These days, we are bombarded by a plethora of superfoods to include in our diet. The term ‘superfood’ appeared in the late 20th century and the Oxford dictionary defines it as ‘a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being’. Interestingly, the term superfood became popularised by the media and is identified in foods with an unusually high content of antioxidants, vitamins, or other nutrients. Health promoting foods that have been referred to as superfoods include: blueberries, salmon, green tea, walnuts, soy and leafy or dark coloured greens such as broccoli and spinach.
Kangkong is also referred to as water spinach, river spinach, Chinese spinach, ong choy, swamp cabbage, hayoyo, kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica) is a nutrient dense hardy vegetable. Rich in nutrients as most greens are, kangkong is high in iron but is not bitter. This makes it a popular ingredient eaten raw in salads (add some water parsely for some added punch!), cooked or steamed in Asian stir fries and cuisine.
How to grow Kangkong in Australia
Kangkong is a fast-growing plant. Once water temperatures reach above 12 degrees celcius, our 12cm pot plant will be ready for harvest within 3 – 4 weeks. Growth increases dramatically when conditions are warm and kangkong can reach lengths up to 3 metres! To keep this vigor under control, use it in your cooking. The entire stem and leaves can be used from this plant. If you get tired of stir fries, try steaming it with some oyster sauce, adding it to your super green smoothies or add the leave to a garden salad. With its natural vigor, you are best to eat the day you pick kangkong. Harvest in lengths of 30 cm bunches, it will reduce in size dramatically when cooked.
Nutrition and health benefits of eating kangkong
Rich in vitamin A, about 100 grams per 100 grams of kangkong. Impressively that’s 210% of your daily vitamin-A intake! Vitamin-A is essential for the health of skin, hair, and vision.
Another vitamin that has a large presence in kangkong is Vitamin-C. Vitamin-C is great for protecting the body from various diseases. Vitamin-C is also known to be great for skin and hair.
Iron, magnesium, and calcium are abundant too in kangkong. These are important for the health of bone and teeth.
Kangkong is a great source of:
Niacin Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), essential for making blood cells
Pyridoxine (vitamin B6), good for preventing anaemia and the health of nerves, skin, and red blood cells.
Fibre and antioxidants are also available from kangkong. It is relatively high in beta-carotene, natural antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fibres. It is dense in electrolytes, including sodium and potassium.
Kangkong is a heavy feeder. Regular fertilising will ensure a constant supply of fresh food for your dinner table. It prefers full sun and will grow all year in the tropics. Elsewhere it is a summer crop or can be grown in a green house.
Interestingly, kangkong is not related to common spinach, but is closely related to sweet potato (Ipomea batatas). Leaves reach between 5 - 15cm in size the firm stems hold them upright above the water but they will trail down as they grow. Kangkong does flower with a trumpet flower varying from white to pink.
We think that Kangkong is deserving of a place in the superfood spotlight. This easy to grow vegetable is certainly worthy of getting more attention than it currently does. Give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose!