Is Water Spinach the Same as Spinach?


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Spinach and water spinach both have the word “spinach” in them. So I was wondering if they are the same. Luckily, I’ve found the answer and can share it with you.

Is water spinach the same as spinach? Though sharing the same name, spinach and water spinach has no resemblance whatsoever in shape or in taste. Spinach prefers a cool climate while water spinach grows well in tropical and subtropical places.

The following are some of the key differences between water spinach and spinach.

Spinach

Water Spinach

Scientific Name

Spinacia oleracea

Ipomoea aquatica

Common name(s)

Spinach

Water spinach, swamp cabbage, water morning glory, water convolvulus, kangkong

Family

Chenopodiaceae

Convolvulaceae

Major cultivars

3

2

Temperature/Climate

Cool and cold

Hot and sunny

Growth habit

Forb/herb

Forb/herb, Vine

Eating method

Raw or cooked

Raw or cooked

Federally regulated

No

Yes

What are water spinach and spinach?

Water spinach, with its scientific name, Ipomoea aquatica, is known by many other common names in different countries, such as Kangkong, Swamp morning glory, and Ong Choy.

Water spinach is an aquatic vine that can grow up to 9ft long with hollow stems and has flowers that look like a morning-glory.

Scientifically known as Spinacia oleracea, Spinach is a widely popular vegetable that is popularized by the cartoon show, “Popeye the Sailor”, as a strength booster.

Spinach is an annual plant that has a dark green, heavy rosette of broad, spoon-shaped, and tender leaves.

Water spinach and spinach are both edible leafy vegetables with a lot of health benefits.

Even though they share the same name, both are entirely different vegetables with different needs, care, looks, and taste.

Spinach and water spinach belong to two different family

Water Spinach or Ipomoea aquatica is a part of the Convolvulaceae (Morning glory) family. It also shares the same genus as the sweet potato and beet.

While Spinach or Spinacia oleracea is an edible flowering plant that belongs to the family Chenopodiaceae, which is related to quinoa and beet.

Major varieties of water spinach and spinach

Major cultivars of water spinach

Water spinach has two major varieties depending on the size of the leaves: large leaf or small leaf.

Each form of leaves has two types of stem: green stem and light or white stem.

The following are the major types of water spinach:

  • Green stem large leaf. This is the more popular type of water spinach and is eaten as vegetables. As the name suggests, this type of water spinach has deep green stem and leaves, and large leaves with a thick stem.
  • Light green stem and large leaf. This type of water spinach has a similar taste and cooking method as those of green stem large-leaf type.
  • Small leaf. Small leaf water spinach is not as popular as those with large leaves. Their leaves are pointed and narrow.

Major cultivars of spinach

Regular spinach is of three major types: savoy leaf, smooth leaf, and semi-savoy.

  • Savoy leaf: This type of spinach has crinkly and curly leaves. They kept fresh for longer and have more eye-catching features and hence are most commonly grown for local markets.

Examples of popular savoy spinach are Harmony, Avon, and Bloomsdale.

  • Smooth or flat-leafed: This type of spinach has flat smooth leaves. Compared to the savoy leaf spinach, they are easier to clean and have a higher yield. However, they do not keep fresh for long and hence are usually canned and frozen.

Examples of popular smooth or flat-leafed spinach include Space, Bordeaux, and Red Kitten.

  • Semi-savoy: This type of spinach has semi-crinkly leaves but is easier to clean than the savoy spinach. It is usually sold fresh in the market.

Examples of semi-savoy spinach include Melody, Tyee, and Indian Summer.

Habitat and growth habit of water spinach and spinach

Traditionally, water spinach was grown either on river banks or in swamps.

Recently though they are also grown on land in the garden, resulting in two different forms of growing habit; soil and swamp.

Water spinach that grows on land or soil needs plenty of water and will grow tall and their long shoot will trail over the ground.

On the other hand, the water spinach that grows in the swamp is a semi-aqueous plant that grows along the ground. This type of water spinach is called swamp cabbage.

Water spinach can also invade moist cultivated areas and wet areas such as rice or sugar cane fields and drainage canals.

Tough water spinach is a creeping vine, it may grow erect in water.

Spinach grows on land and can be planted on a variety of soils. But it grows best and most quickly in a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter with high pH (6.5 to 7).

Peat soils can also be used to get the highest yields.

Climate and temperature preferred by water spinach and spinach

Generally, water spinach loves “sunny” while spinach loves the “cold”.

This means that the water spinach prefers to grow in an environment of sunny and hot climate while spinach loves to grow in the cold climate.

Water spinach cannot stand the cold and needs plenty of sunshine. Seeds that are planted in a low-temperature soil will not germinate.

The optimal temperatures of growth for water spinach are between 75°F and 85° F (around 24℃ to 29℃) and chilling injury can happen if the temperature is below 50° F (10℃).

That is why if you want to grow water spinach, the best time to sow the seeds would be when the weather is hot. This is around late spring through the entire summer.

As for spinach, it prefers cold weather and is sensitive to excessive heat.

The optimum temperature for spinach seed germination is around 7℃ to 24℃.

Young spinach can even withstand temperatures as low as -9 C!

The taste of water spinach vs. spinach

Water spinach has a very mild sweet taste.

Young water spinach shoots and leaves are sweeter and texturally more tender than the matured ones. It can be eaten raw as a salad or cooked in a number of dishes.

Spinach, on the other hand, produces different tastes depending on how you prepare them.

When eaten raw as a salad, spinach will give you a light and green taste.

When cooked, spinach tends to give you a bitter taste and becomes a bit slimy if you overcook it.

However, leaves of baby spinach are tender and slightly sweet and are much less likely to give bitter taste when cooked.

You can reduce the bitterness of spinach by adding other ingredients such as using milk to combat the taste.

You can also try to boil or steam the spinach to get rid of the bitterness.

If you want to learn more about how to reduce the bitterness of spinach, here is a great read for you. And if you don’t know what to prepare with your spinach, you can grab this superfood cookbook on Amazon containing 50 tasty spinach recipes.

Nutritional value of water spinach vs. spinach

Water Spinach*

Spinach*

Water

92.47 g

91.40 g

Calories

19 kcal

23 kcal

Protein

2.60 g

2. 86 g

Carbohydrate

3.13 g

3.63 g

Total Fat

0.20 g

0.39 g

Dietary Fiber

2.10 g

2.20 g

*raw, 100 g

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

Being low in calories and fat makes water spinach one of the recommended greens by the dieticians to help control weight and cholesterol.

In addition to carbs, protein, and fiber, Spinach is an excellent source of antioxidants and contains vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folic acid, and has more beta-carotene than that of broccoli (up to 4 times).

Recommended read:

15 Best Benefits Of Water Spinach For Skin, Hair, And Health

Spinach 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Is water spinach illegal? Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed under the Plant Protection Act by the United States federal government, This makes water spinach illegal to possess and be imported or transported between states in the U.S without a special permit.

Eina Aivoges

Eina Aivoges is a certified health and wellness coach and a licensed medical laboratory scientist. She's also a foodie, avid coffee drinker, cat-lover, blogger, and traveler.

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