Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Eating Sweet Potato leaves - excellent summer spinach

Sweet Potato plants are excellent ground cover plants once established because they sprawl prolifically and tend to close any gaps in the 'canopy' of their foliage. This stops weeds pushing through their leaves. This mass of foliage look great too and for this reason there are many types of ornamental sweet potato varieties with different leaf shapes and colours. I've planted crop and ornamental types this year and they all look beautiful.

Perhaps more interesting and exciting is that Sweet Potato leaves (and the young stems) are edible and nutritious. They have a relatively high protein content and therefore complement the low protein content of the tubers. I have bought Sweet Potato leaves from the Asian section of the Preston Market, sold alongside Kang Kong, Rau Om and other Asian greens. The link below takes you to a paper called
Nutritional and Medicinal Qualities of Sweetpotato Tops and Leaves from the extension service of the University of Arkansas. It rates the leaves very highly indeed.

http://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-6135.pdf

But do they taste any good? The answer is yes. The can be cooked as a simple boiled/steamed spinach to become a green blob of at the side of your plate, or try the more adventurous recipe below from page 156 of the book Cooking with Asian Leaves by Devagi Sanmugam and Christopher Tan:


Sweet Potato Leaves in Coconut Gravy

Ingredients
Sweet Potato leaves
Oil
Shallots
Garlic
Ginger
Lemon Grass
Red Chillies
Turmeric powder
Coconut Cream
Water
Salt

Method
Pour boiling water over the sweet potato leaves and let it stand for about 1-2 minutes. This is to get rid of any sap that is sticking to the leaves.
Strain water and rinse the leaves with cold water to prevent it from overcooking. Heat oi. Saute the shallots, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and red chillies until aromatic and soft. Add in the turmeric powder, coconut cream, water and salt. Bring to the boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the blanched leaves and mix well. Serve with rice.

Here are some photos of various sweet potato leaves from my garden including some ornamental types which I've planted in the front yard.








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