Longevity Spinach Plant
Any StarTrek fan will tell you Vulcans can live more than 200 years. So when Mr. Spock told someone to “Live long and prosper,” he wasn’t kidding around.
But what we don’t know is whether longevity spinach was part of the Vulcans’ diet. The good news is that it can, and should, be part of yours!
Unrelated to any spinach you’ll find at the grocery store, longevity spinach (known botanically as Gynura procumbens) is a ground-hugging or climbing plant with slightly downy leaves tasting similar to spinach.
The young leaves are versatile enough to use in salads, stir-fries, smoothies, or tea. They can even substitute for lettuce in sandwiches. When cooked, they become somewhat gummy, and native cultures use them to thicken soups, stews, or sauces.
And the crunchy stems make a great celery alternative. Talk about a multi-tasking vegetable!
Longevity Spinach Plant And Your Health
In March of 2016, Frontiers in Pharmacology published a research review headed by a team from Malaysia’s Monash University Biomedical Research Laboratory. They concluded that the high flavonoid content of longevity spinach “… has enormous potential for application in the development of medical treatments.”
Compounds in the leaves have “therapeutic potential” for treating:
- high blood pressure
- cardiovascular disease
- sexual and reproductive problems
and bacterial infections.
They also have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and organ-protective properties. In other words, the versatility of longevity spinach leaves extends beyond mealtime and into the medicinal arena!
How To Grow Longevity Spinach Plant
Native to eastern Asia and West Africa, longevity spinach also grows as a perennial (comes back each spring) in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. But just yesterday, I ordered a started longevity spinach plant to plant in my USDA zone 6 garden and harvest all summer long.
And the best part is that at summer’s end, I’ll take cuttings from the plant, root them in water, pot them, and set them in a sunny window. They’ll provide enough leaves to see me through next winter as striking houseplants!
The cuttings root even more easily than sweet basil cuttings!
While you can grow longevity spinach from seed, most vendors sell it as a started plant. Growing it from a started plant means a much shorter wait for harvestable leaves, so that’s what I recommend.
Where to Plant Longevity Spinach
Surprisingly for a tropical plant, longevity spinach actually performs best in partial shade, especially where summer is scorching. A spot with four to six hours of daily sun is ideal. Too much direct sun makes the leaves bitter.
When planted in the ground, it spreads up to 9 feet. If that won’t work for you, it’s also happy in a hanging pot of organically rich, well-draining potting soil.
Whichever you choose, mixing some vegan compost into the planting hole or potting medium will get it off to a great start.
Caring for Longevity Spinach
To maximize leaf production, fertilize your longevity spinach monthly with liquid kelp fertilizer applied at the label’s recommended rate.
I love this plant because, as a deep-rooted semi-succulent, it can reach water inaccessible to other plants and store water in its leaves.
Watering only when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry is usually enough – especially for in-ground plants. Like squash plants, they spread over the soil and keep it from drying out!
Harvesting Longevity Spinach Plant Leaves
Harvest the leaves with one of two methods:
- Pinch them from the ends of the stems.
- Cut an entire stem off at once.
The second method is best if the plant has grown enough to need pruning back. And don’t worry; you’ll shortly see new stems branching out from where you cut!
Popeye had spinach. And who knows? Mr. Spock may have had longevity spinach. But why not grow both, so you can “live long and prosper” too?