What is it?
Sissoo spinach, also known as Brazilian spinach, is a tropical edible groundcover of the genus Alternanthera and used as a leaf vegetable. Sissoo spinach is a vigorous and spreading groundcover about 30 cm high with crinkly leaves, rooting at the nodes. It’s great to use as a garden border or plant underneath fruit trees to hold in moisture. If you can plant many starts at a time, it will provide abundant greens all year round.
And don’t worry, it’s not considered an invasive species.
The leaves are crunchy, and not slimy. It’s eaten raw or added to cooked dishes as a spinach substitute. Brazilians commonly eat it raw in salads with oil and or vinegar, tomato, and onion. However, the leaves need steaming or boiling when eaten in large quantities because of the presence of oxalates. This is a low risk and present in many spinaches and leafy green vegetables. It’s just something to be aware of if you’re going to be eating large amounts of it raw on a daily basis.
Why Should I Grow Sissoo spinach?
Less input more output is the mantra for a survival garden. Sissoo spinach produces with minimal effort and doesn’t involve a delicate seedling period. It was a godsend in Costa Rica. The spinach varieties sold at the local Costa Rica “supermercados” was usually course and flavorless. We repeatedly tried to grow traditional breeds of green spinach here in NW Guanacaste without luck. It was just too darn hot here. Sissoo spinach was the first one to succeed. Sissoo is also a great addition to any edible landscaping plan.
How To Grow It
Sissoo doesn’t go to seed, however, it is easily propagated from cuttings. It will create a mound on the ground that requires regular trimming/eating. It prefers 50% shade and tolerates a wide range of pH soil conditions. Since its main product is its leaves, it needs a high amount of nitrogen, organic matter and water. We mulch around it and line the beds with compost. It can grow in full sun but will do better with a little shade. Plants are prone to leaf-eating caterpillar pests and slugs. We deal with these using a chili garlic detergent water mix. It can also be planted as a living mulch under fruit trees to help hold moisture in the soil.
If you have an aquaponics system, Sissoo is a must have. The high nitrogen environment make growing and propagating a breeze. When we harvest, we just make a few cutting and put them back in the rock grow beds. Within a week they develop hearty root systems.
I love it in any recipe that calls for spinach. When it’s cooked, it’s indistinguishable from temperate climate varieties.
TropicalCuisine.com had this to say about it:
I love a pile of Brazilian spinach with eggs (any way) for a big breakfast. Simply break the leaves from the stems, rinse well, then throw into the frypan as soon as the eggs are done and plated, have the heat on high, and immediately put a lid over the pan. They will only need 30 seconds to 1 minute and will be wilted and ready to eat. Another option is to cook these greens before the eggs with a mixture of roughly chopped tomato and fresh herbs. Have the pan on a med-high heat, add some olive oil, then put in the tomatoes and lid the pan while it sizzles away. After about a minute the tomatoes will be softening, so add the herbs and Brazilian spinach then, and put the lid back on to steam the mix. Once the greens are wilted, transfer out of pan and start cooking your eggs. Once eggs are cooked you can put the mix back into the pan while plating your eggs and setting the table etc., just a few seconds during this time will be enough to add back some warmth, and then serve.
As mentioned, these greens can also be added to salads, and into all other dishes where you would use spinach such as; quiches; curries; dals; pasta sauces; lasagna; the list can be as long as your imagination and cookbook collection!