By Ginnee Hancock
Katuk is a plant that few people had or knew about where we live. The leaves are 49% protein and contain twice as much calcium as milk does. It tastes like a cross between almonds and fresh garden peas. The first leaf I tasted had me exclaiming...WOW! It was love at first bite. We had to have rows of Katuk for our farm. Our friends, who introduced us to Katuk, gave us some cuttings and my husband rooted them in the nursery. We waited patiently for the plants to grow and resisted the urge to sample the leaves; we did not pluck one delicious green leaf from our precious new crop. We knew where we wanted our new edible hedge and carefully planted the young plants. A few days later, much to our horror, the leaf cutter ants had stripped every single leaf from every plant. A bit of a bummer, I really was in love with this leaf and its awesome fresh flavor. Thankfully, the leaf cutters finally tired of the Katuk and moved on to strip the young citrus trees of their leaves. The naked little plants survived and new leaves emerged. Worried that I would run out of Katuk to eat, I planted more and more that blossomed into a small forest of Katuk. I planted our edible hedge along our road thinking that it would be food for people walking by. Most folks don't forage as they walk about and although they may be hungry, they pass on by these tasty leaves.
I am known to be obsessive at times, so they say. For a while my obsession was Spinach and it was part of every meal, sometimes a big part. It took hours to clean massive amounts. I even thought about cleaning it in the washing machine on a low, slow, cold water cycle. Seriously, I came close to proto-typing this technique. Katuk is easy to clean and grows clean, unlike spinach. Fortunately the Katuk went wild and I can strip the leaves and edible flowers off in seconds, a quick rinse and we are ready for fine dining. I changed my obsession to Katuk and now give most of the spinach to the ducks. They don't have my gourmet pallet, don't yet have the appreciation for Katuk that the leaf cutters and I have. Too bad for them, we have an unlimited supply.
As I have stripped the leaves off, I have replanted almost every stem. I gave stems and instructions to everyone who crossed my path. We also had the stems planted at the local school. I know some folks were saying, OMG she is eating the hedge. I was. I am. So many stems, so easy to grow, so much nutrition, so delicious... I love Katuk!
by Ginnee Hancock
4 years ago I was given a small Brazilian spinach plant purchased at the local feria. A nice gesture, but what do you do with just one small spinach plant?
I decided to plant my gift and propagated it. It is easy to grow from cuttings, I lay the stem sideways in good mulched soil, dug in just enough to cover the stem, and I have left the leaves on. Give it some water each day and year after year you will have a rich fast growing crop.
Brazilian Spinach (Alternanthera sissoo) is also knowns as Poor Man's Spinach, Samba Lettuce, and Sissoo Spinach. It is a low growing perennial leaf vegetable, which forms a neat mound. It is used as tropical spinach, suitable for subtropical and tropical areas only. It is a tasty wet-season green leafy vegetable, for us it is for all seasons. I love it cooked in stews, soups, stir-fries, in empanadas, with eggs or raw in salad. Use it as you would any other spinach.
It turns out that it is also a great ground cover. I began to notice that where the spinach grew, there were no weeds, so I started planting the spinach as ground cover. It is a beautiful rich dark green editable ground cover that requires almost no maintenance. Even better, the chickens like it as do the pigs.
That little spinach plant became a huge gift, we now have hundreds planted all over the farm as food and ground cover.