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Amaranthaceae, Alternathera sissoo, sissoo spinach, samba lettuce

March 5, 2008

Sissoo spinach

Sissoo spinach, also called samba lettuce, is a vigorous perennial groundcover. The leaves are pleasantly crunchy, slightly more so then the temperate climate spinach. When consumed in large quantities it is suggested that they be steamed or boiled, due to the presence of oxalates in the leaf.

Sissoo seems to do best in the partial shade, ideally grown in patches guilding larger trees. Having experimented cultivating sissoo in full sun planters I found that they are remarkably resistant to drought. Although the hue and overall quality of the leaf is diminished in exposed, dry conditions, the plant still seems to grow quickly.

Stem tip cuttings with one or two nodes root easily planted directly in the field.

Sissoo is best harvested by picking off new tips, thus the plant can be maintained as a low thick groundcover.

When left unharvested, and in prolonged dry periods, sissoo will flower. To my knowledge I have not yet seen sissoo seed, since the plant can be grown so easily from cuttings I haven’t examined the flowers much.

Aside from a small handful of areas I have not seen sissoo anywhere in Panama. I remember reading that it is common in, perhaps native to, Brazil. I have noticed that a variegated variety is used in Saigon in ornamental plantings along median strips.

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