Sweet Leaf

Tonielle Christensen Edible Plants, Land & Nature Stewardship

Sweet Leaf


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Common Name:  Sweet Leaf, Tropical Asparagus, Katuk, Star Gooseberry, Chang Kok, Manis.

Latin Name:  Sauropus androgynus.

Origin:  India.

Description (what it looks like):  An attractive perennial bush/small tree and will readily grow 1-2 meters high.  The leaves are dark-green and oval-shaped 5-6cm long.  Flowers are flat, round and orange/red at 1-2cm.  In tropical climates, this plant gives an edible pink and white berry, with small black seeds.

Uses (function):  A must have in your permaculture garden.  Sweet Leaf is one of the most prolific, heavy yielding, nutritious and appetising green leaves in Australia.  Plant the bushes close together to make a living food hedge.  A popular green for poultry feed, as it improves their eggs.  Edible leaves, flowers & seeds.  An infusion made of the leaves, is used as a poultice to treat fevers and ulcers.   A folk remedy for snoring and teeth grinding during sleep, is to eat sweet leaf regularly.  The plant is a valuable survival food.  Popular with children who are finicky with greens and vegetables.

Nutritional value:  Sweet leaf contains over 34-39% protein.  An excellent source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. A ½ cup serve of fresh leaves supplies 22% of the daily requirement of vitamin A and is a substantial source of vitamin C.  Lactating mothers have high protein milk production if eaten daily.  Beneficial for anaemia, relieves fatigue, builds stamina.  The dark-green leaves provide a rich source of chlorophyll which is a valuable blood building element, cell rejuvenator, and beneficial to the circulation, intestinal flora, and for regular bowel elimination.  A handful of leaves a day is considered a good source of greens.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Propagate easily from cuttings 10-25cm long, rooted in water or in moist soil.  Strip the leaves off the bottom half of the stems and bury to half their length, spacing 60cm apart.  The more it is harvested, the more new tips grow.

Best time to grow:  During the wet season or spring.

Soil:  It prefers a moderate to rich loam, with animal manures incorporated.

Sun:  Partial shade.

Water:  Keep moist.

How to eat it:  Leaves taste like fresh green peas or asparagus.  One of this tastiest summer greens in the wet season to use in salads, replacing lettuce.  Eat new tips and flowers raw.  Seeds make great edible garnishes. Steam dark green large mature leaves.  Make delicious pesto with some basil.  Blend in green smoothies.  Eat leaves as a snack anytime, add to sandwiches, curries, meat, rice and curry dishes, scrambled eggs, omelettes, dips, pickles, casseroles and toss through a stir-fried dish just before serving.  Dry leaves for the high-protein addition to meals, perfect for camping.  A tasty treat is made by frying leaves in hot butter or oil for a few seconds, which makes them crisp and nutty. Try the leaves mixed in a tempura batter and deep fried.  Pairs well with crab meat, minced pork or dried shrimp, anchovies or eggs.

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