Alternanthera sissoo - Sissoo spinach, samba lettuce


Alternathera sissoo.jpg

The plant is reportedly native to the region of Brazil in South America. Although it is referred to scientifically as Alternanthera sissoo hort., there are no known scientific descriptions of its taxonomy.


The leaves are edible. Preferable the tender young tips are pinched off and eaten either raw or steamed. The leaves are pleasantly crunchy, 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 spinach can be added to quiches, pies, curries, dals, pasta sauces, lasagna or added to dishes and stir-fries late in the cooking process as a spinach substitute and to add a nutty flavour.


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

Sissoo seems to do best in the partial shade, ideally grown in patches guilding larger trees. Having experimented cultivating sissoo in full sun 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.

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.