it’s time for you to get a brazilian…spinach plant (the go-to green in summer)

Posted by on Feb 27, 2016 in Home | 28 Comments

I’m into killing two birds with one stone, at least figuratively speaking. The meaning of this idiom is to achieve two aims with a single effort. In order to survive the oppressive conditions of a Brissie Summer, the effort of gardening must aim for plants to (1) stay ALIVE so they can (2) be EATEN. I love a good idiom as much as I love getting one up on Summer. Brazilian spinach is a perfect example of growing a climate appropriate plant that is a true hard-arse. From the wet highlands of Brazil (surprise), it’s best grown in sub-tropical/ tropical areas. At this time of year, I need to plant smart. The food I’m growing needs to work with the weather so I don’t have to work against it. Especially since I’m doing my honours degree in law. My garden needs to be as smart as possible while I’m trying to get smarter. 

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Brazilian spinach (Alternanthera sissoo) is a perennial leaf vegetable with crinkly round green leaves that grows in mounds about 30 cm high. It doesn’t spread out much so you save space (also grows in pots). Plant about 60cm apart and give it full sun to medium shade in loamy soil if possible however it puts up with most soils. The fact that it’s shade tolerant is a bonus and there are less problems with pests (caterpillars and slugs) when well shaded. Just don’t water it too much! I promise this spinach will be the hardiest, tastiest go-to green in your garden.

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I originally grew my plant from a cutting from Northey Street and it’s the best way of doing it. Just cut about 15-20cm off the parent plant and strip the leaves from the bottom half of the stem then bury to half the length. Try and take cuttings early morning and plant them straight away in a good propagation mix (I use a mixture of 1/2 perlite and 1/2 peat moss). Keep moist and when established the cuttings shoot from the roots and quickly form dense clumps. This process of propagation works for most soft wood cuttings. So every time you harvest a stem to eat, propagate it! Plant during the wet season and propagate in the cooler months. Brazilian spinach is great for edible ground cover, green mulch and edging paths to control weeds.

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Treat Brazilian spinach leaves as you would other spinach and add to anything you feel like. When I eat it in a salad, I like to dress it with evoo and lemon juice and let it sit for a little while to soften. Brazilian spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. The green leaves contain high levels of chlorophyll and carotenoids such as beta carotene and lutein which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties. Enjoy my nutritious recipe for barley, pea and Brazilian spinach risotto. PS: barley is packed full of fibre.

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B A R L E Y,  P E A   &   B R A Z I L I A N   S P  I N A C H  R I S O T T O
:: serves 4

25g butter
A decent splash of olive oil
1 finely diced onion
1 cup of rinsed pearl barleyΒ½ cup verjuice or white wine
1 litre homemade chicken stock
2 big handfuls of Brazilian spinach leaves
Β½ cup fresh or frozen peas
Β½ cup Parmesan or pecorino cheese
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
100g feta cheese

Use a pan good for risotto like a heavy based frypan or saucepan. Heat the butter with a splash of olive oil (this prevents butter from burning) over medium heat then add the onion with a pinch of salt (this will ensure they braise, not brown). Stir for around 7 minutes.

Add the barley and make sure you coat the grains well so they’re shiny. Then deglaze the pan with verjuice or wine until evaporated. Adjust the heat to medium high, then add a cup of hot stock at a time, stirring occasionally, until each addition has been absorbed. No need to constantly stir as you would for rice risotto.

Stir in the Brazilian spinach for about 4 minutes before it’s due to be ready then the peas shortly after. The risotto usually cooks in around twenty minutes, just test the barley to see if it is tender. It still should be liquidy. Take it off the heat, stir in parmesan cheese and season to taste. Let it sit for 5 minutes for the flavours to get friendly and top with crumbled feta. Serve with salad leaves dressed with lemon juice and evoo (remember 3 oil to 1 acidic component). Enjoy x

28 Comments

  1. emma
    February 27, 2016

    I love this post! That spinach looks amazing, so green and lush, how could it not be incredibly good for you! Love the pearl barley risotto too πŸ˜€

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 27, 2016

      Thanks Emma. That’s what I love about this plant…good for you and good for your garden in Summer!

      Reply
  2. Function 9
    February 27, 2016

    Risotto looks delicious! I haven’t heard of it before but it seems Brazilian spinach is the way to go.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 27, 2016

      Many people haven’t heard of this one. I think introducing different kinds of plants to garden smarter (and eat smart) needs to happen more often particularly when our Brissie climate is leaning more towards tropical than sub-tropical these days!

      Reply
  3. e / dig in hobart
    February 28, 2016

    not one for Tassie … then again, it’s been a hot dry summer this time, so possibly!! you’re right, we all need to garden smarter – that’s how I have been thinking this troublesome summer.
    the leaves look so lush and green, and your risotto looks delicious.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 28, 2016

      I’d kill for Tassie’s climate right now but you’re right, no matter where we are, we experience our gardening challenges!

      Reply
  4. sherry from sherrys pickings
    February 29, 2016

    this is fabulous Jem. ground cover mmm? boy do we need some of that for our side fence line. and you can eat it! we do have terrible trouble with possums and turkeys etc though. phew i wish this summer would come to a screeching halt. i am so over it! i am enjoying our extra day for Leap Year. isn’t it fun? such a big year this one. Leap Year and census year and all sorts of amazing things happening in our lives. fab times!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 29, 2016

      I love your sense of humour Sherry. I’m over Summer before it begins and of course it always ends with a bang like right now. Just be done already! Yep, Brazilian spinach is great for ground cover and is pretty much indestructible. It’s all happening this year lol πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Gourmet Getaways
    February 29, 2016

    I have never seen this plant before!! I love that it looks like it grows so prolifically!
    Any ideas where I can get it???
    I love the look of your dish too, YUM!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing,
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 29, 2016

      Hey Julie, try Green Harvest, Eden Seeds or Four Seasons Nursery (that is near where you live) for seeds or plants. All the links for these sites are on my Source page. Any organic, permaculture nursery may have Brazilian spinach or try a community garden and inquire within! A truly fantastic plant.

      Reply
  6. Nagi@RecipeTinEats
    March 1, 2016

    Wow! Your spinach looks so green and healthy. I can already feel summer with your spinach! And of course, your dish is amazing!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      March 1, 2016

      Thanks Nagi, it is thriving in our humid, summer heat. Wish I was lol πŸ˜„

      Reply
  7. Lorraine @Not Quite Nigella
    March 1, 2016

    Jem I love your recommendations like this! I feel as though they’re speaking to me (can be grown in a pot, is hardy) πŸ˜€

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      March 1, 2016

      Haha yes Lorraine…you honestly couldn’t kill this one if you tried πŸ™‚

      Reply
  8. The Hungry Mum
    March 19, 2016

    that risotto sounds amazing. Everything here died in the never ending summer, bar our unkillable bay tree and rosemary bush.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      March 19, 2016

      …and the never ending summer continues! 33 degrees today in Brissie. I certainly won’t be doing Autumn planting until end of April. We can always count on rosemary and bay leaves thank god!

      Reply
  9. Jan (agluttonouswife)
    March 20, 2016

    Thank god you don’t mean a full wax!! hehehe I’m too old for that business!!! πŸ˜‰ I love all greens and must keep an eye out for this variety – it looks lovely and your risotto is picture perfect Jem! Jan x

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      March 21, 2016

      LOL thanks Jan! Yes, I’d rather get a Brazil spinach plant any day πŸ™‚

      Reply
  10. Sam Rutherford
    March 24, 2016

    Great post Jem, I will have to find out more about Brazilian spinach. It sounds pretty good.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      March 24, 2016

      I definitely recommend it Sam. When all else fails, there’s Brazilian spinach πŸ™‚

      Reply
  11. Anna @ shenANNAgans
    March 29, 2016

    I giggled at the title of your post, very clever. πŸ™‚ I did wonder how waxing and gardening were a combo, but then again…. Haha!

    Liking the sound of Brazilian Spinach, especially love that it can easily grow in a pot. Your risotto looks on point too.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      March 29, 2016

      It was a bit ambiguous lol. Thanks Anna-you can always count on Brazilian spinach, so easy to grow πŸ™‚

      Reply
  12. Jean
    April 9, 2016

    I garden in Brisbane at Beelarong Community Farm at Morningside where I have my allotment and just about the only spinach in my allotment at the moment is – you got it – Brazilian spinach. So many days over 30 degrees so I love this plant. The only other thing that seems to cope with the heat are my Snake Beans. They keep me fed all through the summer, pick them one day, go back the next, and there are even more hanging there. Some folk call them yard long beans and they tend to live up to their name. I am enjoying reading your blog.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 9, 2016

      Fantastic Jean πŸ™‚ I know of Beelarong and haven’t visited for ages, must get there again. I completely agree that Brazilian Spinach is an absolute standby particularly in Summer. I also grew snake beans earlier in the year (some are sneaking there way back again) and they always go well but scary how fast they grow. Beans are one of the best things to grow in our Brissie climate…huge harvests!

      Reply
  13. leaf (the indolent cook)
    April 10, 2016

    I haven’t heard of Brazilian spinach – love how bright and verdant they look in your garden! I’ll keep an eye out for the seeds in the shops.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 11, 2016

      It really is one of my favourite plants of all time! All year round. You can count on it!

      Reply
  14. Tandy I Lavender and Lime
    April 12, 2016

    Yum risotto! I need to find a similar species of spinach here as I am going to swap out my lettuce for spinach πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 12, 2016

      Thanks Tandy. Good idea! I often swap my greens depending on the weather. I’m growing a few varieties of lettuce but some have bolted due to the extended heat this year…so it’s good old Brazilian spinach and rocket for now πŸ™‚

      Reply

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