What’s the catch with Water spinach?

Content by: Micah Banatao, Josh Garcia, Thery Lorenzo, Chiqee Posadas, at Lyka Tesea

What are swamp cabbages or kangkong?

Ipomoea aquatica or kangkong in Filipino is a semi-aquatic tropical plant grown as a vegetable [1, 3]. Botanists are uncertain where kangkong came from, but it likely originated somewhere in eastern India to Southeast Asia. [4] Two of its common names in English are “swamp cabbages” and “water spinach” as it often grows invasively in swampy soils, polluted water, lakes, ponds, and even canals. [5]

Want to grow your own swamp cabbages? 

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Happy planting, bud!

What are the health and nutritional benefits of swamp cabbages?

Kangkong is a rich source of Vitamin A and lutein, and both of these help in the maintenance of good eyesight. Due to being high in dietary fiber, this vegetable lessens constipation and ensures proper bowel movements. It also helps in reducing the levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. [6] According to a chemical composition study by Igwenyi et al (2011), kangkong was discovered to have a high content of iron, magnesium, and calcium, as well as Vitamin B1 and C, which makes it an optimal ingredient in nutritious meals.[7] Moreover, it also contains high concentrations of polyphenols that possess antioxidant activity and moderate anticancer activity.[5]

Did you know that the use of swamp cabbages was first documented during the Qin Dynasty?

YES, you read that right!

Kangkong has been used in Asian cuisine for thousands of years and considered as a culinary staple. It can grow well in moist soils especially along waterways like ponds, lakes, and rivers.[8] Under thriving conditions, it can reach 2 to 3 meters in length with an average growth of 10 cm per day.[8]

Another interesting fact, serving kangkong to honored guests is almost a taboo in certain countries such as Indonesia. It is considered to be “lower class” among vegetables, thus other types of vegetables are eaten by guests.[9]

Try incorporating swamp cabbages into your daily meals! There are a lot of Philippine dishes that feature this vegetable such as adobong kangkong, sinigang, crispy kangkong, and ginisang kangkong

How do you grow swamp cabbages?

Kangkong/water cabbage favors at least 4 hours of full and direct sun exposure (though it can still thrive in partial shade), so the warm and humid characteristics of subtropical and tropical climates are ideal for their growth. 

As the name suggests, this plant loves water, so regular watering in swampy soil would ensure the roots get their required dose of water.

It is also possible to grow them in containers with wet soil, or even a pot filled with water, but do note that the soil’s nutrients will be easily depleted.

As long as there are still at least 2 leaf nodes and 3 inches of growth left after cutting or harvesting, the plant will regrow enough to be viable for another round of harvesting after 2-3 weeks.


[1] Widnyana, I.K., Ngga, M., & Sapanca, P. L. Y. (2018). The effect of seed soaking with Rhizobacteria Pseudomonas alcaligenes on the growth of swamp cabbage. Journal of Physics: Conference Series. doi: 10.1088/1742-6596/953/1/012007 

[2] Kangkong (300 grams) [Online image]. (n.d.). Organics.ph. https://www.organics.ph/products/kangkong

[3] Lyons, G., Dean, G., Goebel, R., Taylor, M., & Kiata, R. (2017). Kangkong. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. https://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/graham.lyons?dsn=directory.file;field=data;id=40381;m=view

[4] Shrestha, S. & Shrestha, Y. (2020). Kang kong: high nutritious summer leafy vegetable crop for mid-hills of Nepal. The Journal of Agriculture and Environment, 21

[5] Maung, A. T., Swe, K. H., Maw, A. A., & Aung, Y. L. (2020). Effects of supplementing water spinach to basal diet on growth performance and nutrients digestibility of broiler chickens. Journal of Livestock Science. doi. 10.33259/JLivestSci.2020.77-84

[6] Arnaldo, S. (2021, August 27). Benefits, recipes: Guide to common Filipino vegetables. Rappler. Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/food-drinks/benefits-recipes-guide-filipino-vegetables/?fbclid=IwAR2ht4Qws0pxIosvou2Bbsu0WHIiJB87uq4XPjsSYZ4fBdF3uhclwIUsmDc. 

[7] Igwenyi, I., Offor, O., Obinna, A., & Aja, P. M. (2011, October). (PDF) Chemical composition of Ipomea Aquatica (Green Kangkong). ResearchGate. Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236335764_Chemical_Composition_of_Ipomea_aquatica_Green_kangkong. 

[8] Water spinach. Information, Recipes and Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Water_Spinach_3132.php. 

[9] Ganie, S. (n.d.). Kangkung cuisine: Indonesia. Indonesia Travel Guide. Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://indonesialogue.com/about-indonesia/kangkung-cuisine-indonesia.html. 

The contents of this article are for educational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for professional or personal medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified health providers about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page/website.

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