Three years ago my wife, Lynette, was touring an innovative display garden in the cool rainforest of Costa Rica. She noticed a medium green plant with lots of shiny and crinkly round leaves connected to center stems.
Lynette asked our guide about it and he said it grew all year long and can be harvested continually for fresh salad greens and plus be cooked like spinach. He said it is a perennial called Sambu lettuce or Sissoo spinach. We later discovered it is native to Brazil and is also called Brazilian spinach (Alternanthera sisso).
Being a very adventuresome gardener, Lynette cut a few sprigs, stripped the leaves and popped them in her mouth, and then pocketed the stems. The next day she planted the stems in a pot on our patio (see photo). This wonderful little plant thrived in our hot Guanacaste climate, and with regular watering, it grew equally well in sun and partial shade.
Brazilian spinach has become our favorite tropical green because it grows vigorously and is easily propagated from stem cuttings. During our winters in Costa Rica, we add the leaves to green drinks almost every morning, plus use them in salads and sauté them with other vegetables.