We’re really enjoying our longevity spinach! Related to but not the same as “Okinawa spinach”, longevity spinach (scientific name gynura procumbens, from the family Asteraceae), is a low-growing, semi-succulent leaf vegetable very popular in Southeast Asia, its home turf.
Audio Article – Growing Longevity Spinach:
Why is the Gynura Plant Called Longevity Spinach?
Nicknamed “longevity spinach”, this amazing plant has earned its name for three reasons:
- It’s exceedingly easy to grow from cuttings
- The gynura plant is a long-lived perennial in warm climates
- Proven to have extraordinary healing properties1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791373/
Ways to Eat Longevity Spinach
Our favorite ways to enjoy gynura procumbens:
- Mixed in with other salad greens
- Green juice and smoothies
- Added to soups (we prefer to add them, then turn off the heat so that the nutrients remain intact)
- Dried and made into tea
- Dried and powdered
How Does Longevity Spinach Taste?
Gynura leaves are very slightly fuzzy textured and taste somewhat similar to malabar spinach. Both have a strongly greens taste, and when cooked, the longevity has a bit of a viscous quality reminiscent of okra, so good for thickening soups and sauces.
For some, it may take a bit of getting acquainted with the flavor and texture. We’ve enjoyed it sparsely mixed in with our leafy salads, green juices, and in soups. During winter, we’re growing the gynura indoors and eat a leaf a day as a vitamin… walking by a plant and plucking a leaf… vitamins on a stem.
Longevity spinach leaf is satisfyingly vibrant and fresh and gives the sense of consuming health with every bite.
How to Grow Longevity Spinach
Is Longevity Spinach a Perennial or Annual?
Gynura procumbens is grown as a perennial in warmer regions or as an annual where frost and freezing is a factor.
For those in the warmer US growing regions (zones 9 and above), the gynura plant will proliferate as a perennial through the warm season and hold its own over the “winter”. Gynura is not hardy to freezing temps.
Grow as an Annual in Colder Zones
For those in colder zones, longevity spinach can be grown as an annual. You can also grow gynura in pots indoors. We’ve propagated cuttings to pots in the garden, then brought them indoors before the first frost. We’ve used grow bags, which work great, though maybe not the prettiest presentation. this next season, we put all of the plants in 16″ containers (pots).
Longevity spinach is very easy to grow from cuttings.
We procured our original two plants from Baker’s Creek Rare Seeds, however, as of this writing, they don’t have any listed, so here’s a link to options on Amazon. From those two little plants, we have now grown two others to maturity, and currently have 28 new rooted plants in small pots. We could easily take more cuttings and continue expanding the brood, but we’re running out of space.
Longevity Spinach Likes Partial Shade
Our original g. procumbens plants arrived in good bare root condition but a bit early for our NC climate, so we bagged them up in organic potting 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, gynura—like spinach—grows best in partial shade. 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.
Pests on Longevity Gynura
The general assessment is that the plant is mostly pest-free. We did have a few bug issues and occasional slug munch, but in general, there were no serious pests. However, they didn’t thrive indoors over the winter, and ended up with some green aphids on the leaves that were hard to control.
We tried many different sprays, but it didn’t really take care of the problem. However, soon after moving the plants outside in spring, the aphids disappeared. we figured there were natural conditions outside that prevailed.
Longevity versus Regular Spinach
If the taste is “meh” and the texture slightly slippery, why not just grow regular spinach with all its iron and healthy antioxidants? We like to think of our food as medicine, and indeed, all garden veggies are healthy. However, longevity spinach could certainly be thought of as growing both food and medicine.
The Chinese have been using the gynura 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 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.“2)https://www.gardensall.com/specialty-crops-food-health-profit/
Gynura Procumbens Benefits
While Asian countries have used longevity spinach medicinally for centuries, extensive western research studies have definitively proven some of gynura’s legendary benefits. A host of health attributes have been assigned to this simple and prolific plant, and proven it to be beneficial for numerous diseases, including:
- Diabetes – lowers blood sugar
- Cancer – fights many different cancers
- Heart disease
- Sexual reproduction
- Proactive support of the immune system
- Organ and tissue protectant
- A general tonic3)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 holistic healthy food lifestyle.
We grow longevity spinach for food and medicine, and eat a leaf or two a day as vitamins.
Gynura Extract is a good protein source and may have positive effects on free radical scavenging and iron chelating.4)http://www.scialert.net/abstract/?doi=ajps.2010.146.151
Dried gynura protein is approximately 4.51 grams of protein per 3.4 ounces
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. Most of the information on gynura nutrients to date relates to medicinal values for tinctures and supplements.
?If you’ve seen such an analysis, please send us a link and we’ll add it here.?
We suspect that longevity spinach leaves contains similar nutrients to Malabar Spinach. This is just a guess. However, one thing is certain:
Longevity Spinach is a fantastic addition to your garden for both food and medicine!
Where to Buy Longevity Spinach
There are a number of gynura sellers on Amazon. We got our first two plants from Baker’s Creek Rare Seeds. However, as we indicated earlier, they’re not currently listed there. Once you get your first few plants though, we’ve found how easy it is propagate those into many more.
If you’re like us, you’ll want to grow and propagate for yourself and others. They’re easy to grow from clippings and make great host gifts for fellow gardeners and even those who like to grow potted plants.
Gynura procumbens… a gift for health and longevity!
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.
Prepare gynura procumbens much as you would spinach.
Leaves can also be dried, crushed and made up for tea, or dried and turned into a powder.
There are many wonderful attributes to longevity spinach. We’ve touched on just a few here. It’s very easy to grow and propagate. For gardeners in colder zones, the plants can be brought inside and continue to yield healthful nutrition. We definitely plan to keep growing and enjoying longevity spinach as a dietary and medicinal staple.
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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