Growing your own fresh organic food at home is a sheer joy and there is nothing quite as easy as growing edible water plants.
Water spinach, known throughout Asia as kangkung (above), is my favourite. If you have ever visited Bali, Thailand or Malaysia, you will have definitely eaten this exotic delight as it is a staple green there. Chop the fresh leaves, lightly steam, drizzle on a little sesame oil, add some fresh chilli and you’ll feel like you are right back there on holiday again. It is so vigorous and hardy that you can literally grow it in a bucket of water. Kangkung seeds are available from your local Asian grocer or young plants can be purchased from your favourite water plant supplier. It tends to be winter dormant and in cooler climates is best grown as an annual from September through to early June.
Water cress is so delicious and again so very easy to grow. It will grow happily in either sun or shade. Use it in salads, in sandwiches, or you might like to try Liz Hurley’s famous water cress soup. This plant can be harvested year-round.
Water chestnuts thrive in something as simple as a half wine barrel and their lovely fresh crunch does wonders to a stir fry. Divide plants in early spring and allow them to grow throughout summer and autumn. They are ready to harvest when the plants begin to die down at the beginning of winter.
Water parsley is another easy-to-grow perennial. The finely divided leaves have a delicious peppery, celery-like flavour. They will continue to grow throughout winter but are best harvested from early spring through until late autumn.
Lebanese cress is will thrive in either sun or shade. The fresh leaves are often used in salads or ground into pesto. It also makes an ideal garnish and can be harvested year-round.
Taro is a root vegetable popular in many different cultures around the world. It has similar uses to potato and can often be found in health food shops as veggie chips. The leaves are also edible and are an excellent source of both vitamins A and C. The roots are high in fibre and have a low glycaemic index. It is important to thoroughly cook both the leaves and roots to remove the calcium oxalate, an element that can contribute to kidney stones.
Water mint is another extremely hardy perennial with leaves that tend to float on the surface, making it an ideal fish hide. The leaves can be used to add flavour to salads but are most commonly used as a tea.
Asian mint or laksa leaf is the magic ingredient in many South East Asian salads. It grows well in moist soil or shallow water and the leaves can be harvested most of the year.
Water plants act as natural water filters, so no pumps or expensive filtration units are required. Floaters are a great idea to make growing your favourite edibles easier than ever. The pots simply slide into the floaters, allowing them to sit on top of the water and keep the foliage clean, fresh and ready to pick. The roots extend from the base of the pots deep into the water, helping to keep the pond clear. If you have fish in your pond, they will help supply nutrition to the plants, however every six months drill several pencil-thick holes 5cm deep into the top of the pots, fill with blood and bone and cover over with soil and stone. This will provide adequate natural fertiliser for lush, healthy growth.
About the Author – Steve Wood
Steve is a WA nurseryman with over 35 years experience and is a local ABC radio garden talkback host. He is also a presenter with the Greenfingers TV series and runs Great Gardens Environmental Workshops. Steve has an extensive organic fruit and vegetable garden and is a passionate promoter of homegrown produce.