Source: Herb Cottage
Botanical Name: Alternanthera sissoo
Brazilian Spinach is a low growing perennial growing as a compact mound to 30cm. If allowed to spread it may develop as a creeping ground cover in ideal tropical conditions. It has a decorative rich green colouring and a crinkled or ‘bubbly’ leaf structure. In short, it looks like a salad green which is exactly how it is used in its native Brazil. It is also used as a spinach alternative in cooking. Alternanthera sissoo is often simply called Sissoo or Sissoo Spinach and also may be referred to as Samba Lettuce and Poor Man’s Spinach.

Growing Conditions

Brazilian Spinach is a hardy, tropical plant, so it is ideal for areas of northern Australia where temperate vegetable greens may not thrive. As a comparison, this plant does well in areas like Florida. Once established, it will also survive year round in these areas providing an ongoing supply. In temperate regions, it should be treated as a hot weather annual and observed to see how the plant responds to local conditions.
This plant benefits from enriched soil and the annual addition of fertiliser. It will tolerate sunny positions. However, Sissoo thrives in fifty per cent or more shade. This means it can be planted under trees replicating a tropical environment. However, once established, Sissoo is quite tolerant of dry and hot conditions. When harvested regularly, Sissoo does not flower. It will do so if the leaves are not picked often enough and during very hot and dry conditions.
Sissoo Spinach is a vigorous grower under the right conditions and spreads without becoming invasive. It creeps along and can cover a large area if you are seeking an edible groundcover. If you harvest the plant by picking the tips, using a downward pulling motion, new leaf growth is encouraged to shoot. This maintains the groundcover in a compact appearance. It can be cut back to ground level each year if it is growing as a perennial. Propagation may be carried out by cuttings placed direct into the ground. During this time the ground should be kept moist and placing a palm frond or shade-cloth, directly over the cuttings, will help protect them in the first two weeks.

Culinary Uses

If Brazilian Spinach is to be consumed in large quantities steaming or boiling the leaves is suggested as a means of reducing the presence of oxalates in the leaves. However, Brazilians eat Sissoo as a salad green on a regular basis, much like lettuce is used, with dressing or vinegars. Fresh Sissoo is firm and has a crunchy texture. If you don’t want to eat it raw, use Sissoo in the same way you would use spinach or silverbeet. A simple use is to chop some leaves into scrambled eggs or an omelette with mushrooms.

All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. Please seek professional advice before commencing any treatment.