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Hog chaya is the species most related to the naturalized chaya found in Mexico but does not have the stinging hairs.
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.
We grow two kinds of chaya: the Estrella chaya and hog chaya. The hog chaya is probably closest to what you will be served in a Mexican restaurant. It is a staple of the Mayan diet because it has so much protein and high levels of other nutrients. The hog chaya also is large enough to be used as a wrap.
Either variety thrives in almost any frost-free location, from the dry Yucatan Peninsula to Florida’s hot, rainy summers. Chaya also is perfectly happy living in a pot that spends summers outdoors and winters in sunny windows. (It also comes in a variety with horrible stinging hairs, but we don’t grow that one!)
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.)
OVERSEAS CUSTOMERS: Please contact us before placing an order. We can ship to Canada and the E.U. but customers must purchase a $60.00 phytosanitary inspection before trees or living plants can be shipped. The E.U. requires that all plants are treated for pests in front of an inspector so they should not be consumed within the first week.