Simply called by the common name of Aibeka, Abelmoschus manihot is a tropical to sub-tropical plant that is grown for the leaves. They can be eaten fresh but are usually cooked before eaten.
The plant is originally from New Guinea and other tropical Asian areas; however, it is finding its way into vegetable gardens around the world.
It is a vegetable that grows in wet conditions. In warmer climates it is grown as a perennial. In cooler climates it can be grown as an annual.
It is valued for being very high in vitamins especially A and C, as well as Iron.
How Aibeka is Used
It is mainly the leaves that are eaten; however, the very young shoots are also used.
Often used in soups, Aibeka is usually cooked with coconut milk in curries along with turmeric, chicken and the usual ingredients.
It is also used to make medicinal tea.
This is a plant that must have a combination of warm and damp-to-wet soils.
It grows well in full sun in tropical climates. In hotter, dry areas, it is best grown in light shade.
The easiest method of propagation is from stem cuttings that strike very easily.
It is a plant that will self-seed, and it does have the potential to become a little weedy in the right conditions.
- Botanical name – Abelmoschus manihot, syn. Hibiscus manihot
- Common names – Aibeka, Lettuce Tree, Belle, also known as Tororo aoi in Japan.
- Position – Full sun
- Soil – Naturally found along waterways; however, grows in areas well away from waterways.
- Height – Up to 2m in height
- Spread – Clumping
- Flowers – Pale yellow discus-like flowers
- Foliage – Mid green, textured, heavily lobbed to slightly lobbed, depending on the variety.
- Flowering time – December through January
- Foliage – Green
- Drought tolerant – No
- Still hard to find in Australia, you may see it for sale at farmers’ markets around Cairns to northern New South Wales.