Cnidoscolus aconitifolius also known as Chaya, aka 'Mayan Tree Spinach' or 'Mexican Tree Spinach', is a large fast-growing and productive perennial shrub.
In Mexico, Chaya is eaten as a leafy green vegetable, and is very common. Chaya is cooked just like spinach and is excellent in stir-fries! It's a great source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron and also a rich source of antioxidants. Chaya actually has more nutritional benefit then Spinach. Chaya is quite literally, a super green!
The plant is native to Central America, and is believed to have originated on the Yucatan peninsula. The stems of the plant are woody and succulent-like, and expel a milky white sap when cut. The plant can quickly grow to a height of 15 ft if growth conditions allow, but can very easily be maintained as low as 2 ft.
Chaya leaves should not be eaten raw, as the plant contains a toxin similar to cyanide (the stuff in Apple seeds) that is toxic when consumed. Luckily, the poison is easily neutralized by boiling the leaves for 5-15 minutes then straining the water before cooking with. This process is called blanching and is required prior to consumption.
Tree Spinach is super easy to grow, drought tolerant and pest resistant it can survive on rain water and little fertility for years. An extremely low-care and forgiving food plant, much like our Thornless Nopal. This large edible shrub has lobed leaves that resemble a hibiscus tree. Small unobtrusive white flowers grow in late summer and develop into ripening walnut sized seed pods in the fall. *Can be fed to chickens raw.
Latin Name: Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Growth Structure: Medium Tree or maintain as a bush easily grown in pots
Light Requirement: Partial to Full Sun
Water Requirement: Low water requirement