Growing kang kong in the kitchen

by Pauline Muir

I’m interested in establishing some perennial vegetables in my garden and I came across kang kong or Chinese watercress, an Asian perennial vegetable, which tastes much like spinach. It is highly nutritious and never gets bitter.


What I read on the internet suggests that kang kong will grow just in water with added fertiliser. A kind of no dig spinach if you like. It is related to sweet potato and grows as a vigorous vine in tropical conditions and in places like Florida has become an invasive weed. Setting this up this has turned into an interesting experiment.

I bought a fresh bunch of kang kong from an Asian store and put it in a jug of water on my kitchen table, just like a bunch of flowers. 2-3 days later tiny roots grew from the lower parts of the stalks. I gave it a sprinkle of organic fertiliser and the roots doubled in size overnight. I did try manure at first but it began to smell.

It is several weeks now since I set it up and the the kang kong is growing slowly in the vase despite little sunlight and the cool of autumn. The branching stalks with their bright green leaves shaped like arrowheads looks cheerful and elegant on my kitchen table. I have planted some of the stalks (with roots) in the garden and they are doing well and giving forth new leaves.

As we go into the cold, dark days of winter their growth is slowing and I don’t expect the plants to survive, after all they do come from a hot, humid environment. Probably they will die down and reemerge in spring, although maybe they will surprise me and keep going all winter.

I believe this could be a very easy grow vegetable for summer and would be well worth the time to try it out in spring and see how it fares in summer. Wouldn’t that be great, just keeping some on your back verandah or on a sunny window sill and picking it as needed. I can imagine for people who have a small garden or no garden at all, or for the elderly and disabled who cannot garden, this might well provide fresh spinach during the summer months and it would make a great project for children as well.

Note by Beth Mylius: Ipomoea aquatica is a semiaquatic, tropical plant grown as a leaf vegetable. It is found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, although it is not known where it originated. This plant is known in English as Water spinach, River spinach,[1] Water morning glory, Water convolvulus, or by the more ambiguous names Chinese spinach, Swamp cabbage and Kangkong in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia we called it kangkung or swamp cabbage – I loved it with fried tempe and chili.

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