Sautéed Sweet Potato Vines and Swamp Cabbage?!

luluesque_sauteed water spinach-sweet potato leaves

Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatic) is an edible semiaquatic plant, cousin to the beautiful, but poisonous garden morning glory (Ipomaea violacea). They have a plethora of names, some of which include swamp cabbage, water morning glory, river spinach, and Chinese spinach. It’s the main staple food of many people and is the livelihood for many farmers in various Asian countries.

This seemingly harmless looking plant has made quite a reputation for itself in the last two decades. It spreads and grows aggressively quick, as much as 4” in one day, and has been known to clog up waterways, landing itself on the USDA list of noxious weeds. Even transporting it within state lines is illegal! In states such as Florida it is actually ILLEGAL, on a federal level, to be in possession of any part of water spinach. In other states like Texas, farmers must obtain an APHIS permit and adhere strictly to state regulations (e.g., no flowers can be present on the plants at any given time, plants cannot be within range of waterways, and plants can only be grown in greenhouses).

If you don’t reside in Florida, make your way to the Asian market and pick up a couple bundles and try out this veggie. If you happen to see these growing wild, by all means, please jump on the INVASIVORE bandwagon; if you can’t beat them, EAT them! 🙂

NOTE: Please do NOT discard unwanted parts of water spinach into your compost if you live in warmer climates and/or near any bodies of water. Mother Nature (birds, squirrels, et.c) has a way of transplanting things. The plant can sprout roots and grow from the stem nodes. 


  • 2 bundles water spinach ~ procured from an eco-conscious, reputable, legal source
  • 1 bundle sweet potato vines
  • 5 cloves garlic ~ peeled, minced
  • ½ red onion ~ peeled, sliced thinly
  • cooking oil ~ I’m using a coconut/canola blend
  • white wine ~ I used Chardonnay
  • organic tamari
  • chili peppers


  1. Thoroughly wash your veggies in a tub of water. Rinse 2-3 times to remove any dirt or critters (e.g., aphids, caterpillars).
  2. Pick the leaves from the stems for both the water spinach and sweet potato vines. Separate into two piles: stems and leaves (tender young stems should be in this pile as well). Cut the stems into 2” sections.
  3. In your pan, heat some cooking oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until partially cooked. Add minced garlic and sauté until a light golden brown.
  4. Add the stems and sauté until they turn a brighter green.
  5. Add the leaves.
  6. Splash some white wine on top of the leaves and quickly cover the pan. Leave lid on for a few minutes.
  7. Remove lid and turn off the stove.
  8. Add some tamari and gently toss the mixture.
  9. Serve this dish hot with sliced red chilis. YUM!

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