Kangkong (surprisingly NOT related to the Great Ape!) is a versatile leafy green in the Pacific. I love it because it is not quite as bitter as many of the other greens I have tried, and it is full of healthy benefits!
From the NSW Department of Primary Industries
It has many names, depending on who you’re talking to. Ipomoea aquatica is the scientific name, and common names include… get ready for this… water spinach, river spinach, water morning glory, ong choy, water convolvulus, Chinese spinach, and swamp cabbage. And in Texas and Florida, where its quick growth has made it a problem, they have deemed it a “noxious weed” (not poisonous! Just irritating as it spreads so quickly!) (source) So, to my friends in Texas and Florida – if you can find yourself some of these tastey greens, I encourage you to do so! Help cut down on their growth, and give yourself some health boosts!
The leaves are great for smoothies, salads, and juices; the stems are tougher so they are better gently cooked in stir fry, steamed, or roasted. Just keep in mind, though, that if you boil this leafy, though, you will lose a lot of the vitamin C.
Vitamin C is delicate, and will leave the plant and leech in to the water, which most people then toss out. If you are going to boil the kangkong, I recommend keeping the water and making a stew or soup, so that you keep that lovely vitamin C, as it’s so good for your immune system, tissue repair, and inflammation problems! Otherwise, try to keep it raw, or just do a QUICK sauté or stir fry. The more you cook it, the more nutrition you will lose.
It has a little bit of natural sodium in it – an electrolyte that you lose in your sweat. This makes it a great addition to a smoothie or meal post-workout, to help replenish your natural sodium stores, without the damaging effects of processed table salts.
1 cup raw provides % Daily Values:
71% Vitamin A
51% Vitamin C
It also contains small amounts of Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese. And, like almost all vegetables, basically fat free, cholesterol free, and only 11 calories per cup! (NutritionData)
A report from the International Journal of Botany in an article entitled, Ipomoea aquatica, An Underutilized Green Leafy Vegetable:A Review, points out that kangkong also contains carotenes and flavonoids with many health benefits. They are strong antioxidants, protecting your body’s cells from damage and reducing your risk of cancer. Additionally, “I. Aquatica leaves are also very rich in proteins, carotenes, amino acids like aspartic acid, threonine, serine, glutamic acid, proline, glycine, alanine, leucine, tyrosine, lysine, histadine and arginine, minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc…” Let’s just say, it’s full of a lot of good stuff!
Around the world, this plant is used in many ways to treat many different ailments, from jaundice and leprosy, to liver disease and arsenic poisoning. Are these treatments affective? I think more research is needed, but this little humble plant sure seems to have a lot of potential!
So see if you can consume kangkong! Add more leafy greens, cut back on the soy sauce and oils, and let’s get healthy!