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Chaya

Chaya or spinach tree or Tree Spinach (Cnidoscolus chayamansa) is actually about twice as nutritious as spinach. It is a good source of nutrients including protein, calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamin C. It is a fast growing dense shrub, native to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. It grows to about 6-8 feet tall.

Soil: Tolerates most soil conditions, but might dislike acid. Liming and fertilizing should benefit Chaya. The leaves contain a lot of protein, calcium, and potassium, so the soil must have it for the plant to extract, if it is to be healthy. (Nitrogen to make protein)
Water: well to somewhat well drained. Tolerates brief flooding and droughts
Sun: full is best, tolerates shade
Cold: Can be killed by a hard freeze, but will usually resprout from the roots. Mulch the base to protect it.
Pruning: Unnecessary, but sometimes used to control height. Crowded internal branches can be removed for propagation or aesthetics.
Propagation: Easily propagated by stem cuttings.
Pests: none
Other problems: It can be slow to get going.

Harvesting, storage, and preparation: Most recommendations say not to harvest until the second year, because the plants are slow to establish before they can grow quickly. Our plants seem to take very quickly to our special potting mix. Never harvest more than 50% of the leaves, except from stems cut for propagation. Leaves must be cooked to release cyanide, which evaporates. Apparently aluminum cookware can cause a diarrhea-causing reaction with the cyanide compounds when cooking. We are not sure if this is true. On principle it’s wise to cook all fruits and vegetables in non-aluminum pans because of their high acidity.
chaya1small-copychaya21

More photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/search?sort=relevance&text=Cnidoscolus%20chayamansa

More information, including recipes:

http://thematrix.sureste.com/cityview/merida2/articulos/chaya.htm (defunct – admin)

 

pdf – Chaya Information Sheet
(to print out)


5 comments to Chaya

  • Brian

    Hey everyone,
    So, I planted on of these at the Health Department in Belle Glade ~2 years ago. It’s about 5-6 ft now. I have not tried this until this weekend. I boiled it 2x, then I added them to some mashed potatoes. Not bad.

    For some reason, our ECHO link doesn’t work. This does.

    http://echotech.org/mambo/images/DocMan/Chaya07.pdf

    FYI for nutrition
    http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1996/V3-516.html

  • Natalie L.

    I have one for 3 to 4 years that i started from cutting. it just grow by itself in poor sandy soil and part shade with very little watering. I use it like cooked spinach or collards greens and add in in soup or curry. tolarate light frost, drought.

  • Jeanne Ridings Delacruz

    A friend gave me a plant, 12 inches long. I planted in poor soil but building it up. It grew to 6 feet. The branches easily break. I just make a hole and plant them all over, here and there. So far 4 are growing. They do not take much room and are delicious. I mix my greens and cook in coconut milk and spices, so good. Thank you for the pictures and the name. I did not know. The samoan people love this and eat a lot. Aloha from hawaii Jeanne

  • LORETTE

    Just a note there is a pest that likes the spinach tree. I had a hornworm on it and it ate all the leaves! I got rid of it and the plant came back even more full of leaves. This is in Melbourne, Florida

  • It has been a few years.I have chaya growing everywhere,so much.will now be trying to cook some.amazing.jeanne delacru

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