Last week I was asked to write up an aquatic vegetable list for a water garden/hot tub pond. Let’s take a look at some of the easiest and tastiest.
Easy Aquatic Vegetables
Kangkong is a relative of sweet potatoes that you’ll only find in Asian markets. In some states it’s classified as an invasive so getting plants from a nursery may be impossible. Seeds are available online, though I don’t recommend growing it if you’re in a place where it’s illegal. The leaves and young shoots are edible raw or cooked. Steamed, they taste mild with rich mushroom and asparagus undertones. You can sometimes find these greens at Asian markets. They’ll eat your entire pond, so watch out. Very productive and VERY fast-growing.
I’ve written a little on taro before but haven’t grown it very much.
My friend Mart grows taro in his aquaponics systems and has been working on boosting his root yields. They love the water.
Be careful when cooking taro, however, because the oxalic acid crystals in the raw roots and leaves can mess you up. Look it up online and prepare it properly, then it’s a great crop.
Chinese Water Chestnuts
The downside of Chinese water chestnuts is that they’re rather a pain to process; however, the flavor of the fresh corms is marvelously sweet and nutty.
Water celery is more of an herb than a real aquatic vegetable.
Though water celery doesn’t set stalks, it does have a rich zippy celery taste that will spice up any batch of chicken soup. It’s a low-growing, clumping plant that spreads to fill up a space – keep it contained!
Bonus: water celery looks beautiful, particularly the green and pink variegated form.
Duck potatoes used to be a wild-harvested aquatic vegetable of the natives and is still sought after as an excellent wild food. They grow easily in a sunny pond and will yield tasty tubers for the table in the fall. Green Deane covers duck potatoes here.
If you live further north, why not give watercress a try? This is one of the few commonly cultivated and wild harvested aquatic vegetables from outside the tropics.
Watercress is in the mustard family and likes running water the best, though it’s not strictly necessary. I’ve gotten it to root in a glass of water from bundles of watercress I bought in the grocery store. You can also start watercress from seeds.
Aquatic Vegetables for Pond Margins
If you have shallow muddy areas along the edge of your pond, try planting a few of these semi-aquatic vegetables.
Malanga grows great with lots of water. It’s an easy root vegetable and tastes good. It also requires a lot less processing than its oxalic-acid rich cousin taro. Even the young leaves are edible when well-cooked, making it a root and a green. A friend of mine threw some roots in her pond once… and they kept growing, even though they were in standing water.
Though that’s not normally the way malanga grows, it sure didn’t mind it either.
Ground nut, also known as Apios americana, is a native North American plant that likes to grow in moist areas. Provide it a trellis so it can climb and it will come back year after year and provide you with lots of tasty roots.
Yacon seems to really like constant moisture. Try it along the edge of your pond – I’ll bet it will be happy. This crop from the Andes has tasty sweet roots that can be eaten like an apple or turned into a syrup with a remarkably low rating on the glycemic index. Though not truly a water vegetable, it should do great unless it’s totally soaked.
Go hunt down some cool water vegetables and start planting.
One of my favorite sources for rare vegetables (which also contains more aquatic choices that are not on this list) is Eric Toensmeier’s book Perennial Vegetables.
Pick up a copy – it’s great reading and will open your eyes to the many wild and wonderful crops most gardeners overlook. Mine has been well-thumbed through and read in detail at least twice – and every time I pick it up I find something new I missed. Buy at my link and I’ll make a buck or so commission – and it doesn’t cost you a penny more.
So – how about you? Anyone growing some cool aquatic vegetables I left off my list?