days to maturity:
plant spacing: 1 plant every 2 feet
sunlight requirements: 6-14 hours, partial shade
look out for:
harvest notes: harvest tender shoot tips often
Katuk is one of the most popular leaf vegetables in Southeast Asia and is notable for its high yield and palatability. While the mature leaves are edible in soups, stews and stir fries, Katuk is most popular as a source for a type of tropical asparagus. If it’s planted in the shade and then given very nitrogen rich soil it will produce very tender growing tips, which can be harvested and consumed like asparagus. The more you harvest the tips the bushier it will get, producing ever-more tips for harvest.
In Vietnam, the locals cook it with crab meat, minced pork or dried shrimp to make soup. In Malaysia, it is commonly stir-fried with egg or dried anchovies. The flavor is nutty and pea-like, and the leaves contain 50% protein by weight. The flowers and small white fruits of the plant are also edible. Our teammate Jules says “my particularly favorite way to eat the leaves is to toss them with a little oil and salt and then bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes around 350-375 degrees for the most delicious and nutritious green chip snack.”
Katuk shrubs make good hedges because they grow bushy and upright. We have used katuk to create an edible privacy hedge before but it took years for it to fill out and really get dense enough to make the space private. If you are regularly harvesting your tips your plant will get no taller than 4-5 feet, especially if grown in partial shade.
In the past Katuk powder was consumed in excess as part of a fad diet and people incurred respiratory damage from it, however the dose of Katuk consumed was extraordinarily high. If eaten as a food instead of used as a supplement Katuk should cause no damage to the body.