Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I'm getting addicted to Okinawan Spinach primarily because I've found ready uses for it. It has a strong flavour so I use it more like a herb -- but in high doses.

Goes well in soups and with potatoes.

Okinawan spinach is probably one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Once it is established, it is virtually weed free and doesn't require much fertilization. It will grow on atolls, but growth will be slow without green manure. Green manure from woody legumes is good source of nutrients. Okinawan spinach is harvested weekly to stimulate growth. In Hawaii, 160 ft (14 m) raised bed of organically-grown okinawan spinach can produce 5-8 lbs per week, continuously. It will outgrow its boundaries very rapidly, when not harvested on regular basis. It can be trimmed monthly to promote new, tender growth for consumption. The abundant trimmings can be used as garden mulch or around trees. SOURCE

Since it can be grown so easily from cuttings OS is a useful plant to have in a few places about the patch. It isn't a good ground cover or green manure in my experience as it grows densely and higher than you'd probably appreciate. But then it's perennial and can take a lot of cutting back.

As a person who doesn't like the taste of 'English' spinach or silverbeet much -- nor appreciate other exotic greens, like Brazil and Malabar/Ceylon Spinach -- I can find a lot of uses for OS.

As a spinach stand in , in soups, potato and rice dishes...I also find it a useful substitute for  Okra in gumbo or for recipes that call for Egyptian Spinach--aka  Jute, Molokheiya, etc -- which I like.

The trick is to understand its ways when you come to cook with it.  Thrown into many hot dishes just before serving is a good way to work with the leaves.In gumbo you can cook it longer if you want the goo effect rather than rely on okra. It will even be at home in a salsa...offsetting the toms.

I have only begun to experiment with its kitchen utility, but i am finding  many excuses to add Okinawan Spinach to a menu mix. 

As well as Gynura bicolor is its cousin, Gynura Procumbens , which is also called 'Longevity Spinach'.(Image: differences) Most research and reports from people about the benefits for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol is for Pocumbens although the plants are very similar.References:LINK.


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Thanks for this info Dave.. I picked up a cutting at Gayle's GV after tasting a leaf and I am very excited to have this one grow into a good sized bush. Nice to hear it is so hardy. The leaf is so attractive it looks like it would not look out of place in an ornamental garden either.

Much appreciated info Dave.  Some time ago I picked up a cutting but forgot what it was so with the picture I was able to identify another edible in my garden.   Many thanks

Okinawan Spinach, Surinam Spinach and Betel Leaf are some of the plants that I usually take cuttings along to every GV I go to and it is always finds a home. It just grows wild at my place with not much more than some Manure now and again and a pretty regular supply of H2O. I would encourage anyone to try these as they are quite versatile.

I have been stuffing the Betel Leaf by putting a line of Chicken or Pork Mince with some Vietnamese Mint included and any other Spice you like. I then pull the sides of the leaves together or roll up and put a tooth pick in to secure. Then steam for 10mins and enjoy with a dipping sauce.


Don't you love a man who likes his food...

I have more Okinawan Spinach growing than I thought --so I  took cuttings  in the hope of using it more as a edible ground cover.

I have about 5 patches underway already -- and some of those are in shade.

I'm hunting for some  Gynura Procumbens (see above) -- not ashitaba--  when i can get a supply from HERE.

So if anyone wants to share the postage ($12.95) if I order up ($6.50/plant) I'm keen.(offer closes Sunday night -- 2  days hence). Divide the total bill by the number of plants.Pick up arrangements : weekend of July 23rd -- here -- if the plants arrive -- or thereafter from my offsprings' place in Bracken Ridge.

But then if this plant is anything like its cousin, cuttings will be easy peasy so waiting for a freebee snip may be a horticultural advantage.

Dave, I have a very, very, very small piece I was given at the herb show.  So far it seems to be growing - if you don't get the seeds and if my plant grows I will gladly give you a piece.

Dave I think I know someone with the plant Gynura Procumbens that you are wanting. He told me my Okinawan Spinach was the wrong colour because his was all green, so he may have the one you want, I will check it out.

Oh Dave, what a dill I am, I have just looked up Gynura Procumbenso to find that the common name is  Sambung Nyawa, I have plenty of it. I will bring some along to the Fermenting Morning.

Info from Mudbrick site 

Sambung Nyawa
Botanical Name: Gynura procumbens

Other names this plant goes by are Sambung nyawa ‘life extender’ , Daun Dewa, Akar Sebiak, Kelemai Merah, Bai Bing Ca. A fleshy perennial plant, growing to a height of approx. 80cm with yellow/orange thistle like flowers. The branches can be trimmed to make the plant bushy or you can stake the stems. The young leaves and shoots can be eaten fresh in salads or added to rice or noodle dishes. You can cook like spinach, sauté in butter or oil and a little garlic or add to soups or stews. Sambung has many medicinal uses including being useful for regulating blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol and to treat high blood pressure as well as inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. It is also a useful forage plant for poultry.

Excellent. Folk can ignore my original offer.

Oh Sambung - that stuff! Read about it years back and when we visited the (now late) Isabel Shipard's 'farm' I was keen to buy a plant. Woo hoo, it was $30 for a tiny rooted cutting. Thinking this was something special, I gulped and bought one.

Plant grows enthusiastically, keeping up with its produce is nigh impossible for we two old boilers. It tastes OK, used it raw didn't know about cooking it. I gave stacks of it away and eventually rooted it out.

The medicinal uses for food plants mean you need to eat x-amount each day for it to be effective. I have found trying to do that to be (for me) impossible. The active ingredient/s are enclosed with a lot of other material which you have to eat as well making it quite a meal to get however-much you need of whatever-it-is.

Anyway if you get some Sambung, it loves the sun and good drainage. The more you cut it the more it grows. It's a very giving plant. And as tough as old boots.

I'm interested in this plant too Dianne especially after Elaine's description below.

Other plants that have been similarly productive and low maintenance in my garden include mushroom plant, aibika, betel leaf, cranberry hibiscus, moringa (outside winter), Lebanese cress and of course the many varieties of basil.


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