Okinawa spinach is a tasty, though not well-known, green which is fairly easy to grow. A perennial plant native to Indonesia that prefers warm, wet climates, Okinawa spinach will form a dense, low ground cover about 2 feet tall. The shiny and slightly succulent edible leaves can be green on both sides or have a bright purple underside. It is not actually related to spinach but is used in a similar manner in salads or cooked. This plant is commonly propagated from cuttings; though it will produce small, orange flowers, it rarely makes viable seeds. Try growing it in a container as a houseplant in colder climates.
Seed: Not generally grown from seeds.
Vegetative: Commonly propagated by taking stem cuttings when soil temperature is 75°F. Root your cutting in water, then transplant into the garden. Can also be propagated by layering.
Cutting Depth: 2–3″
Space Between Plants: 18–24″
Space Between Rows: 24″
Rooting Soil Temperature: 75°F
Days for Rooting: 10–20
Start Indoors: Anytime.
Start Outdoors: When soil temperature is 75°F.
Grows best in subtropical to tropical climates. Can be grown indoors as a container plant in temperate climates.
Natural: Full sun to partial shade.
Artificial: Will grow indoors in a sunny window. Provide additional lighting if needed. Will grow well under high output fluorescent or HID lamps.
Soil: Prefers well drained sandy, loamy, or clay soils. A pH of between 5.8 and 6.2 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Cuttings will root in soilless media.
Hydroponics: Thrives in hydroponic systems.
Aeroponics: Thrives in aeroponic systems. Cuttings will root in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water. Good drainage is important. If it gets too dry, it will begin to drop leaves.
Nutrients: Requires low to moderate levels of nutrients. Side dress with compost once per year.
Pruning: Prune regularly, especially removing any flowering branches. Plants will respond well, growing back bushier and extending the life of the plant.
Mulching: Use mulch to keep soil moist and suppress weeds.
Pest(s): Okinawa spinach is rarely bothered by pests, but watch for:
Companions: Grows well with taller plants like kale, eggplant, corn, or sunflowers.
Harvest: Pick leaves when they are young. Pinch off the end of a stem and use the young shoots.
Storage: Fresh leaves can be refrigerated for up to one week.
Other names: Hong Tsoi, Okinawa lettuce.
Preserve: Leaves can be blanched and frozen. Also try dehydrating leaves for later use.
Prepare: Use young leaves raw in salads. The purple-undersided type has a stronger flavor than the all-green leaves do when raw. Leaves can also be cooked, but do not overcook because they’ll get slimy. Stir frying works well, or add to soups, casseroles, or stews. They are a tasty and healthy addition to green smoothies because of the mild flavor.
Nutritional: Provides vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, and protein. Also contains potent antioxidants.
Medicinal: Has been used or is being investigated for use as an antioxidant with anti-cancer properties, an anti-inflammatory, and to lower cholesterol.
If you’ve got access to some exotic ingredients, try this recipe for Okinawan Spinach Curry with Lotus Root.