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Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Anyone growing this small tree that's also called the Spinach Tree? Edible leaves that must be cooked one minute, or longer.

Xai Xai, Mozambique

never heard of it. does it actually taste like spinach?
isaac

Keaau, HI

It is Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, Chaya or Maya Chaya. It is closely related to Jatropha.

It is a survival / famine food. Very easy to grow; not that good eating.

You can cook the leaves and eat them, but I would prefer Swiss Card or other garden greens.

A good to grow tree type spinach is Edible Hibiscus, Abelmoschus manihot. It tastes good raw or cooked!

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Need to find some of that.

I read that Chaya is very bland, that'd be easy to cook with.

Keaau, HI

Bland is a good way to describe it. Definitely could benefit to add some garlic, ginger, and a little vinegar.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

That sounds wonderful! Better that some bitter greens that I've tried. And Garlic is a vegetable. Sometimes I saute a half a cupful to go with dinner, when I plan to stay home for two days!

Garlic, Ginger, rice vinegar, and Soya sauce. And Lemon? Once I had a curry that had tiny bits of lemon, about 1/2 teaspoon size chunks. Great! A little pizzazz in an occasional bite. Not too much, just right.

Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico(Zone 11)

Chaya is a very common food here, not considered starvation food at all. I love it, it is great in scrambled eggs, is commonly put into tamales with some pork or boiled egg and is also often used in soups. It grows easily in the tropics and is more of a bush than a vine. I prefer it to chard but really I'm happy with either as they have a different taste. There is also a vine here called the spinach vine in spanish but it is not the same plant as chaya. A friend is giving me a cutting this week and I'll see how I like it.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Just had my first bowlful, I'm hooked. I won't say it's like the more civilized greens, Kale, Chard, but I like how it mildly tastes so GREEN and healthy. I steamed it , chopped it fine, and added chopped sauteed onion, and a little soya sauce and apple juice. The texture could be better, but it's OK chopped.

The plants that I found by the side of the road are Chaya. They were probably planted on purpose because the road leads into a subdivision, and there are bougainvilleas and other things planted there. Oboy, cutting city! The two cuttings I made a couple of weeks ago have made roots, and I bought some rooted cuttings from a local farm. What I just ate was some picked leaves that the farm was also selling.

Show me someone who won't take a pinch or a cutting, and I'll show you someone who isn't a gardener! But I do NOT take stuff from a nursery. That would be stealing.

Now, where to plant a row on my place so it'll be happy....

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

I grow Chaya, and love the taste, but I must say if you don't pick the leaves young, it takes a long time to cook them. I season them as I do collards or mustard greens, adding a ham hock. They grow like mad, and are very pretty, so I'm never short on greens.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

I'm thankful that I still have all my teeth, because I don't need to cook it much, two minutes. It has a texture rather like paper, but the nutrition is what I'm after. Otherwise, I'd still be eating Iceberg lettuce!

Laie, HI

Just had my first meal of Chaya the other night.....stir fried with pork and carrots with garlic, soy sauce and vinegar. It tasted like any sort of green spinach and was enjoyed by everybody in the family. chaya is now up there with edible hibiscus (pele) as one of my favorite easy and nutritional vegetables. My kind of lazy vegetable gardening.....grow the bush and go pick the leaves off when you need them.

Xai Xai, Mozambique

Sounds like a nice vegetable, stella! i will have to find one of those plants....
Isaac

Merida, Centro, Mexico(Zone 11)

It's amazingly good as a drink. Chop it in a blender with lemonade. But watch out for one variety. I think it's the hairy one that can cause a poison ivy-type rash if you pick it after early morning. bb

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Is this Chaya? I have a tall bush in my garden. Someone gave me a cutting, but she couldn't remember what it was. It has white flowers. Looks like the plant mentioned above. I'd like to try it in a salad, but don't want to wind up in the hospital!

Thumbnail by bigbubbles
Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico(Zone 11)

It does look like it but I'm no expert on identifying plants, I'd wait for one of the real experts before you cook it up. I buy it in the grocery store as I don't have any growing here, the leaves look like your picture. Here's a picture on Wiki that shows pretty good detail and also looks like your pic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cnidoscolus_chayamansa1_ies.jpg

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Yep...I think that's it! Thanks for link.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

It looks like a type of Casava to me...we use to eat the leaves and roots in W. Africa

Keaau, HI

Bigbubbles plant is Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, Chaya.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks! I'm going to have to cut it back to get it under temp. greenhouse. I'll root some cuttings and in the spring, if anyone wants one, I can share.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Yes, looks like Chaya to me, also. I'd like a couple of cuttings, they don't need leaves or roots. I have three variations of the leaves so far, and the leaves on your plant, bigbubbles, has thinner -- ?? fingers than the Chayas that I have. Dmail me if you feel up to mailing some cuttings.

OK,

Melissa, aka Molamola

Laie, HI

Your Chaya looks a different variety to the one I have growing in the garden Bubbles. Right now it is only about 4 feet high. The photo that Extra put up of a big tree is scaring me .....I was not expecting it to get so big. On the other hand I believe the idea is to keep the plant trimmed down so that you get lots of new growth to eat. Even the stalk tips can be eaten....skin like a brocoli stem, chop and saute. So I will need to keep it under control. Thanks for all the extra info everybody. aloha

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

I read someplace that you can make a hedge of Chaya, and trim it quite often.

Laie, HI

A gardening friend mentioned today that Chaya should not be eaten raw.....only cooked....so that it removes some kind of poison in the leaves! anybody heard that before.. Maybe the Mexicans on board here with lots of experience in eating this plant could give an answer on this. thanks.

Keaau, HI

Chaya is closely related to Jatropha species, which are very toxic. I would never eat the plant raw.

Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico(Zone 11)

I'll ask the neighbors but I will say I have never seen it served raw. That's not saying much though as the local cuisine is very low on raw anything, veggies are cooked to death and eating salad is an upper class thing only. About the only thing I ever see eaten raw is fruit and jicama, and they are usually covered in chile and lime. Oh, well, I forgot about seafood ceviche which could be considered raw, it is 'cooked' with chile and lime.

Keaau, HI

The raw leaves of Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, Chaya, will cause severe gastroenteritis, and must be cooked to be eaten.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Here's what Michaels4gardens says about the Chaya he sells---

"Note, --Chaya contains Cyanide in small
amounts and some people recommend cooking
it. I eat it raw and see no problem with this, but if
you want to eat large amounts of Chaya [over 6
oz at one meal] I also recommend boiling it for 3
min.

Do not cook Chaya in aluminum cook ware, the
Toxic chemical reaction can cause Diarrhea.
Some kinds of Chaya have stinging hairs and
cannot be eaten raw, the Chaya I have does not
have these."

The Chaya I bought from him has much less serrated leaves than what I've found growing here on St Croix. Perhaps the eating of it raw is a matter of quantity, but who wants to eat cyanide??

Laie, HI

Thanks to you all for clearing that point up. aloha

noonamah, Australia

The human body normally produces cyanide in small amounts as part of its immune system. If you have enough iodine in your diet it takes the cyanide out and there's no harmful build up. Some plants also produce cyanide as a defence (like cassava) and when they're cut or injured they produce even more. When cassava was introduced into parts of Africa it cause some serious health problems. It wasn't until they realised the connection and then introduced iodised salt that the problem was overcome. In coastal areas where there is a lot of fish in the diet the problem never arose. So I'd take stories of eating plants with a cyanide content with a grain of salt. ;O)

Delray Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

Hello, everyone.

My take on chaya: I had a chaya bush in Lauderhill. It grew very well and the master gardener who gave me the plant also instructed me to boil the leaves for 3 minutes twice to remove the toxin which could be present. The bush is also a great butterfly attractor.

I never ate the leaves because there is so much of everything else to eat, why take chances with plants that may or not be toxic at some level? In a famine situation, I would have stripped that bush down and consumed every little bit of it regardless.

We moved since then but the chaya is still gracing the grounds. A neighbour a few streets over had his grown into a full-sized tree.

Take care, all.
Sylvain.

Laie, HI

It is always amazing the wealth of information shared on this site. Tropicbreeze.....you have given me another reason to keep on with the use of iodized salt! Plus I love all you kindred souls who delight in growing new, easy, nutritional foods that many find too strange. I will give credit to my DH who will eye each nights stir- fry or salad with suspicion. "What are you trying to feed me tonight?" But he will still eat it.

Aloha

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Stellamarina-- One fellow held up something on his fork, from the salad. "What's this?"

"Sweet potato"

"I'm eating RAW sweet potato? If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be eating raw sweet potato, I would have NEVER believed you!!"

haha

Laie, HI

Interesting Molamola.....I have never eaten raw sweet potato either. Will have to try it. I do use the vine tips as a vegetable in a stir fry. Do you grate the sweet potato? Would it work in a pickled vege salad? mmmmmm......... But my favorite way is from my Kiwi childhood......roasted sweet potato in with the Sunday beef or leg of lamb roast. aloha

noonamah, Australia

Molamola, hate to be a wet blanket, but eating raw sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is not good for you. Like a lot of tuber crops it contains "anti-nutrients" which prevent your body taking up beneficial nutrients. That's why tuber crops have always been cooked. Early humans worked out that there was a detrimental effect from eating them raw.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Well, phooey. I am always trying to eat more stuff raw. And for the last half hour I've been googling. Raw Lima beans are a no-no. Raw white potatoes are OK, but not if green. BUT I am allergic to nightshades, so white potato is poison to me.

I haven't found about raw yams, or sweet potato, like American orange colored Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. Conflicting comments on those.

Is a tuber and root the same? A tuber being a swollen thing on a root, such as a white potato, or is a carrot also a tuber? haha! How about a rutabaga?

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

Carrots and rutabagas are roots. Potatoes are tubers. Sweet potatoes are great raw, especially grated into salads. Mashed cauliflower is a great potato substitute, and it tastes better.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Well, dsa, you directly contradict Tropicbreeze, the third post up from here. I do really like yam (sweet potato) raw, but have quit eating it that way.

The little light bulb just went off over my head--- Roots are functional, carrot, salsify, but tubers just sit there being storage, and therefore have a natural insecticide/fungicide built in. ?? So a tuber should be cooked....?

Xai Xai, Mozambique

sounds logical, but not sure!

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Can logic be applied to plants?? haha

noonamah, Australia

I did a lot of research on foods some years back when I was living with Aborigines in Arnhem Land. These people were still relying a lot on bush foods but other basic western foods would come in from the outside world. Mostly things like tea, sugar (white), flour (white) and canned meat (spam), the worst side of "western culinary delights". So I was trying to introduce them to cultivation of food in gardens, something which appealed to the older people who were finding it increasingly difficult to go out. Perception of relevance and value to a community can diminish with ageing, especially with outside world influences creeping in and traditional life being eroded. Gardening largely countered this effect.

One of my big concerns was to not introduce things which might inadvertantly cause problems down the track. That's how I found out about the 'darker side' of tuber crops. The worst are the ones that have no warning taste, or slow reaction/response time so that causes are likely to be overlooked. But that said, we'd be lost without those plants. We just need to know how to use them.

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