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Okinawa spinach grows in dense clusters on stalks that can grow up to 70 centimeters tall and form a bushy habit. Pruning the plant keeps it low to the ground and encourages growth. The elongated leaves have slightly toothed edges and are bright, shiny green on top and deep purple on the undersides. Young leaves and shoots may have a purple tinge. Okinawa spinach has a crisp, succulent texture and offers a nutty flavor with hints of pine.
Okinawa spinach may be found year-round with peak season in the spring through early fall.
Okinawa spinach is a perennial green, botanically classified as Gynura crepioides or G. procumbens. It is a member of the Asteraceae or sunflower family and is unrelated to common spinach. In China it is cultivated as a vegetable and is commonly referred to as Hong tsoi or Okinawa lettuce. It is both nutritious and visually appealing, making it a popular back yard plant for container gardening or flower beds.
Okinawa spinach is rich in vitamins A and C, protein, iron, potassium and calcium.
Okinawa spinach is eaten raw or lightly cooked because it can develop a slimy texture if overcooked. Young leaves are used raw in salads, spring rolls and as a garnish. Combining with other types of greens in salads is recommended as a way to cut the stronger piney flavor of the Okinawa spinach. Larger leaves and stems are steamed, sautéed or used in stir frys and omelets. Their crisp texture stands up well in tempuras, stews and soups. Complimentary flavors include fatty meats and fish, seafood, cheese, ginger, sesame and soy sauce. The rich purple color of the leaves can act as a coloring agent for rice or pastas. Store Okinawa spinach loosely in a bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
An all-green cultivar of Okinawa spinach is commonly referred to as “cholesterol spinach” or “longevity spinach” for its nutritive properties and ability to help lower cholesterol. Some confusion exists as to whether it is the bicolor variety or the all-green variety that provides these benefits.
Okinawa spinach is native to Southeastern Asia where it thrives in the tropical climate, producing leaves continually for years. It can also be found growing in India, Myanmar, southern China, Taiwan, Japan, Hawaii, and Southern Florida. It is propagated through cuttings and is easy to grow and will tolerate subtropical temperatures, growing at a slower rate. Home gardeners keep it as an ornamental or as edible landscaping. Okinawa spinach is most often spotted in backyard gardens or in markets in Southeastern Asia.
Recipes that include Okinawa Spinach. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Food.com||Okinawan Spinach (Handama) Salad|
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