By captain.k on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 - 2:48pm

Who out there is familiar with the plant Katuk??

If you have studied permaculture, you have probably heard of this plant, as it is a great example of one of the main principles in permaculture gardening, which is planting Perennial Staple Crops. Perennial staple crops are trees, palms, grasses, and other long-lived crops that can provide nutritious food for humans and simultaneously sequester carbon, stabilize slopes, and build soils as part of no-till perennial agricultural systems. Because they are perennials, they do not have to be planted after each harvest, rather they just keep on giving over and over again, while adding nitrogen to the soil.

But if you have not studied permaculture, you very well may have never heard of this plant! Here is what it looks like.

It can grow up to 3 meters tall and is perfectly at home in a tropical, humid climate. There is quite a lot of it growing in our garden.

Katuk is a staple vegetable in Asia and is slowly becoming better known in other parts of the world. In Asia, it is sometimes referred to as "tropical asparagus". In Malaysia it is commonly grown as an edible hedge, as it can be kept pruned at whatever height you like. The fresh leaves can be eaten raw or cooked in stir-fries, soups, etc. It can be used in the same way as spinach. We all think of spinach as a highly nutritious green, but Katuk is even HIGHER in nutrients than spinach. Popeye would be an even more amazing superhero if all he ate were Katuk! In particular, Katuk is very high in protein, which is not common in leaves.

Here is a nutritional comparison of Katuk vs. Spinach, just to illustrate my point:
Information is per 1/2 cup serving of fresh leaves.

Protein: 4.9 g Katuk – 0.43 g Spinach: 9.8% Katuk / 0.9% Spinach
Calcium: 51 mg Katuk – 15 mg Spinach: 5.1% Katuk / 1.5% Spinach
Iron: 2.7 mg Katuk – 0.4 mg Spinach: 15% Katuk / 2.3% Spinach
Vitamin A: 1122 IU - Katuk 1407 IU Spinach: 22% Katuk / 27.6% Spinach
Vitamin C: 83 mg Katuk – 4.2 mg Spinach: 138% Katuk / 7% Spinach

Katuk has a sweet, nutty flavor and it is said that the youngest shoots are the most delicious, while the older leaves are the most nutritious. To harvest just pick the entire stem and then pull off the leaves and add to salads or cook as desired.

The flowers are also edible and have a very sweet pleasant flavor. And they are really cute:

It is also said that Katuk leaves help improve milk production in nursing mothers.

What a great plant!



Captain K

1 Comment

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
thanks for the tip on Katuk

I researched it and there's a Wikipedia entry for katuk, and here is a blog entry about it at Eat the Weeds. I was sad to note that it likes truly tropical climates, mostly USDA zones 10 & 11, with some success in zone 9. I live in zone 8. And it needs lots of water; my plants do best if they are "drought-tolerant."

But for those of you in the right climate, this plant looks like a superfood. I may experiment with it in pots that I bring indoors for our brief winter, like I do with our ginger plants.

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