Growing Okinawa Spinach

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The world of spinach has just expanded for me to include an edible green called Okinawa Spinach. But I want to be clear from the start: It’s not a true spinach at all, in that it doesn’t belong in the genus Spinacia. If you’d like to define the general term of spinach as an edible green whose young stems and lancolate-shaped leaves can be eaten raw or steamed, then yes, Okinawa Spinach, or Gynura crepioides, is indeed quite spinach-like.

Don’t let the “Okinawa” in the name fool you. This plant is native to Indonesia and grown commercially in China. Unlike true spinach (or at least the spinaches I’m familiar with), Okinawa’s leaves are green on top but lovely shades of purple underneath. As such, it would make a lovely ornamental addition to a patio veg garden. Okinawa Spinach is also known as “Cholesterol Spinach,” because some claim it aids in lowering cholesterol. Whether it does or not, you should grow it for its flavor—a slight piney taste—and its versatility in soups, stews, salads and such. Keep in mind the younger leaves are tastier than older leaves, and if you do cook it, throw the leaves in at the end, as they tend to get slimy the longer then cook.

You should grow it, too, because it’s adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions; i.e. it’s easy to grow. Use these following tips as a guideline:

  • Soil: Will grow in any soil, from clay to silt to sand
  • Light: Grows best in partial to full sun
  • Fertilizer: Doesn’t need much
  • Height: 1-2 ft.
  • Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils
  • Pests: Not much of a problem

 

Growing Tips:

  • Do trim back the flowering stalks to keep the vegetative (the leaves) growing. After all, it’s the leaves that you harvest and eat.
  • Limited space? Okinawa Spinach grows well in containers on patios and porches.
  • Try this: Growing in a pot on a sunny windowsill.

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