Spinach Tree Care – How To Use Chaya Plants In The Garden

Spinach Tree Care – How To Use Chaya Plants In The Garden

By: Amy Grant

Growing tree spinach is a valuable food source in the tropics through the Pacific region. Introduced into Cuba and then onto Hawaii as well as Florida where it is deemed more of a pesky shrub, chaya spinach trees are also known as tree spinach, chay col, kikilchay and chaykeken. Unfamiliar to many North Americans, we wonder what is tree spinach and what are the benefits of the chaya plant?

What is Tree Spinach?

Chaya spinach is a leafy green vegetable in the genus Cnidoscolus consisting of over 40 species, of which only chayamansa refers to chaya spinach tree. A member of the Euphorbiaceae family, growing spinach tree provides nutritious leaves and shoots for years and is prized as a necessary and important food through the Pacific Rim and along the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, where is grows naturally in thickets and the open forest. Growing tree spinach is commonly cultivated in Mexico and Central America and frequently seen planted in home gardens.

Chaya spinach tree is actually a big leafy shrub that reaches a height of from 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 m.) and resembles a cassava plant or healthy hibiscus, with 6 to 8 inch (15 to 20 cm.) cupped leaves borne on slender stems. Growing tree spinach shrubs bloom often with both male and female flowers that are tiny and white resulting in 1-inch (2.5 cm.) seed pods. The stem exudes white latex and the young stems have stinging hairs, particularly on wild growing tree spinach.

Spinach Tree Care

Growing tree spinach is cold sensitive, so it should be started at the onset of the warm season. Chaya spinach tree is propagated via woody stem cuttings that are 6-12 inches (15-30 cm.) long in well draining soil.

It takes some time for the chaya to establish but after the first year, the plants may be pruned and harvesting commenced. Sixty percent or more of the foliage may be removed with no damage to the plant, and in fact, will promote bushier, healthy new growth. For the home gardener, one plant is sufficient to provide plenty of chaya.

Spinach tree care for the home gardener is fairly simple. Chaya spinach is an understory species in forests and as such is ideal grown in shade under fruit trees or palms. Water the chaya canes thoroughly before transplanting.

The spiraling roots of the starts should be trimmed so they are growing downward and the planting hole needs to be deep enough so they hang vertically. Add compost or green manure to the planting hole to add nutrients prior to planting the chaya spinach tree canes. Pack the soil firmly around the chaya starts and mulch around the transplant to retain soil moisture and reduce weed growth.

How to Use Chaya Plants

Once the plant has established and harvesting commenced, the question is, “How to use chaya plants?” Chaya spinach tree leaves and shoots are harvested young and then used much like leaf spinach. However, unlike leaf spinach that can be eaten raw, chaya spinach tree leaves and shoots contain toxic hydrocyanic glycosides. These toxins are rendered inactive after cooking for one minute; therefore, chaya must always be cooked.

Sauté, add to soups and stews, can, freeze, dry or even steep as tea. Chaya spinach is a valuable source of vitamins and minerals. Chaya has more iron than leaf spinach and high amounts of fiber, phosphorus and calcium.

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Spinach – Tree Spinach

Spinach – Tree Spinach is an amazing plant that grows up to 2m. The leaves have a red tinge. Most unusual and attractive. You may grow it more as a curiosity than as a vegetable.

Sowing:

Sow 1 seed per module and plant out about 4-5 weeks after sowing.

Spacing:

Between plants in the row: 45cm

Growing Tree Spinach:

Chenopodium giganteum: Tree Spinach has been grown in Mexico for hundreds of years and it originally comes from India.

This variety is a fast growing architectural curiosity. Such a beautiful plant to have in the garden or greenhouse. Vivid pink tinged triangular bright green leaves with each new set of leaves blushed a deep magenta. You can eat the shoot tips of the plant although I grow it mainly for its beauty.

You can harvest it the same way as you would with cut-and-come-again baby salad leaves, snip away the shoots once they get to around 20cm (8in) high, leaving the lowest few centimetres to grow on. It can be eaten very young raw in salads and is a good spinach substitute.

This is a wonderful plant to have in your garden if you like colour, the growing tip is a stunning bright pink, and as the leaves grow they turn to green. It is part of the spinach family and it goes quite large. Tree Spinach can be used like normal spinach, young leaves can be eaten raw and added to salads or cooked, and older leaves can be cooked.

Plant in well drained soil in a sunny but sheltered spot. Keep well watered until established and in dry weather. In the right conditions Tree Spinach can grow very quickly and reach up to 200cm tall, flower heads must be removed otherwise you will have them growing everywhere. It will die back over winter but will re-grow again in spring.

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Chaya uses and facts

Chaya Quick Facts
Name: Chaya
Scientific Name: Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Origin Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico
Shapes Ovoid-globose, hispid capsule
Taste Do not have strong or distinct taste
Health benefits Beneficial for digestion, anemia, cough, cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, memory and hemorrhoids

Traditionally Chaya has been recommended for a number of ailments including diabetes, obesity, kidney stones, hemorrhoids, acne, and eye problems. Chaya shoots and leaves have been taken as a laxative, diuretic, circulation stimulant, to improve digestion, to stimulate lactation, and to harden the fingernail. Like most food plants such as lima beans, cassava, and many leafy vegetables, the leaves contain hydrocyanic glycosides, a toxic compound easily destroyed by cooking. Even though some people tend to eat raw chaya leaves, it is risky to do so.

Plant description

Chaya is a monoecious, much branched, large, fast-growing leafy perennial shrub that often grow to 3 m (10 ft.) in height, and 2 m (6.5 ft.) in width but some may reach up to five or six meters tall. The plant is found growing in moist and dry thickets in open forest, often in open rocky localities and tolerates most soil conditions, but might dislike acid and grows well in moist, well-drained soil. The plant has short stout trunk which is 6 inches in diameter. Bark is light gray brown with darker streaks, becoming finely fissured. Inner bark is whitish with light green outer layer, almost tasteless, with abundant white latex. Twigs are very stout, green with large whitish dots (lenticels), becoming light gray brown, with large oblong raised leaf scars and often with scattered stinging hairs.

Leaves are dark green, alternate, simple, slick surfaced often with some hairs and palmately lobed (much like the leaves of okra). Each leaf is 6 to 8 inches across and is borne on a long slender petiole (leaf stem). Where the leaf stem connects to the leaf, the leaf veins are fleshy and cuplike. Wood of young stems is soft, easily broken, and susceptible to rot. When cut, the stem exudes white latex

Flower clusters (cymes) are terminal at the end of a long stalk, flat-topped, and 3-5 inches across, bearing many male flowers and few female flowers (monoecious) without petals. Male flowers many but only a few open at one time, about 1/2 inch long and broad, consisting of narrow greenish-tinged calyx tube 1/4 inch long, 5 spreading elliptic lobes 1/4 inch long, and on orange disk the white stamen column with 2 circles of 5 stamens to 3/8 inch long and third circle nonfunctional (staminodes). Female flowers few, terminal, opening first, composed of 5 white sepals more than 1/4 inch long which fall early and on a disk the pistil 1/4 inch long, with finely hairy light green egg-shaped 3-celled ovary with 3 ovules and 3 white widely working styles. Flowers are followed by a ovoid-globose, bristly ellliptic-3-celled hispid capsule 3/8 inch long. Seeds 1 in each cell, that are 6–8 mm long and carunculate.

Some of the popular health benefits of chaya are:

  • Improved blood circulation
  • Aids in digestion
  • Improved vision
  • Dis-inflammation of veins and hemorrhoids
  • Help to lower cholesterol
  • Help to reduce weight
  • Prevent coughs
  • Augmenting calcium in the bones
  • Decongestion and disinfecting of the lungs
  • Prevent anemia by replacing iron in the blood
  • Improve memory and brain function
  • Combat arthritis
  • Improves glucose metabolism and prevents diabetes.

Traditional uses and benefits of Chaya

  • Plant is said to have many medicinal benefits, ranging from the ability to strengthen fingernails and darken greying hair.
  • It is also used to cure alcoholism, diabetes, insomnia, skin disorders, venereal diseases, gout, and scorpion stings and to improve brain function and memory.
  • Diabetic rabbits, fed increasingly higher quantities of the leaves, showed a significant drop in blood sugar levels.
  • Chaya traditionally has been recommended for a number of ailments including obesity, kidney stones, hemorrhoids, acne, and eye problems.
  • Chaya shoots and leaves have been taken as a laxative, diuretic, circulation stimulant, to improve digestion, to stimulate lactation, and to harden the fingernails.

Culinary Uses

  • Young chaya leaves and the thick, tender stem tips are cut and boiled as spinach.
  • Traditionally leaves are immersed and simmered for 20 minutes and then served with oil or butter.
  • Young leaves and shoots, detoxified by cooking, are eaten as a vegetable.
  • They can be eaten alone or in combination with other vegetables in stews and soups.
  • They are only rarely eaten raw as fresh greens.
  • Popular drink in Yucatan (Mexico) is made by blending the raw leaves in sugar water with lemons, pineapple and other fruits.
  • Leaves are also good cooked in coconut milk with ground foods like potatoes and yams or breadfruit.
  • Chaya can be used in any recipe that calls for cooked spinach, including lasagna and even pizza!
  • Young leaves are used to wrap tamales or are eaten with the thick terminal stems cooked as greens.
  • Leaves are flavorful when cooked with ham, onion, salt and pepper, or with salt and vinegar.

Sautéed chaya recipe via Los Dos Cooking School

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. (45 ml) olive oil
  • 4 oz. (114g) slab bacon, cut into large dice
  • 1 large red onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 8 cups (2 liters) chaya leaves, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped (Substitute: spinach, Swiss chard, kale)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and bacon until bacon is cooked.
  2. Remove bacon and set aside to drain.
  3. Reduce heat and add onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook until softened.
  4. Add chaya and cover.
  5. Cook 20-25 minutes or until chaya is tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Return bacon to skillet and toss to incorporate. Check seasonings and serve.

Chaya with scrambled eggs

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Chaya, cooked and chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt to taste

  1. Wash Chaya leaves and place them in a pot with cold water over medium high heat. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The chaya leaves will keep their bright green color. Remove from pot, drain and chop to cook.
  2. Heat a medium-sized non-stick frying pan over low heat. Add the oil, once it is hot add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Stir in the chopped tomato and cook for a minute and then add the chopped chaya leaves. Sauté for two more minutes.
  4. Crack the eggs and add to the pan, stir and season with salt to taste. Cook until desire doneness.
  5. Serve with beans, fried plantains or sliced avocado and warm corn tortillas.

Cream of chaya soup recipe via Food.com

Ingredients

  • 20 leaves, chaya (tender, washed)
  • 2 cups milk (whole make it nice and rich)
  • 4 leaves basil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable bouillon (chicken OK)
  • Pepper
  • Salt, to your taste

  1. Place Chaya leaves, chopped onions and crushed garlic in a pot with the bouillon and cook for two minutes or until leaves are blanched (use mid-heat).
  2. Add milk and let it cool.
  3. Use a stick blender mixes to a smooth velvety texture the remaining ingredients.
  4. Cook another five to ten minutes or until mixture gets really hot but does not boil.
  5. Serve hot.
  6. Add the final touch by placing the unsweetened cream in a small bag cutting the bag’s bottom tip, you can create a lovely design atop your served soup bowls.
  7. For a zesty taste, sprinkle a bit of crush dried red chili as well.
  8. Or add a dab of sour cream.

Other facts

  • Plant is grown as a hedge in home gardens.
  • Dried or fresh Chaya leaves and branches make good fodder for chickens, and help to increase egg production.

Precautions

  • Uncooked leaves contain cyanogenic glycosides that produce hydrogen cyanide upon tissue damage.
  • Long-term contact with the white sap can cause skin irritation.
  • Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested.
  • Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.


2. Choose the best location to plant spinach

Spinach grows well in full sun to partial shade. Spinach prefers moist fertile soil with neutral to alkaline soil (pH 7.0 or above). Prepare the soil before planting by amending with 2-4 inches of compost.

Good companion plants for growing spinach include radishes, strawberries, and garlic. Rotate where you plant spinach (and its relatives beets and swiss chard), waiting 3 years between planting in the same location to discourage pests and diseases.


Chaya Mansa (ചായ മൻസ) plant

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  • Sold by: Heavenly Gardens

Chaya mansa/Tree spinach is a favorite food source in the Pacific region. It is also known as Mayan spinach or Chaya spinach tree.

Note: All images are for reference purpose only, actual product may differ.

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മായൻ ചീരയെന്നും മെക്സിക്കൻ മരച്ചീരയെന്നും അറിയപ്പെടുന്ന ചായ മൻസ(Cnidoscolus aconitifolius) പോക്ഷക-ഔഷധ ഗുണങ്ങളിൽ മറ്റെല്ലാ ചീരയിനങ്ങളെയും കടത്തിവെട്ടുന്നുന്നതാണ്. മധ്യ അമേരിക്കയിലെ ബെലിസ് എന്ന രാജ്യത്ത്‌ ഉത്ഭവിച്ചുവെന്നു കരുതപ്പെടുന്നയീ ചീരയിനം മായൻ വർഗ്ഗക്കാരുടെ ആരാധനാലയങ്ങളുടെ പരിസ്സരങ്ങളിൽ ധാരാളമായി കാണപ്പെടുന്നു. മായൻ വിഭാഗക്കാരുടെ പാരമ്പര്യ ചികിത്സാരീതികളിലെ പ്രധാന ഔഷധം കൂടിയാണ് ചായ മൻസ. സാധാരണ പച്ച ഇലക്കറികളിലുള്ളതിനെക്കാൾ മൂന്നിരട്ടിയോളം പോക്ഷകമൂല്യങ്ങൾ അടങ്ങിയിട്ടുണ്ടെന്നുള്ളതാണ്ചായ മൻസയെ വ്യത്യസ്തമാക്കുന്നത്.

ചായ മൻസയിലെ പോക്ഷക നിലവാരം

പ്രോട്ടീൻ- 5.7%
നാരുകൾ- 1.9%
കാത്സിയം- 199.4 mg/100g
പൊട്ടാസ്യം- 217.2 mg/100g
ഇരുമ്പ്- 11.4 mg/100g
വിറ്റാമിൻ C- 164.7 mg/100g
കരോട്ടിൻ- 0.085 mg/100g

ചായ മൻസയുടെ ഉപയോഗം കൊണ്ടുള്ള ആരോഗ്യപരമായ നേട്ടങ്ങൾ

രുചികരമായ ചായ മൻസ ചീര കഴിക്കുന്നത്‌ കൊണ്ടുള്ള പ്രയോജനങ്ങൾ താഴെപ്പറയുന്നവയണ്.

1. രക്ത ചങ്ക്രമണം വർദ്ധിപ്പിക്കും.
2. ദഹനത്തെ സഹായിക്കുന്നു.
3. കാഴ്ച ശക്തി വർദ്ധിപ്പിക്കുന്നു.
4. വെരികോസ് വെയിൻ എന്ന രോഗത്തെ തടയുന്നു.
5. കൊളസ്ട്രോൾ നിയന്ത്രിക്കുന്നു.
6. ഭാരം കുറയ്ക്കാൻ സഹായിക്കുന്നു.
7. ചുമയെ തടയുന്നു.
8. എല്ലുകളുടെയും പല്ലുകളുടെയും ആരോഗ്യകരമായ വളർച്ചയെ സഹായിക്കുന്നു.
9. ശ്വാസ കോശത്തിന്റെ സുഗമമായ പ്രവർത്തനത്തെ സഹായിക്കും 10. വിളർച്ച തടയുന്നു.
11. തലച്ചോറിന്റെ പ്രവർത്തനവും ഓർമ്മശക്തിയും വർദ്ധിപ്പിക്കും.
12. വാത ജന്യ രോഗങ്ങളെ കുറയ്ക്കുന്നു.
13. പാൻക്രിയാസ് ഗ്രന്ഥിയുടെ പ്രവർത്തനം ഉത്തേജിപ്പിച്ച് പ്രമേഹത്തെ നിയന്ത്രിക്കുന്നു.
14. കിഡ്നി സ്റ്റോണ്‍ ചികിത്സക്ക് ഫലപ്രദം
15. മൂലക്കുരു നിയന്ത്രിക്കുന്നു.
!6. മുഖക്കുരുക്കളെ തടയുന്നു.

ചായ മൻസ കൃഷിരീതി

ധാരാളമായുണ്ടാകുന്ന ശാഖകൾ 6”-8” നീളത്തിൽ മുറിച്ചതോ വിത്തുകളോ നടീൽ വസ്തുവായിട്ടുപയോഗിക്കാം. മായൻ ചീര 6 മീറ്ററോളം ഉയരത്തിൽ വളരുന്ന മരമാണ്. ഇലകൾ പറിച്ചെടുക്കാനുള്ള സൌകര്യത്തിന് 2 മീറ്ററിൽ കൂടുതൽ വളരാനനുവദിക്കാതെ കോതി നിർത്തുകയാണ് സാധാരണ രീതി.
കേരളത്തിൽ നന്നായി വളരുന്നതാണ് ചായ മൻസ. ഈ മരച്ചീര വീട്ടിലൊരെണ്ണം നട്ടുപിടിപ്പിച്ചാൽ പോക്ഷക സമ്പുഷ്ടവും ഔഷധ ഗുണപ്രധാനവുമായ ഇലക്കറി കാലങ്ങളോളം ലഭിക്കാൻ സഹായിക്കും.

ചായ മൻസ പാചക വിധികൾ

ചായ മൻസ ഇലകളിൽ അടങ്ങിയിട്ടുള്ള വളരെ അളവിലുള്ള കട്ട് പാകം ചെയ്യുമ്പോൾ ഇല്ലാതാകുന്നതാണ്. അതിനാൽ ഈ ഇലകൾ പാകം ചെയ്തു മാത്രമേ ഭക്ഷിക്കാൻ പാടുള്ളൂ. ചില ചായ മൻസ പാചക വിധികൾ ചുവടെ കൊടുക്കുന്നു.

ചായ മൻസ ഇലകൾ കൊണ്ടുണ്ടാക്കുന്ന ചായ പ്രമേഹം നിയന്ത്രിക്കാനും കരൾ ശുദ്ധീകരിക്കാനും ഉത്തമമാണ്. അഞ്ച് വലിയ ചായ മൻസ ഇലകൾ ചെറുതായി അരിഞ്ഞ് ഒരു ലിറ്റർ വെളളം ചേർത്ത് ചെറു ചൂടിൽ 20 മിനിട്ട് വേവിക്കണം. തണുക്കുമ്പോൾ ഒരു നുള്ള് ഉപ്പും കുറച്ചു നാരങ്ങാ നീരും ചേർത്താൽ ചായ മൻസ ടീ തയ്യാർ. ദിവസ്സവും മൂന്ന് ഗ്ലാസ്‌ വരെ കുടിക്കാം.

ചായ മൻസ ഇലകൾ ചെറുതായി അരിഞ്ഞ് കുറച്ചു വെളളം (ഇലകൾ വേവുന്നതിനു വേണ്ടത് മാത്രം) കൂടി ചേർത്ത് ചെറു ചൂടിൽ 20 മിനിട്ട് വേവിച്ചെടുക്കണം. ഈ ഇലകൾ കൊണ്ട് സാധാരണ ചീരവർഗ്ഗങ്ങളുപയോഗിച്ചുണ്ടാക്കാവുന്ന എല്ലാവിധ സലാഡുകളുമു ണ്ടാക്കാവുന്നതാണ്.

3. തോരനും മറ്റും

ചായ മൻസ ഇലകൾ കൊണ്ട് സാധാരണ ചീരവർഗ്ഗങ്ങളുപയോഗിച്ചുണ്ടാക്കാവുന്ന തോരനും മറ്റെല്ലായിനം കറികളും ഉണ്ടാക്കാവുന്നതാണ്. കറികൾ 15 മുതൽ 20 മിനിട്ട് വരെ സമയം വേവിക്കണമെന്നുള്ളതാണൊരു പ്രത്യേകത.

Chaya mansa/Tree spinach (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius)

Chaya mansa/Tree spinach (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius) is a favorite food source in the Pacific region. It is also known as Mayan spinach or Chaya spinach tree. Now Chaya mansa plants are spread all over the world. Tree spinach is commonly cultivated in Mexico and Central America and seen planted in this region. Chaya mansa is a big leafy shrub that grows up to a height of 6m.

Tree spinach cultivation tips

Tree spinach is a shade tolerant plant since it is an understory species in forest. So it is ideal grown under fruit trees or palms. Chaya mansa is propagated through stem cuttings of 15-30cm long. Well draining soil is suitable for growing tree spinach. Dig a pit of size 50cmx5ox50cm for planting the rooted stem cutting. Fill the pit with a mixture of soil and compost or green manure. When transplanting the chaya mansa starts (rooted cane), fill the soil firmly around it and mulch well.
Though the plant starts growing within days but it takes more time for root system establishment. It is better to commence harvesting from the second year. We can collect 60% or more foliage at a time without damaging the plant. Usually prunes the plant for growing up to the height of 2meters for easy harvesting. Only one chaya mansa plant is sufficient for meeting the leaf vegetable requirement of a family.

Uses of Chaya mansa

Chaya mansa leaves and tender shoots are harvested like leaf spinach. Chaya mansa foliages contain some toxins which are rendered inactive after cooking. So it can’t be eaten raw, must always be cooked before consume. Tree spinach is a rich source of vitamins and minerals.
The major uses of chaya mansa are as follows
• To make herbal tea and various other health drinks.
• Cooked chaya leaves could be added in soups stews, pizza, smoothies, sauce and salads.
• Any recipes with spinach can be substituted with cooked chaya leaves.
• As a shade tree.
• As a fencing.
• As an ornamental plant.
• As a fodder to chicken as fresh or dried.
• Making compost for vegetable garden.

Health benefits from consuming Chaya leaves

The major health benefits from regular consumption of chaya leaves are as follows
1. Improves blood circulation
2. Helps digestion
3. Improve vision
4. Prevents varicose veins and hermorrhoids
5. Lower cholesterol
6. Helps to reduce weight
7. Prevents cough
8. Augments calcium in the bones.
9. Decongests and disinfects the lungs
10. Prevents anemia
11. Improves memory and brain function
12. Combats arthritis and
13. Improves glucose metabolism and prevents diabetes.

Chaya mansa recipes

Chaya leaf is a tasty vegetable having high nutritional properties. Non matured chaya leaves with the tender stem tips are cut down and cooked as spinach at least 20 minutes.Not to cook the chaya leaves in aluminium pans.
Cooked chaya leaves could be added in soups stews, pizza, smoothies, sauce, salads and any recipes with spinach can be substituted with cooked chaya leaves.

Chaya mansa tea

Herbal tea with chaya mansa can be prepared with chaya leaves. Add 1 liter of water to 5 chopped tender chaya leaves and boil it to 20-30 minutes. When it cools down add a pinch of salt and lime juice, your chaya mansa tea is ready. Drink it as three times. Dried leaves are also used for making chaya mansa tea. It is used as a health drink and for controlling diabetes.

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Contents

Cnidoscolus aconitifolius subsp. aconitifolius is found from northern Mexico to Guatemala and cultivated as far south as Peru, while Cnidoscolus aconitifolius subsp. polyanthus (Pax and K.Hoffm.) Breckon is restricted a small area in western Mexico.

Plants in the Chayamansa Group (syn. Cnidoscolus chayamansa) are the most widely cultivated, because they lack stinging hairs on the leaves. It is divided into four cultivars based on leaf morphology: 'Chayamansa' (most common), 'Estrella', 'Picuda', and 'Redonda'. [3]

Chaya is easy to grow, a tender perennial in the US, and suffers little insect damage. It is tolerant of heavy rain and has some drought tolerance. Propagation is normally by woody stem cuttings about 6-12 inches long, as seeds are produced only rarely. Early growth is slow as roots are slow to develop on the cuttings, so leaves are not harvested until the second year. Chaya leaves can be harvested continuously as long as no more than 50% of the leaves are removed from the plant, which guarantees healthy new plant growth.

A USDA study in Puerto Rico reported that higher yields of greens could be obtained with chaya than any other vegetable they had studied. In another study chaya leaves were found to contain substantially greater amounts of nutrients than spinach leaves. [6] [ citation needed ]

Some varieties have stinging hairs and require gloves for harvesting. Cooking destroys the stinging hairs. Chaya is one of the most productive green vegetables. [8] [9]

Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron and is also a rich source of antioxidants. [10] However, raw chaya leaves are toxic as they contain a glucoside that can release toxic cyanide. Cooking is essential prior to consumption to inactivate the toxic components in this chaya is similar to cassava, which also contains toxic hydrocyanic glycosides and must be cooked before being eaten. [11]

Young chaya leaves and the thick, tender stem tips are cut and boiled as a spinach. It is a tasty vegetable, and is exceptionally high in protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin A. [9] In fact, levels of chaya leaf nutrients are two- to threefold greater than any other land-based leafy green vegetable. [12] [13] Chaya leaves have a possible antidiabetic effect. [12]

Traditionally leaves are immersed and simmered for 20 minutes and then served with oil or butter. Cooking for 20 minutes or more will render the leaves safe to eat. The stock or liquid the leaves are cooked in can also safely be consumed as the cyanide is volatilized as hydrogen cyanide (HCN) during cooking. Cooking in aluminum cookware can result in a toxic broth, causing diarrhea. [13]


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