Sweet Potato Stems & Leaves
[Gogumajulki (Korea, stems); Ipomoea batatas]
Young leaves and growing tips (stems) of the vines of sweet potatoes are quite edible. These greens are eaten in many parts of Asia, particularly Taiwan and the Philippines, and especially in Africa. For some reason Koreans use only stems and not the leaves. This is not the only plant where the leaves are eaten elsewhere but only the stems in Korea.
The photo is of flowering sweet potato plants in Vietnam. Leaf shape varies widely with variety, but the flowers all seem much the same. Photo by Bui Thuy Dao Nguyen distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.
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Sweet potato stems are a popular vegetable in Korea, both fresh and dried. They are often prepared as namul (seasoned vegetables) and served as banchan (small side dishes). While American sweet potatoes are somewhat different from the Korean variety, their young stems have been found quite suitable for Korean recipes. Korean sweet potatoes have red skins, but bright yellow flesh, not orange.
Buying & Storing: In North America, if you want fresh
stems you have to grow them yourself, or know someone who does. They are,
however, available dried from well stocked Korean markets here in
Los Angeles, and on-line. Sealed packages, kept away from heat and
sunlight, should last over a year. The photo specimens were purchased
at a Korean market in a 4 ounce bag for 2015 US $3.79, or $15.16 per
Yield: 4 ounces dried made 1 pound 2-5/8 ounces after boiling and cooling (4.7 times). After soaking an additional 10 hours, weight was 1 pound 8 ounces = 6 times, so the extra soak is worthwhile for both weight and texture.
Cooking: The dried shoots must be rehydrated, and that doesn't happen real fast. Korean cooking maven Maangchi recommends this procedure:
Should you actually have fresh sweet potato stems, this is what you do with them.