Saturday, 5 March 2016

The busy person's ideal leafy green vegetable: upland and lowland Kang Kong

Kong Kong is the perfect plant for the busy person - ideal for small backyards and container gardening. It is a high-yielding and low-maintenance perennial plant that provides a valuable source of iron, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. 

Two common types of Kang Kong types: Lowland 'Round leaf' and Upland Bamboo leaf'.
If you have space for a medium sized pot or tub, and live in a tropical/subtropical climate (or have a warm niche), you can grow Kang Kong. Grow it close to your kitchen to have fabulous greens to cut every day, or every meal!

Kang Kong (Ipomoea aquatic) is a relative of sweet potato and a great way to create an abundance of leafy greens - quickly and easily. It is a constant source of food (where there is no frost) producing tender green shoots and leaves.

Kang Kong is a very adaptable green - good in salads, stir-fries and soups. It's an extremely popular vegetable throughout south-east Asia, particularly rural or village areas, and is usually found in Asian grocery stores.

It is known by so many other names including water spinach, river spinach, swamp cabbage, phak bungong choy, kongxincai, rau muống, gazun, trokuon, kolmou xak, kalmi saag, hayoyo, dagublad….

For many years I have grown Kang Kong.  We do get frost here, so sometimes I lose it. A few months ago, I saw it’s lush again leaves at Northey Street City Farm and excitedly bought some for my sunken bathtub pond in my food forest area - my forage zone.

It has been growing OK, but not as wildly successful as I had expected. I wondered why - it's normally so vibrantly and wildly lush this time of year. Last weekend at BrisAsia, thanks to one of the participants in my 'Roots, Shoots and Fruits' plant workshop, I learnt why.

There are actually two major types of Kang Kong - upland and lowland varieties. The upland variety, known as 'Bamboo Leaf has a narrow leaf and does not need much water. It is planted in the soil. The lowland type, ‘Round Leaf’ has broader leaves is planted in water.

I had bought the upland variety without knowing the difference and placed it in my pond. No wonder it wasn't flourishing! It needed to be in the soil.

Upland 'Bamboo leaf' Kang Kong 

I knew there must be the lowland Kang Kong growing close-by so I sent around an email in my community asking if anyone had some I could come to take a snip from. I received so many responses. (I love this place!)  

As part of their homeschooling, the kids and I went out on a community outing to visit our neighbours and collect some Kang Kong. After several lovely conversations and garden tours, we came with a couple of nice stems that will strike very easily.  

My upland Kang Kong is getting relocated to the soil and the lowland is destined for the pond, and all should be well in the land of ‘kongs’.

I have a bathtub for my water plants, but broccoli boxes and flexible tubs are used regularly to grow lowland Kang Kong successfully. Its a heavy feeder, so to maintain fertility just add some natural liquid fertilisers periodically. I use either diluted worm tea, comfrey tea, compost tea or chicken manure and I manage it's abundance by eating it or feeding it to our chooks and guinea pigs.

NB: Because of it’s abundance and running form it can become invasive if planted in dams or waterways. In some places it has been declared a weed, so please check your local regulations.

2 comments:

  1. I would love to try growing this. Next time I'm in at Northey St, I'm going to see if I can find some:) Thanks for great post of different types and where to plant them.

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    Replies
    1. The Edible Landscapes nursery at the City Farm stock it.

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