Chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa) is nicknamed tree spinach but that’s kind of like calling iceberg lettuce spinach. Chaya contains more than twice as much protein, calcium, Vitamin C, iron, fiber and caronteniods as spinach, according to a USDA report published through Purdue University. It’s also easy to grow almost anywhere in the U.S.
Chaya, also known as tree spinach, is an easy plant to grow in almost any condition. It’s a dietary staple on the semi-arid Yucatan Peninsula but also thrives in Florida’s hot, rainy summers, and is perfectly happy living in a pot that spends summers outdoors and winters in sunny windows. We grow both hog chaya, which has larger leaves, and the more decorative species with smaller, deeply serrated leaves and pretty white flowers that attract butterflies. Please let us know if you have a choice,
We grow both hog chaya, which has larger leaves, and the more decorative species with smaller, deeply serrated leaves and pretty white flowers that attract butterflies. It turns out that our favorite is the decorative chaya, also known as Estrella, because it grows so much faster and those deeply lobed leaves are significantly thicker than the hog chaya. (It also comes in a variety with horrible stinging hairs, but we don’t grow that one!) Unless you’re planning to use the leaves as wraps, the Estrella is your best choice.
Like many tropical plants (including spinach to a lesser degree), chaya contains hydrocyanic glucosides in its leaves. Cooking the leaves inactivates the toxic compound and most experts say you can eat up to five leaves per day without any problems.
Although they freeze to the ground quickly, they’re also among the first plants to come back in the spring.
Since chaya is the only plant we grow that isn’t an important part of the Ayurvedic medical tradition, here’s a link to a report from the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City, including a breakdown on the compounds in chaya. (Of course, the medical statements they make are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and Neem Tree Farms does not sell products which are intended to treat, diagnose or prevent diseases.)
Free shipping is not available on plants.
Please be sure to read our Plant Replacement Policy before purchasing live plants.