It grows with its roots in water, and with the leaves above the surface. It can also be grown outside of water in soil. The vine can grow up to 9 feet (2.7 metres.)
The stems are hollow. They can be purple on some varieties; white or green in others. The arrow-shaped, light-green leaves can be 1 to 6 inches long (2.5 to 15 cm) and up to 3 inches wide (7.5 cm.) When the plant blooms, it has funnel-shaped blossoms like those of morning glory plants. The colour of the blossoms can be purple, pink or white depending on the variety.
Water Spinach is cultivated in Africa, Asia and Brazil. In North America, it is not eaten, but regarded as a nuisance. In Florida, it is considered a major pest because it has invaded the state’s waterways.
In Asia, it can be bought canned or fresh in bunches. It is used in Thai cooking.
There is no actual relation to spinach, which is instead a member of the mustard family.
Both the leaves and stems are used. Younger, smaller leaves are better. Older stalks are tough.
It is usually steamed or stir-fried. When cooked, it reduces a good deal in volume as the leaves give up their water.
A Chinese name for this, ” Keng xin cai”, means “hollow stem vegetable”. Other Asian names include Ong Choy (China), Pak Hung or Pak Boong (Thailand), Kang kung (Indonesia) and Rau Munong (Vietnam).