You’ll want to grow this one.
Related to but not the same as “Okinawan spinach”, Longevity spinach (scientific name “Gynura procumbens“) is a low-growing, semi-succulent leaf vegetable very popular in Southeast Asia, its home turf.
Nicknamed “longevity spinach”, this amazing plant has earned its name for three reasons:
- It’s exceedingly easy to grow from cuttings
- It’s a long-lived perennial in warm climates
- It’s is proven to have extraordinary healing properties
Longevity spinach has a flavor similar to malabar spinach and when cooked, has a bit of a viscous quality (think okra). For some, it may take a bit of getting acquainted with the flavor and texture. We’ve enjoyed it mixed in with our leafy lettuce mix, green juice, and in soups.
For those in the warmer US growing zones (9 and above), the plant will proliferate as a perennial through the warm season and hold its own over the “winter”. It is not hardy to freezing temps. So for those in colder zones, longevity spinach can be grown as an annual, propagated as cuttings grown indoors, or like we’re doing, growing the plant in containers that can be brought in for the cold season and set out during the growing season (we used grow bags and they worked great). By all accounts, it’s very easy to grow on from cuttings, so that once you have a healthy plant, there’s no need to buy any more.
We procured our original two plants from a trusted seller (Baker Creek). They arrived in good bare root condition and a bit early for our NC clime, so we bagged them up in organic pot mix and kept them protected with straw and an occasional cloth cover. They struggled a bit until we modified the full sun with some screening. So, perhaps placing them in a semi-shaded spot is optimal. They did alright in their cozy 3 gallon grow bags. We ran one dripper per bag from our irrigation grid and packed in straw around the sides as insulation.
The general assessment is that the plant is pest-free. We did have a few bug issues and occasional slug munch, but yes, “in general” there were no serious pests.
But, if the taste is “meh” and the texture slightly slippery, why not just grow regular spinach with all its iron and healthy anti-oxidants? This is where the line blurs between food and medicine. Longevity spinach certainly bridges the gap between food and medicine. The Chinese have been using the plant as a medicinal for centuries. Some refer to it as “cholesterol spinach” due to its reputed cholesterol-reducing effects.
In our interview with Dr.Tom Cowan, he extolled the virtues of Longevity spinach as a superfood. Quoting his blog:
“Gynura perhaps gains its super-food status because of its ability to counteract diabetes and reduce elevated blood sugar. Shown to be as effective as the front-line diabetic drug metformin (with none of the side effects), gynura also lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.“1)https://www.gardensall.com/specialty-crops-food-health-profit/
Gynura Procumbens Benefits
A host of health attributes have been assigned to longevity spinach, which has proven to be beneficial for numerous diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Sexual reproduction
- Proactive support of the immune system
- A general tonic2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791373/
The way our family chooses to “self-insure” our health is by growing our own organic medicinals and vitality supportive foods. We consider “longevity spinach” to be one of the essentials in our health food repertoire.
Gynura Extract is a good protein source and may have positive effects on free radical scavenging and iron chelating.3)http://www.scialert.net/abstract/?doi=ajps.2010.146.151
Beyond that, there’s very little to be found with a breakdown of the nutrients in longevity spinach in the layman’s terms we’re all familiar with. If you’ve seen such an analysis, please send us a link and we’ll add it here.
Where to Buy Longevity Spinach
You also might be able to trade for this plant on Dave’s Garden.
Longevity Spinach Recipes
As a great addition to salads and soups, longevity spinach (gynura) may also be prepared as a tea, added into green smoothies, or sautéed solo or with other ingredients. It can also be used as a garnish, similar to parsley. We’ve also enjoyed the leaves in place of lettuce on our sandwiches.
Use gynura procumbens as you would spinach.
There are many wonderful attributes to longevity spinach. We’ve touched on just a few. It’s very easy to grow and propagate. For gardeners in colder zones, with just a little fuss, the plants can be brought inside and continue to yield healthful nutrition. We are definitely looking to root cuttings and thinking what a nice gift a little pot of Longevity spinach would be!
If you’ve had experience growing gynura procumbens (alias longevity spinach), please let us know. We’d be glad to add your experience and photos to this article.
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson
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