GOTU KOLA PLANT
PLANT FAMILY: Parsley
BOTANICAL NAME: Centella Asiatica
HAWAIIAN NAME: Pohekula
OTHER COMMON NAMES: Asiatic Pennywort, Indian Pennywort, Penny Weed, Goyu Kola, Tohetupou, Tono, Tododro, Togo, Moa
PLANT RELATIVES: Celery, Carrot, Parsley
EDIBLE PARTS: Leaves, Roots
Gotu Kola is indigenous to South East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It’s a perennial herb and can spread to form a low ground cover. It’s also considered invasive in some areas. However, I have found it to be a helpful ally in the garden.
I encourage it to grow between my larger plants. In this way, it forms a dense carpet that keeps unwelcome grass and other weeds at bay. It does seem to prefer a little shade and the cooler season here on the island. Provided that it doesn’t go too long without water, it will persist and spread. So, to keep it alive, I prioritize it for receiving water during drought. I like to help it stay as green and lush as possible. That way, when I am ready to pick it, I know it will be choice.
Gotu kola has been highly regarded in China, India, and Indonesia for centuries for its health benefits. In particular, it is known to preserve memory and support a long life. Consequently, a quick Internet search reveals lots of traditional and very tasty-sounding recipes that use the leaves. For example, in Sri Lanka, a popular dish blends gotu kola with grated coconut, shallots, chilies, and lime juice.
Writing about this prized herb makes me want to brew a cup of tea right now. Alas, I will have to wait until tomorrow morning to pick a handful. But, it’s a great feeling knowing my gotu kola plant is waiting for me.