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Chinese Violet (Asystasia gangetica) Edible Greens

Boiled Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica) greens.
Photo by Sunny Savage

Tolerating moist conditions and a variety of soil types, Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica) is an almost vine-like weed ubiquitous to both wild spaces and gardens throughout Hawai’i. Brought to the Hawaiian Islands in 1925 as an ornamental, this African native is now considered a serious invader in Asia, the Caribbean, Australia and Oceania.

chinese violet, asystasia gangetica, hawaii, wild food
Chinese violet greens harvested directly into a colander in my wild garden, ready to wash in the kitchen. Photo by Sunny Savage

These highly nutritious greens have excellent amounts of magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper and protein when compared to other greens. And, some research has shown that they are 61-74% digestible, making those nutrients more bioavailable to the body. Although there are some accounts of the flowers being eaten, in the decade I’ve been eating them I always gravitate towards eating only the leaves. The flowers are wonderful used in bundle dyeing though!

Put greens in boiling water that has been salted.
Photo by Sunny Savage
Boil greens for 1-2 minutes, then strain out the water.
Photo by Sunny Savage

Once the greens have cooled you can squeeze out any extra liquid. If you don’t have time to wait for them to cool, just use the back of a spoon to push again the greens into the strainer to squeeze out the water, or plunge them in an ice bath.
Photo by Sunny Savage

In Africa, where the plant originates from, it is eaten as a leafy green vegetable and used by traditional healers to treat asthma, hemorrhoids, swelling, rheumatism, gonorrhea, ear diseases, vermifuge, and epilepsy. Modern pharmacological and clinical studies have shown the extracts of Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica) to be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-asthmatic, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-diabetic, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and with anti-venom properties.

Flowers can be purple, white, or a combination of those two colors. Photo by Sunny Savage

Chinese violet greens at the perfect stage for harvesting. Photo by Sunny Savage

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