Common Name: Mushroom Plant, Acanth Spinach, Shombay, Moku, Tani, Aimbe, Kenkaba.
Latin Name: Rungia klossii.
Origin: Papua New Guinea.
Description (what it looks like): A low-growing, perennial clumping plant, up to 1 metre in height, with glossy oval shaped dark green leaves that taste similar to mushrooms. Leaves grow up to 8cm long and form slightly crinkled. Some leaves form yellow stripes along the veins, commonly ones touched by sunlight. Small bright blue lip-like flowers 1cm long appear from time to time.
Uses (function): Grown in thick clumps, it can be hedged into low height garden edging or path borders. Nutritious edible layer in a permaculture system that protects soil as a ground cover. The plant has excellent potential to be developed as a commercial crop as the stems and leaves carry well when cut.
Nutritional value: Very rich in chlorophyll & one of the highest sources of plant calcium. Especially rich in Vitamin C, beta-carotene and iron with traces of other minerals. Valued for its blood building and cleansing properties. Those who suffer Candida, thrush or similar ailments, can enjoy eating this plant for the mushroom flavour and not be affected by a ‘fungus’. Mushroom plant leaves have 3% protein (higher in protein than actual mushrooms).
Growing details (propagation, seed etc): Cuttings 15-20cm long can be rooted easily in a glass of water or pushed into moist soil. Strip the leaves off the bottom half of the stems and bury in soil to half their length. Three to four stems can be planted each hole to create thicker clumps of plants (path border, low hedge). Remember to keep the soil moist. Regular picking is recommended, as this keeps the plant bushy and productive. When harvesting, cut the stems to encourage it to branch.
Best time to grow: Plant out in spring, as it thrives over the wet season and goes dormant during winter.
Soil: It prefers a moderate to rich loam, enriched with compost to improve yields.
Sun: Shade loving for lush large leaves (0%-50% sun only). Full sun will produce smaller leaves.
Water: Keep moist, but not waterlogged.
How to eat it: Leaves taste like mushrooms and are crunchy and enjoyed by people who do not like actual mushrooms. Eat raw, tossed in a salad, sandwich or use as garnish. Add at last minute to stir-fries, stews and soups. Anything that calls for spinach or salad leaves can be replaced with the mushroom plant leaves as a substitute.
- The Incredible Edibles - A Tropical Superfoods Guide by Tonielle Christensen.
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