Wild Foods

Water Spinach/Nali Bhaji and its health benefits

water spinach

Unlike its name, Water Spinach does not belong to or is related to the spinach family. Water spinach is a semi-aquatic perennial plant that proliferates in moist/ damp soil mainly around waterbodies/ditches etc and belongs to the Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory) family. It is Native to Asia and thus is easily available in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines etc. Continue reading to know more about this amazing green.

Scientific Name of water spinach

Ipomoea Aquatica

nali bhaji

Local Names of water spinach

  • Water/River/Swamp spinach, Water/swamp morning glory ( English Names)
  • Kalambi Shaak/ Nali Bhaji (Hindi)
  • Nalichi Bhaji ( Marathi)
  • Takasi Vel ( Kokani)
  • Kalmi/Kulmi Shaak (Bengali)
  • Tutikura (Telugu)
  • Chukkankeerai (Tamil)
  • Kangkong ( Malaysia/ Philippines)

Appearance

The leaves of Nali bhaji are about 1-5 inches long and 1-2 inches wide with distinct pointed tips like an arrowhead and a base is slightly rounded. The leaves are light to dark green, smooth to the touch, tender, pliable and easy to crease.

The stems are hollow like a pipe and are either white or green in colour with a crunchy texture.

It is also probably due to the stems that this leafy green gets its local name called “Nali bhaji” wherein nali means a hollow tube or pipe.

Taste

Water spinach has a subtle vegetal and nutty yet pleasant taste.

Availability

It is easily available in summer and early monsoons in local markets. It is easily available in local markets at prices as low as Rs.10 while it can cost as high as 60-70 Rs as Kangkong online.

How to purchase and store water spinach

nali

The leaves of Nali bhaji are super tender hence purchasing it fresh when it is lush green is important. Avoid purchasing wilted, crushed, discoloured bunches.

Once purchased it can be consumed immediately or stored in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Pro tips: Try using it immediately. Also, avoid washing the greens before storage to prevent early spoilage.

Nutrition Benefits

Nali bhaji is low in calories about 20 kcal per 100 gms. It is rich in many micronutrients ( like vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, magnesium, etc), antioxidants and fibre.

Traditional it was used against diabetes, liver malfunction, constipation, piles and in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning. It is also said to support sleep due to its calming effect.

Culinary uses

All parts of tender Nali bhaji are edible. Some exciting ways to consume it-

  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Stir Fries
  • Fritters
  • Cooked with fish
sabzi
Simple stir fry with Garlic

Tip: Since the location of where this grows is often unknown it is best to consume this green cooked.

If you have any exciting recipes or have tried this vegetable, share your views/recipes in the comments below.

Also, while you are at it do read about Ambat Chukka.

Author: Aditi Prabhu

Nutritionist

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