Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens) is a great low maintenance edible medicinal perennial plant to grow in south Florida year round.
Origins & Climate
Longevity spinach is a member of the chrysanthemum family (Asteraceae) and is native to West Africa, China, and southeast Asia. It is perennial in Zones 9-11. In any place cooler it should be moved into a greenhouse during winter as sustained below freezing temperatures could kill this tropical plant.
Growth Habit & Strategies
G. procumbens is a sprawling herbaceous plant with stems that can reach out 20 feet long if left to grow without any maintenance. It is best to give the plant at least 4 square feet of space to sprawl out then maintain the growth that spills out of its designated area by cutting (or eating) the plant back. Some people trellis Longevity spinach; however, I think this requires too much work as the plant needs to be tied to the trellis as it grows. On the other hand, this strategy is useful for those in cooler climates who would need to bring the plant into a greenhouse for the cooler months. G. procumbens sprawls out a bit too much to be used in a densely planted raised bed in my opinion. I believe it is best to incorporate Longevity spinach in an edible perennial landscape and as part of the herbaceous layer in a forest garden. Unlike its cousin Okinawa spinach (Gynura bicolor), which prefers shade, Longevity spinach can grow fine in shade or full sun. G. procumbens prefers rich moist soils and will not perform well in drought conditions. Growth is much faster in the summer months and it slows to crawl throughout the winter. In established plants that are a year or so old can tend to have their old vines, which get covered in new growth, rot out and begin to smell. This is not an issue if the plant is actually eaten and maintained
As their are no viable seeds from cultivated G. procumbens the best way to propagate the plant is via cuttings. I like to make a couple 6 to 8 inch cuttings off of an established plant, remove and eat most of the leaves, place the cuttings in a cup of water till they root, then pot them up with a nice soil mix.
Medicinal and Nutritional information
Several studies suggest that G. procumbens has anti-inflammatory properties and an ability to regulate blood glucose levels along with other medicinal benefits such as lowering cholesterol. In fact, another common name for the plant is Cholesterol spinach. Longevity spinach is used in Southeast Asian folk medicine to treat topical inflammation, rheumatism, and viral ailments. Longevity spinach is also quite high in protein.
I prefer to eat the leaves raw; they have a crunchy unique taste that is a bit zesty. When cooked in a stir fry the texture becomes a bit too slimy for my taste. Longevity spinach works great in a soup; the leaves become infused with the spices used and maintain a nice texture. Below is my recipe for Longevity spinach soup. When I give recipes on this blog I"ll seldom mention portions. Whenever I see fine measurements in recipes I always think, "who does this guy think he is telling me how much ginger to put in my soup?"
Longevity spinach soup
Cut Longevity spinach leaves
Ginger or Galangal
Considering its high medicinal and nutritional value, Gynura procumbens has an agreeable taste whether cooked or raw; and due to it also being low maintenance, is a great addition any tropical edible landscape.