From The Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
by David Chandlee


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sauropus androgynus

FAMILY: Phyllanthaceae

Sweet Leaf bush sketch

Soon after first arrivlng as a visitor to Sabah in Borneo, I noticed a small upright shrub with purple flowers and fruits growing in gardens. It had alternately-arranged, 40-60mm long elliptic dark green leaves, sometimes with a silver blaze, and a drip-tip. Lauren and I were to see this plant in every garden in every back (or front) yard in Sabah and Sarawak. Later we found out it is also commonly grown in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Java as well. The plant is 'Sweet leaf bush', ('Changkok manis' or 'sayor manis' in Malay, Sauropus androgynus L. Merr.). Soon we ate it in soups with seasonings and as an accompaniment to rice dishes. We found it sweet and good-flavoured, with a good texture when cooked.

We sent seeds back to North Queensland and began distributing the plants in 1985. Five years later, it is growing from Rockhampton on the Tropic of Capricorn to Cape York Peninsula near the Equator, and is used by its growers as a steady source of 'spinach' during the warm and hot months of the year, when green leaves become a luxury imported from southern Australia. One enthusiast is planting most of one acre in sweet leaf!

Ease of cultivation, rapid growth, and good taste as well as its high rate of production and high crude protein levels (varying from 6-9.7%) are the main features which attract growers to sweet leaf bush. Gardeners who seek a healthy diet rich in non-meat protein, minerals, vitamins and fibre will find that if they regularly prune their plants they can have a constant supply of tasty 'spinach' of good quality.

Any available soil will do for sweet leaf bush, be it clay, loam or sandy. As long as it is warm, it will tolerate heavy rain or hot sun, as well as the 95% shade it endures in its native habitat, the understory in primary rainforest. Fertilizer is not necessary, but it does respond favourably if mulched. The purplish fruits are edible, as are the flowers, and some people appreciate the (younger) leaves raw, though it is more commonly cooked.

In the garden, sweet leaf also is useful as a shade plant to grow other more tender vegetables underneath, thereby keeping off the hot sun.

It is propagated by seed or cutting, and can be harvested four months after planting.

Uses: As well as being a good ingredient in stir fried dishes, it is also good in scrambled eggs, and any dish which calls for parsley or spinach.

Note: Although the author has yet to hear of it in Australia, in Malaysia there are occasional reports of headaches caused in some people by heavy consumption of sweet leaf.

Below is a Table (1) detailing plant analysis. Analysis of some other foods are given for comparison.

Analysis of Sweet Leaf Bush (Sauropus androgynus)
Moisture Content 70%  
Crude Protein 34.8% (on Dry Matter basis)
Potassium 2.77% Dried Bananas 1.48%
Calcium 1.0% Dried Skim milk 1.3%
Phosphorus 0.61% Dried soybeans 0.55%
Magnesium 0.55%  
Iron 199 PPM Dried Parsley 410 PPM
Vitamin A High (no figs. avail.)  
Vitamin C Moderate  
Fibre 14 - 18%  



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Chandlee, David. "Sweet Leaf Bush 1." The Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Cardwell/Johnstone Branch RFCA Newsletter No. 20 August, 1990. Web. 11 Jul. 2014.

Published 12 Jul. 2014 KJ
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