convolvulus, water
morning glory, Chinese spinach In China:
hollow vegetable (literal translation), ong choy Thailand:phak
bung/pak bung Laos: pak bong Burma: ga zun
ywet Vietnam: rau
Take morning glory, for instance. That name is frequently applied to
more than 1,000 species of flowering plants in the family
Convolvulaceae. Swamp cabbage is also frequently applied to the "heart
of palm," plant, which is also edible and commonly consumed in salads.
Kang Kong Feast Video
I tear into some water kang
kong and tell you a bit about it in the below video.
You're unlikely to find a regular
grocery store in the US or Europe that stocks water spinach. If you
happen to be anywhere in Asia, just about every market carries it, but
people usually aren't familiar with it in the west.
The best place for you to buy water spinach in the US or Canada is at
your local Asian supermarket (that stocks Asian produce). If you're in
a big city, the local china town probably has a few places that sell
Water spinach grows best in water or very damp soil, and when farmed
it's often grown in rice-patty-like conditions.
One of the best and worst things about the vegetable is it's so
prolific it often gets classified as a weed. On the upside, this means
it grows extremely easily, and you can just chop it off just above
ground level to harvest one and it will quickly grow back without you
having to plant a new seed.
The downside is that it has the potential to fill waterways in areas
that do not experience frost, a fear that has lead the USDA to classify
water spinach as a noxious weed, limiting the number of people who can
buy the seeds and requiring that they have a permit.
The only registered seed seller in the US is:
Fukuda Seed Store, Inc. 1287
However, because there are so many names for the same vegetable, seeds
often slip through US customs, and you can sometimes find them in Asian
grocery stores on racks with other Asian vegetables.