Sweet Leaf - Sauropus androgynus

edible plants plant lists plant medicine tropical superfoods Aug 23, 2023
Sweet Leaf, Sauropus androgynus - Earth Mumma Permaculture

Keynotes: Use as shrub layer in food forest or hedge, poultry feed, medicinal, eat leaves and flowers. 

In my household, this plant is referred to as daddy's leaf. Why? Blake, EartheArtisan would pack it in our kids lunch box and was the first teach them at the youngest of age that it was the safe plant to eat when playing in the garden. 

I love to harvest the flowers before they form into seed pods and use them as edible cake decorations. Once the pods have formed, they can be eaten in salads before forming black seeds. I usually propagate it from cuttings, especially during the wet season, which is as simple as pushing 10cm of the stem into the ground where I want it to grow. It self-seeds, and one planted stem will eventually turn into a bush or a Fedge (food hedge) if left alone.

Get acquainted with the nutritious and delicious edible plants that almost grow themselves so you can create food security in your home garden. This blog provides the keynotes for use, my anecdotal experience, placement in my permaculture system, plus all the facts to identify, grow and eat this plant!

Some call it tropical asparagus, however I think it tastes more like snow peas. The trick to scrumptious tasty harvests is to keep trimming off the top, which helps form new fresh shoots. This bright green flexible regrowth is the sweetest, are the yummiest salad greens that I believe exists in a tropical perennial garden. Yes, the darker leaves are delicious too, and make the best ingredient for pesto, so between the new shoots and leaves...it is my number one go-to plant for fresh salads. 

This is just one of 32 listed edible plants (see my blog with the list) that I rave about and is included in my book: The Incredible Edible Tropical Superfoods Guide.


Common Name: Sweet Leaf, Tropical Asparagus, Katuk, Star Gooseberry, Chang Kok, Manis.

Origin: India.

Description (what it looks like):  An attractive perennial bush/small tree and will readily grow 1-2 meters high. The leaves are dark-green and oval-shaped 5-6cm long.  Flowers are flat, round and orange/red at 1-2cm. In tropical climates, this plant gives an edible pink and white berry, with small black seeds.

Uses (function):  A must have in your permaculture garden.  Sweet Leaf is one of the most prolific, heavy yielding, nutritious and appetising green leaves in Australia.  Plant the bushes close together to make a living food hedge.  A popular green for poultry feed, as it improves their eggs.  Edible leaves, flowers & seeds.  An infusion made of the leaves, is used as a poultice to treat fevers and ulcers.   A folk remedy for snoring and teeth grinding during sleep, is to eat sweet leaf regularly.  The plant is a valuable survival food.  Popular with children who are finicky with greens and vegetables.

Nutritional value:  Sweet leaf contains over 34-39% protein.  An excellent source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. A ½ cup serve of fresh leaves supplies 22% of the daily requirement of vitamin A and is a substantial source of vitamin C.  Lactating mothers have high protein milk production if eaten daily.  Beneficial for anaemia, relieves fatigue, builds stamina.  The dark-green leaves provide a rich source of chlorophyll which is a valuable blood building element, cell rejuvenator, and beneficial to the circulation, intestinal flora, and for regular bowel elimination.  A handful of leaves a day is considered a good source of greens.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Propagate easily from cuttings 10-25cm long, rooted in water or in moist soil.  Strip the leaves off the bottom half of the stems and bury to half their length, spacing 60cm apart.  The more it is harvested, the more new tips grow.

Best time to grow:  During the wet season or spring.

Soil: It prefers a moderate to rich loam, with animal manures incorporated.

Sun: Partial shade.

Water: Keep moist.

How to eat it:  Leaves taste like fresh green peas or asparagus. One of this tastiest summer greens in the wet season to use in salads, replacing lettuce. Eat new tips and flowers raw. Seeds make great edible garnishes. Steam dark green large mature leaves. Make delicious pesto with some basil. Blend in green smoothies. Eat leaves as a snack anytime, add to sandwiches, curries, meat, rice and curry dishes, scrambled eggs, omelettes, dips, pickles, casseroles and toss through a stir-fried dish just before serving.  Dry leaves for the high-protein addition to meals, perfect for camping.  A tasty treat is made by frying leaves in hot butter or oil for a few seconds, which makes them crisp and nutty. Try the leaves mixed in a tempura batter and deep fried. Pairs well with crab meat, minced pork or dried shrimp, anchovies or eggs.


Images references:

If this information was helpful, learn about more of the plants we love to grow and eat here: Incredible Edibles Tropical Superfoods GuideMy Pesto recipe is featured in it too! in my Grab my book here or join my mailing list to stay tuned for future blogs with these 'garden to plate' recipes. 

If you already have my book, you might like to expand your garden species with Blake Hudson's book: Tropical Food Plants, which is an extensive resource that explores the incredible diversity of more than 121 edible tropical plants that can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. He has carefully selected the most appropriate for tropical regions, such as Australia, Florida and the Asia Pacific. Learn more about it here: Tropical Food Plants - A Field Guide to Tropical Edible Plants, by the EarthEartisan.

Tropical gardening can be easy if you know what you are doing. It is true to say that it is a whole different experience to temperate climates. My blog: Tropical Planting Guide - A List of Plants Annual Vegetable Gardening, offers some insight into the best growing times with respect to our wet and dry seasons and, better yet, grab the free download to print and use to plan your abundant veggie patch. I have also provided some gardening tips that will help you on your garden-to-plate journey, such as planting by the moon, staggering harvests and seed suppliers!

If it is the practical hands-on and permaculture design skills you want to gain, then come along to learn with like-minded folk in our garden (mine and Blake's) or other wonderful demonstration sites in our FNQ region. You can learn more about my offerings here: https://www.earthmumma.co/workshops-courses.

Yes, we have plants available in our home nursery. Please contact me if you would like to order some to get your garden growing!

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