SWEET LEAF BUSH I
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sauropus androgynus
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
||(on Dry Matter basis)
||Dried Bananas 1.48%
||Dried Skim milk 1.3%
||Dried soybeans 0.55%
||Dried Parsley 410 PPM
||High (no figs. avail.)
||14 - 18%