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This annual, herbaceous shrub is readily identifiable by its beautiful, pale-yellow flowers. The pods and leaves are edible, and young pods can be used in stir-fry and soups either blanched or pickled. When cooked it resembles asparagus, yet it may be left raw and served in a cold salad.
The Bowiea volubilis is an interesting plant. The bulb is pale green and grows half buried in the soil. Each year it develops new branched stems that somewhat make it look like an elongated asparagus. After a couple of months the stem dries and fades, but the bulb produces another one right next.
Cultivation is not too difficult in a container such as a large pot or a hanging basket, provided that the soil is gritty and perfectly drained and the plant is placed in strong light. Stakes or wires can be provided for the climbing branches, or they can be allowed to hang down. The plant should be watered very sparingly except during the growing season, when new stems emerge from the bulb.
This 25 foot tall tree is sometimes mistaken for a legume. It has delicate foliage and attractive pale white-yellow fragrant flowers that are borne in loose clusters in the leaf axils. Flowering and fruiting freely and continuously. Grows best on a dry sandy soil. Makes an ideal shade tree with high drought resistance. Possibly one of the most useful trees in the world, it produces long green pods that have been compared to a cross between peanuts and asparagus. The roots are used as a substitute for horseradish and the edible leaves make a highly nutritious vegetable. The roots have also been documented as useful in many folk remedies. The flowers, shoots, and foliage are edible as greens. The name derives from the roots, which taste like horseradish and are used as a substitute. Cattle are particularly fond of them. Young pods are cooked in curries. Seeds, which taste like peanuts when fried, are eaten, but they contain an alkaloid, which limits their use. The unripe pods, known as `susumber' or `drumsticks', are cut up and boiled like beans. The outsides of the pods are extremely hard and woody and impossible to eat; one has to pick them up and eat the sticky pulp inside and `pips' which are lightly hot and delicious. Upon pressing, the seeds yield an oil called ben oil. This nondrying oil is used for oiling machinery, in salad oil, and in soaps. The corky bark yields a gum used in India to print calico (cotton cloth with figured patterns). See article about this tree.
The shoots of some Polygonatum can be boiled and used like asparagus.
Sauropus androgynus is a shrub grown in some tropical regions as a leaf vegetable. In Chinese it is called mani cai, in Malay it is called cekur manis or sayur manis, and in Vietnamese, it is called rau ngot.
Its multiple upright stems can reach 6-7 ft high and bear dark green oval leaves 2-3" long.
It is one of the most popular leaf vegetables in South Asia and Southeast Asia and is notable for high yields and palatability. The shoot tips have been sold as tropical asparagus. In Vietnam, people cook it with crab meat, minced pork or dried shrimp to make soup. In Malaysia, it is commonly stir-fried with egg and dried achovies. It is among only a few flora containing vitamin K.
It is a popular vegetable cultivated in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, southwest China. Delicious young shoots!