Chaya: The Spinach Tree

by Green Deane

in Greens/Pot Herb, Plants, Trees/Shrubs

Chaya leaves are edible after cooking. Photo by Green Deane.

 Cnidoscolus aconitifolius: Tree Pot Herb

I knew about Chaya long before I ever saw one.

It’s in the Cnidoscolus genus and has two relatives in the southern United States, the Cnidoscolus stimulosus and the Cnidoscolus texanus. In researching and writing about those I learned about the Chaya. The problem with the two American plants is the C. stimulosus has an edible root and the C. texanus has edible seeds, but one never finds good evidence for the reverse. Are the seeds of the C. stimulosus edible? Are the roots of the C. texanus edible? There is also the possibility that the leaves of the C. stimulosus are edible. I know of two people who ate some raw (blended it) and did not get ill. Another person used to fry the leaves and eat them. This might suggest said for the C. texanus as well.

Those are four issues that need to be sorted out with the North America family members, but there is no edibility issue with Chaya. Its leaves are edible cooked.  In fact, it’s an outstanding green generally twice as nutritious as spinach, Chinese cabbage or amaranth. The leaves are very high in protein, calcium, iron, carotene, and vitamins A, B and C. In fact, Chaya can have 10 times as much vitamin C as the orange.  There is no doubt about its nutrition, there is a bit of an issue, however, with how many Chaya there are. Whether there is one species of Chaya with several scientific names or several different species of Chaya is a bit of a debate.

Chaya in blossom

A study as late as 1999 researchers recognized two species, Cnidoscolus chayamansa and Cnidoscolus aconitifolius.  At the time the C. chayamansa had maple-like leaves (now called the chayamansa variety) and the C. aconitifolius had more indented five-lobed leaves (now called the Estrella variety.) Those two botanical names are still used, with some authorities saying they are two different species, and some– the latest view since 2002 — saying they are the same plant, just different varieties. You will also see Cnidoscolus aconitifolius ssp. aconitifolius, and Cnidoscolus aconitifolius ssp. chayamansa, and the reverse combinations. Botanists tend to defend their taxonomic turf while confusing the issue significantly.

As for varieties, some have stinging hairs like their American cousins, some don’t. So not only can you have multiple confusing names you can have edible Chaya with stinging hairs and without, and different shaped leaves. Often this is whether the variety is in the wild (Chaya brava) or under cultivation (Chaya mansa.) Regardless, all should be boiled or fried though there are some reports that some of the varieties can be eaten raw. I would be careful about that since cooking drives off hydrogen cyanide. You need to cook them ten to 20 minutes though some say five minutes will do. (The resulting broth is also often consumed because the hydrogen cyanide has been driven off and the water is full of Vitamin C leached from the leaves.)  The raw eaves can also be used to wrap food for cooking.

Drying the leaves also reduces the hydrogen cyanide significantly. Blending will do the same IF the blended leaves are allowed to sit for several hours. The amount of hydrogen cyanide differs from variety to variety and may account for reports of some variety leaves being eaten raw.  Researchers say they have found no reports  of acute or chronic effects attributed to the consumption of fresh or cooked Chaya leaves. Still, it is better to err on the safe side.

While edibility is not an issue, finding Chaya may be. It’s native to Central America and endemic to the Yucatan Peninsula. The USDA maps show it naturalized only in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. It does grow in Florida and South Texas but is ill- suited to freezes though it does grow back from the root. One local specimen in downtown Orlando and has been there at least 20 years, surviving several light freezes.

As for the scientific names, again opinions differ. Since the name is from Greek first a little lesson in Greek. Greek verbs have a main part, the stem, and an ending. The verb stem “to sting”  is “tsou.”  To that is added endings telling you who or what is stinging. Tsouzo (TSOU-zoh) means I sting, tsouzee, means he, she, it stings. The word for nettles is tsouknitha (tsouk-NEE-tha) combining tsou with knitha, which might mean “it stings a little.”

So the genus name Cnidoscolus is from two Greek sources pulverized through Latin. Cnido is cleaved from tsouknitha (k-NEE-tha)  The Romans got rid of Greek “K” sounds and used C in front of the N to indicate it was from Greek and the C silent in Latin. Scolus is from the Greek word “skolop” meaning “a thorn” but with a Latin ending.

How that all is pronounced is a bit of preference. kah-knee-doe-SKOHL-us is close to the original Greek, if you don’t mind cutting a word in half and adding a Latin ending.  Anglicized Latin truly bastardizes the Greek, drops a syllable, changes the accent and pronunciation ending up with nye-DOSE-ko-lus. I have also heard sss-need-doe-SKOHL-us which offends both languages. There is no beginning SN sound in native Greek or Latin.

Chayamansa (chay-uh-MANZ-uh) a combination of the Mayan word for the plant, “chaay” and the Latin mansa meaning house, dwelling or farm, read Chaya a domesticated plant.  It is also said chay-uh-MAN-suh. Aconitifolius (a-kon-eye-tih-FOH-lee-us) means Aconitum-like leaves. Chaya is said CHA-yah.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant

IDENTIFICATION: Shrub to a small tree, three to 12 feet high, stems leafy, with or without stinging hairs and or thorns. Leaves alternate, stalks two inches to a foot long, three to five lobes, two smaller lobes at base, leaf edges deeply, sharply lobed and toothed, veins palmate. Flowers white, in branched clusters, spring through fall. Fruit three-part capsule with stinging hairs. Sap milky. Rarely seeds.

TIME OF YEAR: Leaves and shoots year round. The best leaves are small to half mature size. Up to 50% of the leaves can be harvested at one time.

ENVIRONMENT: Will tolerate a wide range of environments from wet to arid, shady to sunny.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Chopped leaves, stem tips and shoots boiled or fried. Cooking for 20 minutes destroys hydrogen cyanide in the tissue. Cooking broth is drinkable.  Leaves can be blended and consumed after letting them sit for several hours. Large leaves can be used to wrap food for cooking. The entire plant can be dried, ground, and used as fodder for animals or meal for fish.

Do not cook Chaya in aluminum containers. It can cause a toxic reaction. When collecting stinging varieties wear gloves. Avoid breathing in the vapors when cooking. Stir frying is not enough to render the Chaya edible. Cook it first then add to stir fries.

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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny April 19, 2017 at 18:12

If you would like more info on chaya, including videos, recipes, and a brochure, visit and
We have been promoting chaya in Guatemala as a solution to malnutrition. Learned about it at and grow it in SW Florida and in Guatemala at 5,500′ and lower elevation.


beck March 3, 2017 at 12:11

Hi !
So, every bit of info on chaya that I’ve been able to dig up says that once it’s established, it’s quite pest/diesease-resistant; though it’s also mentioned that there’s an amount of variation in many of its characteristics, depending on the cultivar/variety/whatever. I think there may be some varieties that are especially, er, consumer-friendly, for lack of a better term. It seems that many a critter can quite easily stomach at least the kind growing around my house – especially whiteflies. I have maybe 30 or so plants all around my yarden (as I like to call it), and a pretty severe whitefly infestation that I’m working on fighting off. I’ve noticed plenty of other wee bugs munching on it as well. Also, when I harvest it, the sap doesn’t irritate my skin at all, that I’ve noticed – I haven’t had my hands covered in it or anything, but it’s gotten on me in small quantities without bothering me, and I usually have pretty reactive skin. I was wondering if you’d come across this elsewhere, or heard mention of these kinds of things from anyone ?
(and yes, I’m 110% sure it’s chaya, I can post pictures on the forum if you don’t believe me, but I’ve eaten it many times and been told by local foragers/plant experts that that’s what it is, and I’ve done a fair amount of research online about it as well)


beck March 3, 2017 at 12:13

Also, forgot to mention – I live in Sarasota, if that information is useful at all


Kevin April 6, 2017 at 13:12

I have what I was told was Chaya I bought in Sarasota last year. It was a small tree in a pot and I planted the tree in the ground. It barely has grown over that year and the leaves are very sparse only on the top few inches of every branch. Is this normal? Can I cut branches back in hopes they will start new growth (which I haven’t see in over a year since it’s been planted in the ground)? Thanks.


Green Deane April 12, 2017 at 18:37

Does it sting you?


Green Deane March 8, 2017 at 07:02

Depending on the species Chaya can irritate my skin by just rubbing against it.


zawadi February 27, 2017 at 05:08

Hi how are you
I need chaya can I have your contact?



Agnes Rapau January 31, 2017 at 15:02

chaya spinach the best


idy December 21, 2016 at 09:53

Chaya can survive anywhere .no matter the weather. it used for porridge, soup, rice and garnishing.. IT IS EVERYWHERE IN NIGERIA just like moringa


MerLynn December 11, 2016 at 21:15

I would be grateful and generous thru paypal if anyone can send seeds to Australia.


William December 15, 2016 at 23:11

If you live in Australia, you know very well that is not going to happen as seeds cannot be sent through the mail.


Green Deane December 16, 2016 at 17:05

Do you mean internationally?


Nelson Anderson March 24, 2016 at 16:29

I was thinking these look like giant Spruge Nettles, sure enough, they are in the same genus.


Margaret Tagwira March 11, 2016 at 03:45

Hi S.A. ladies,

I have Chaya plants. I am in Mutare Zimbabwe.


Diane October 25, 2016 at 18:08

I have Chaya plants and I am in De Leon Springs, Florida, USA. I have not consumed them yet but had a few branches get bent over from Hurricane Matthew, so, I am going to give it a try tonight. First I will boil the cut up leaves and then I will stir fry and combine with some Forbidden Rice. I will let you know if I survive:)


Marius March 12, 2017 at 08:13

I am looking for some Chaya seed, can you please help.


Shandu Gumede March 30, 2017 at 16:56

Hi Margaret. I am in Zimbabwe I am looking for chaya plants. Pls contact me on



Melissa Giles January 14, 2016 at 20:20

I’ve never boiled my Chaya for 20 minutes. I give it 5 minutes at a rolling boil, drain it off, add fresh water and season at that time, and boil another 3 minutes. I am not scared of hydrocyanides, just sensible. I eat my apple cores, seeds and all, they also have hydrocyanides. I would not eat a cake of pressed apple seeds, however.
Chaya is a great green because it doesn’t cook down like other greens. What you start in the pot is what you serve after cooking.


Q December 11, 2015 at 17:51

Hey Deane,

Any luck you are going to do a video on Chaya in the near future, or just a video at all?

Miss your youtube videos.


Gloria November 11, 2015 at 05:47

I grow chaya and have eaten plenty of chaya raw…….never a problem.


Eduardo Paguirigan September 19, 2015 at 00:52

So I can drink the boiled water after the leaves are cooked?


Green Deane September 21, 2015 at 10:01

Personally I wouldn’t.


Roberta January 14, 2016 at 14:40

I bought one of the varieties of Chaya here in Florida at ECHO and they supply an information sheet with a recipe. Chaya Soup is now my favorite. You cook the Chaya in the soup and there is no problem. I hadn’t thought of drinking as a tea.


Maria September 26, 2015 at 11:58

you can drink it as a tea. its very medicinal. 🙂


sadie October 24, 2016 at 02:28

everything I’ve read says yes, safe after 15 minutes of cooking


Lou ann September 18, 2015 at 15:30

I love Chaya and have eaten for a couple years. After I cook it I chop it up with scissors and then freeze a couple tablespoons in each cup of muffin pan then put all little mounds in ziplock bag. I add one mound to a smoothie along with neem leaves and everything healthy I can get my hands on. It has brought my asthma under a lot better control. I even add it to meat loaf,chili, soup, omlets, you name it . At 71 few can keep up with my husband and I. Happy eating.


Audrey March 15, 2016 at 16:36

Where do you buy it?


dave August 20, 2015 at 09:03

Oops, I did not realize your postings start with the oldest posts with newest at the very bottom? That’s why in my posting I said, no posting since 2011. my bad.
I hope that you can include my Chaya post because I don’t see any others say anything hinting of the dangers of this plant and Im not the allergy sensitive type I worked in the woods and LatinAmerica for a decade.
Thanks for your time…


dave August 20, 2015 at 08:37

Nobody added a Chaya comment since 2011? Here’s mine 2015.

Keep in mind I have enjoyed eating wild edibles for decades, Violet salads, and Miner’s lettuce, Fern fiddle heads and such. Northern species. Chaya was my first real tropical psuedo wild edible.
Here’s the painful result.

Here in Miami I tried to worship Chaya in the sense that I used it as cooked green in all recipes suitable for greens. I was excited to have a perennial highly nutritious edible green that is indestructible, just lay a stick on the ground and it grows roots!
Now the upshot.

First- RECEIVED BURNING ITCHING EYES AND SKIN every time I handled Chaya or even got near it! Both varieties!
Yet NO discomfort at all eating it after cooked.
Latex milky sap very irritating!!!
When combined with stinging hairs oh my, misery!

Second- After a year of eating Chaya (I was deterimined),

Even though it still grows in the yard, I gave up on eating Chaya and I have not had any more Kidney stone issues since a year now.
This attempt a perennial greens has failed miserably.
I hate Chaya with a passion now as it seemed to hate me even though I revered it. So much for communication with plants.

It is interesting how much some of Chaya varieties look like a Papaya! leaf, and they both exude that itchy milky latex sap that can itch the heaven out of ya. They both have hollow type stems and grow quickly. They must be related. Both itch me, papaya sap too. And I like to eat papaya. But so far papaya has not given me a kidney stone, but if I ate Papaya leaves cooked I might huh?

When I lived in Veracruz state, Mexico I came across a wild plant that looked so much like Chaya I went up to it to pick some leaves and check on it’s ID. As soon as I touched that mean plant it had stinging spines that penetrated my hand leaving itchy welts for a week!
They call this plant, MALA MUJER, or bad woman!
Chaya, the Mayans can have it!


Barb September 22, 2015 at 10:02

When I was living in Mexico, down close to the border of Belize (Mayan area), I met a man there and thought he was perhaps 19 or 20 years of age. One day he said something about his children. I asked him how old he was and he said 40. I was taken back with shock. I said, “What is your secret?” He quickly replied, “Chaya, we eat it all the time.” I wanted to see the plant but he refused to show it to me but had his mother cook some for me and it was wonderful. It tasted like she had added some garlic to it but other than a little salt, I don’t know if there was anything else in the recipe (maybe butter, but I lived in an area where there was only four hours of electricity a day) but it was so good.

I know you have to cook the Chaya for 20 minutes or it is poisonous. Perhaps you did not cook it long enough and had a bad reaction. I purchased three stalks over the Internet and was sent those three stalks wrapped in a wet paper towel and put in an open baggie. They grew into trees. Amazing! You can actually take off 50% of the leaves and it does not hurt it one bit. I found that waiting about a year to eat it will give you more tender leaves to eat. I don’t eat the branches but I guess one could if cooked enough. But I realized the branches (or stalks leading from the main tree to the leaves) were what I was sent to grow the trees.

I have also heard you can live off of three tablespoons of Chia a day if necessary and can survive. Do you know if that information is correct?

Thanks for the info and hope the 20 minutes of cooking helps and a pair of gloves for picking it will help you because it is so nutritious.


Melissa Giles January 14, 2016 at 20:10

Chia is not Chaya.


Andrea March 17, 2017 at 17:03

Actually you can eat up to five leaves per day without cooking it and have no problems.


Serena Bernstein August 8, 2015 at 17:28

I am staying in the Yucatan. I found Chaya juice here. (I wonder if I can share a picture?) I saw someone drinking the thick bright green glassful. I think it is more yummy than the other greens. It tastes fresh squeezed. I am curious why it tastes so fresh squeezed. I hope I am not getting cyanide in a dangerous amount. Almost every restaurant has some for very cheap, compared to a fresh squeezed vegetable juice in NYC. I think I will miss Chaya the most when I leave the Yucatan! I am glad to know more about Chaya because I love it.e
I was here trying to look up vitamin k levels, btw.
I have been an NP for decades; the closest I have found for fountain of youth ingredients, is nitric oxide. Blueberries are at the top of lists I have seen for nitric acid.
I have been drinking the water veggies were cooked in for decades. Supposedly, most of the vitamins are in the water, but it probably depends on factors such as cooking times. I see people cook with water they wouldn’t decide to drink. (Boiling does not fix most water problems).
For diabetes, I recommend common sense by preventing high blood sugars. There is more research all the time from many angles.
Thank you to all the people supporting butterflies and bees!


Mimi Castellanos August 3, 2015 at 13:32

I live in Central Florida. I got a Chaya sprig as a gift in an order that was late. A few weeks later, I put in in the garden. It’s doing fine! I haven’t done a thing to foster it. The instructions were: In soil, not water. It is living just on the natural rain and sprinklers and it is not the stinging kind. Once it gets big enough, I will send anyone cuttings for the price of shipping.
Thanks for all the input, the great info and language lesson and… the recipes.
I can’t wait for the butterflies. I think that it must be similar to milkweed with its milky stems.


bill August 4, 2015 at 17:50

would like to try chaya–how do I get cuttings


Kathy S October 28, 2014 at 20:49

Yay! I ate this for the first time tonight and it was quite good. And as others have said, it grows beautifully without any attention. I started mine from 3 sticks I rescued from a yard-waste pile.


agueda August 19, 2014 at 12:31

where in texas can I get some chaya plants


Green Deane August 19, 2014 at 17:41

Google Foraging Texas. He might know.


Anton R. December 28, 2016 at 19:01

Hi, I live in Trinidad. My aunt gve me a small piece of Chaya stem
and told me it is for diabetes. I dehydrate the leaves and blead them to be used in herbal medicinc for diabetes. After having this magnificent plant for over three years, I finally found out the name today (December 28th, 2016). I an greteful for all the information on Chaya. Thanks. Anton R.


Dennis June 28, 2014 at 12:38


I want to harvest it and freeze the juice from the plant. Can I juice the leaves FIRST and then cook the juice to destroy the posion, and then use it as a green drink???



Green Deane July 7, 2014 at 15:41

There’s a bit of a problem with juicing first. Cook the leaves, drain, then blend the leaves but not any of the cooking juice.


PATRICIA November 10, 2015 at 18:47

response, why would you not blend the cooking juice?. It has tons of nutrients in it. I use it all the time in smoothies, soups anything I would add water to for additional nutrition. According to what I have read, is that through the cooking process all of the cyanide is removed from the juice


Green Deane November 10, 2015 at 20:09

I can get sued so I err on the side of caution in my advice.


Barb June 19, 2014 at 12:07

I moved down to the Yucatan for about a year and when I found out the age of this one man, who was forty with a wife and two children, I asked him what was his secret for looking like he was maybe twenty. He quickly replied the Chaya Tree. He said they all referred to it like the fountain of youth, only from a tree. Where I was located was surrounded by forest and I think it must grow wild there. He did not show me the tree but brought me a dish to eat which his mother had prepared. Even after cooking it down, it was still bright green. I “think” she added fresh garlic to it as well. It was better than any dark green leafy vegetable I have ever eaten and I love spinach. It does not have any similar taste to collard greens or turnip Greeks, or even spinach. Very mild and very good. He was quite protective of the trees as he did not show me where they were located.

It is wonderful to eat. As to whether it retains a youthful appearance to those who eat it regularly in their diet, I do not know. I do know he did not look anywhere near his age though. And after researching all the nutrients in it, I would think it certainly would not age a person.

Great food and that is all I ate fr my dinner, one big plate of Chaya.


Don May 13, 2014 at 18:31

I know this is an old post on chaya, but it is still relevant. For anyone in S Florida looking for certain plants like chaya, moringa and others, check with ECHO in Fort Myers. It is a non-profit recognized for their work with addressing world hunger. They have a demonstration farm in Fort Myers, Florida and provide a wealth of information on plants and seeds. Oh, yeah! They offer many of these plants for sale and you can tour the demonstration farm and see all of the amazing plants.



Rane August 25, 2014 at 15:35

Don, yes it certainly is still relevant. Thanks for the info. I live in Collier County and will definitely check it out! 🙂


Tara March 27, 2014 at 11:10

I have this tree. Never ate the leaves yet, have been afraid to do so. I will say this tree is one of my favorites and is so beautiful. The butterflies, birds and honey bees love it. It blooms most of the year, so you’ll always have butterflies….many species too! Not to mention give good amount of food to the honey bees that are struggling to survive now a days. I recommend getting one! Oh, by the way, I live in central Florida on the gulf. Grows great here.


Brett Stebbins April 17, 2014 at 13:36

I absolutely love eating Chaya. We have a fairly large tree/shrub in our backyard, transplanted from a small branch we received from someone. I boil it for 20mins then put it in an iron skillet with bacon grease, garlic and salt. It tastes great and all my kids eat it too. We have been eating over the past year, after I read this article and did some more research to make sure. The freeze did kill all the leaves but now it has tons of deep green leaves. I just ate a plate of it today for lunch!


Nsimundele Léopold March 4, 2014 at 04:20

The plant is a new introduction in Democratic republic of Congo,used as ornamental plant in Kinshasa capital of the country and in Matadi,capital of Bas Congo province.


Karen September 6, 2013 at 08:11

Does making a tincture of the leaves in alcohol or vinegar get rid of the hydrogen cyanide?


Green Deane September 6, 2013 at 10:41

I don’t know as I am not an herbalist. Why would one want to make a tincture out of this species?


Karen September 7, 2013 at 21:09
Katherina April 12, 2015 at 08:36

Yes but most likely as a food. The study noted was based on chaya tea, and while water extracts vitamins and minerals wonderfully, alcohol does not.


Joe Kerr April 25, 2015 at 01:50


Heat is necessary to release the hydrocyanic compounds within the leaf; I do not think vinegar has the same effect, other than aiding in the extraction of minerals from the plant material.

If you are looking for ways to release the hydrogen cyanide while maximizing the vitamin content retained, I suggest using the blending technique or dehydrating at a low temperature to ensure that both vitamins and enzymes are preserved; between 110-115F should be sufficient.

Robin October 3, 2015 at 12:58

Yes, it does.


Robbyn July 29, 2013 at 16:27

My husband and I grow these, both the stinging and the non-stinging types. We have found the stinging type (for us) to be the hardier of the two, though both are very hardy compared to most plants. They grow in rainy seasons or drought and simply love the heat! To transplant, we simply cut a stem and stick it into a hole dug into the ground elsewhere and re-filled with the same soil crumbled up and put right back into the hole and then pressed lightly with the heel of our shoes. In a very dry season the cuttings might need a little water now and then for a couple weeks until established, but most of the time ours have not. This is a hardy plant that thrives on neglect 🙂 The non-flashy flowers attract butterflies a lot, especially Gulf fritillaries that dance all around the plants all summer long. They are so easy to propagate that we take buckets of stem cuttings out to our new farm and have planted them all along the roadway. We don’t mind the stinging kind…we simply wear long sleeves or gloves when handling and cutting the leaves and cutting them up. They cook up well as a boiled green that can be eaten just as greens or drained and sliced into thin strips to add to recipes just as spinach is. We have not tried drinking the boiling water as tea…now we will! We have a lot more experimenting to do with them as edibles. Frankly, they’ve been so easy and unobtrusive sometimes we just take them for granted and forget to eat them 🙂 The shape is very pleasant in the landscape, especially for wild plantings we prefer..they mingle well and elegantly and then die back in the winter, always arising again from the roots (the stinging kind moreso) once the weather gets sufficiently hot. We consider the stinging kind an asset for areas where a hot weather hedge is possible but discouraging intruders. They have no thorns…the sting is more like the rash you’d get from stinging nettles, another heroic nutritional plant we hope to grow one day 🙂


Mimi Castellanos August 3, 2015 at 13:20

Thank you for your story. Where do you live?


Sofia June 12, 2013 at 13:54

Can anyone advise how this edible plant has worked for them. Is it because the Mayans live a long, long life?


Cathy June 5, 2013 at 07:11

We grow chaya quite easily in western Kenya. In fact, I started with five small stems in early 2011 and have given out hundreds of chaya to people in our village and other areas. I will be conducting a seminar for widows next week about chaya since it is so easy to grow, available year round, a great source of vitamins, and literally free food! We consider it the miracle plant and love it share it here in a culture that likes to eat green leafy veggies as part of their daily meal.


zawadi February 27, 2017 at 05:04

Hi how are you lm Tanzania women. Can I have your contact because I need Chaya but l do know where can l get it.



Joyce E Forager May 28, 2013 at 11:09

Can dried or cooked Chaya leaves be added to dog food?


Carolalayne May 3, 2013 at 11:23

First of all, thanks for this great info. I just received cuttings from a friend, and I can’t believe I never knew about this plant before — especially since the butterflies seem to love the flowers. (I raise butterflies in cages to protect them from predators.)

I also vermicompost, and I wonder whether my worms could safely eat the freshly stripped leaves. Or should I cook them first? Any ideas?


Mimi Castellanos August 3, 2015 at 13:16

Hi Carolalayn,

I also vermicompost and the leaves are fine for my red wigglers.


Brett Stebbins April 22, 2013 at 12:28

I live in Florida and have a Chaya tree I just planted in my backyard. I also have some egg laying ducks that roam my backyard as well. I recently saw my ducks eating leaves from the Chaya tree. Because of the Cyanide will this hurt my ducks and is it safe for us to consume the eggs of the ducks after they have eaten from the Chaya tree?


Green Deane April 26, 2013 at 15:45

Birds can eat things we can’t. It shouldn’t be a problem.


Bob Loggah April 2, 2013 at 14:17

Chaya is a beautiful plant. I was given six pieces twigs by post from the USA to Wa in Ghana West Africa many years ago and they are doing well , but my goats when given the chance eat them raw.
I sometimes dry the leaves , grind them and add to livestock (goats, sheep, poltry and pigs ) meal. I am happy to read that such dry stuff can be fed to fish. Iwill try this soonest. Thanks and God bless !.


Dainty March 20, 2013 at 04:15


I am interested in knowing how your husband uses it for his diabetes, a friend recently gave me a stem which has started to grow. My mom has diabetes, I’d love to be able to have her use it when the tree matures.
I am also in Florida.


Amy K September 21, 2013 at 16:46

Chaya recipes are truly recommended for those that have diabetes, obesity and kidney stone ailments and can be found in Texas and Florida where its popularity has gained it a place in the food produce choices of markets. We hope you enjoy this rich velvety recipe, serves four people, best made with organic fresh chaya leaves:
20 tender Chaya leaves washed.
2 cups of organic whole milk
4 fresh leaves of basil
1 crushed garlic clove
1 small onion diced
1 cup of vegetable bouillon
pepper and salt to your taste.

Final Touch: 2 spoons of unsweetened cream
NOTE: You may use fresh organic spinach leaves and follow this delicious recipe.

How to Prepare: Place chaya leaves, chopped onions and crushed garlic in a pot with the vegetable bouillon and cook for ten minutes or until leaves are blanched (use mid-heat); add milk and let it cool. In a blender mix to a smooth velvety texture the remaining ingredients, return mix to pot and cook another five to ten minutes or until mixture gets really hot but does not boil. Serve hot. 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. For a zesty taste, sprinkle a bit of crush dried red chili as well.

The leaves are pretty bland, so you can add them to soups, casseroles, spaghetti sauces, salsas and salads without affecting the taste. The tiny, tender ones can go in omelets or salads or be used as garnish. The larger ones are best chopped and cooked long and slow. I’ve tried cooking them quickly, like spinach, and have not been happy with the leathery results.

For a liter of tea, use 3-5 medium size leaves with whatever blend you favor. I like two bags of black tea with two bags of mint and the chaya leaves, “cooked” in a glass bottle in the sun for a couple of hours and then refrigerated. Soak the leaves in water with a disinfectant such as Microdyn, before using, as you do fruits and vegetables.

Warning: In cooking or serving, Do not use aluminum containers, as a toxic reaction can result, causing diarrhea.

Use pottery or glass.


lourdes March 11, 2013 at 16:58

My husband uses it for his diabetes and really has helped with keeping his blood sugars normal. A friend of his gave him a small stalk and now has several trees. Grows beautifully in Florida! !


RALP May 13, 2013 at 10:01




N.C.U December 6, 2012 at 18:53

is there any plant that resembles the chaya that i should be aware of? anything close that you know of?


Green Deane December 7, 2012 at 08:17

Yes, Cnidoscolus stimulosus.


Charzie August 3, 2015 at 17:52

Is it just me or does the leaf look an awful lot like papaya? Chaya papaya…any relation? I read that papaya leaves are full of various nutrients and are being used to treat cancer and other maladies. Plants truly are medicine eh? Much better than pharmaceuticals… been there done that…no more! A whole foods plant based diet changed my health and life at 60, it’s never too late if you are still breathing! No more obesity, diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, IBS, allergies, fibromyalgia, the list goes on and on. All the “age related” illnesses are actually diet and lifestyle issues, we are all duped by profit making industries, especially the processed food and meat and dairy. We CAN eat about anything, but our physiology will suffer to a high degree over time! I had to become vegan because I was so ill, but plants are medicine for sure! It wasn’t easy, but soooo worth it!!! I went from using a motorized cart to get around, to riding a bike for fun! Adding fermented foods took it to the next level…mentally and physically! If you have health issues, please check out “Forks Over Knives” for a good place to start your journey back to the joy of living and feeling rejuvenated! Seriously, I gave it 30 days as a test and never looked back! AMAZING, and I am just one of many who have even reversed heart disease and other life threatening ailments we need not suffer from! We need to learn responsibility for our own health and welfare instead of getting ill and taking a pill. All us sheeple need to wake the flock up! lol


Alder Burns September 30, 2012 at 01:34

One of the beauties of this plant, and a few others like it (cassava and nettle come first to mind) is that it is toxic and/or irritant when raw, and harmless when cooked. Thus in crowded and unfenced subsistence systems, these plants can coexist with livestock such as goats and not be eaten up, while still providing vegetables for people.


keo August 12, 2012 at 08:10

Green, can the flowers of this tree be eaten or made into tea?


Green Deane August 13, 2012 at 09:15

I have not heard of that but I would think as long as they have been processed they could be. They do have a bit of cyanide in them which is why I recommend caution.


Sylvia September 4, 2013 at 15:35

I’ve been using only the leaves in tea, or blended with ice and lemon juice and cooked with salmon as well as other seafood for a few years now and love it.
Indigenous people in Mexico claim it has many medicinal uses as well and have used it for centuries.


Jimmie L. April 17, 2012 at 05:17

I live in kansas City, Mo. I just recently learned about the Chaya herb plant. I was extremely fascinated about the claims that I read about it. Iwould like to try my hand at growing some plants but, I would need to know the best, and closes place I could purchase them.I would also need instructions on how to plant and take care of them.Any information that you could supply me with, will be greatly appreicated. ………J>L>


Pako September 25, 2012 at 23:26

This article contains a few sources in the USA where Chaya can be ordered.


Survival Gardener/David The Good May 19, 2014 at 23:58

I carry it in my nursery.

Great write-up, Green Deane. We just harvested a big crop of leaves today. I think they’re better than collards. A nice, full flavor and texture.


zara March 26, 2012 at 15:02

I started chaya in my compost from 3-4″ twigs that a friend gave to me. They are now 4′ & blooming. I have only partial direct sun, probably less than 4 hrs, lots of mottled sun, but just like everything else in my micro-climate, all defies book-knowledge being planted in deep compost & mulched richly w/ hay, rabbit & chicken manure. I have yet to harvest them, as I wanted a 1st run season before harvest. How much can I harvest & not distrupt the growth?


Green Deane March 26, 2012 at 16:32

In an established tree, if I remember correctly, it is half the foliage. But I would start out much less than that.


aaron January 11, 2012 at 15:25

was wondering if anyone knows why or how come my spinch trees leaves are turning yellow .. pleze help me out ..


Green Deane January 11, 2012 at 15:33

The causes of yellowing are 1) normal aging, 2) overwatering 3) cold drafts 4) lack of light, 5) viral infections 6) nutrient deficiency, lack of nitrogen or too much calcium.


Marcy July 20, 2013 at 19:25

I received my cuttings in the mail. when i opened the package of course the plant and roots were hot due to the heat. the leaves started turning yellow. i put a little water around the edges of the pot as not to overwater and i also put outside which seemed to me to make it worse. it may not have but this is not a plant i want to lose. i also have other plants such as moringa and thinking of keeping it inside until next spring and see how it does from there. thanks 🙂 ~~ Marcy


mst June 13, 2015 at 10:51

maybe to much water or not enough sulphur or other vitamins,all the best


Barb August 29, 2015 at 02:27

You might be over watering them just a bit. Think of where they grow best and in those regions they normally will have a light shower once a day. I keep my Chaya trees in the shade and just barely water them. If you have them in big pots, then make sure the water can run through to the ground and not into a dish holding the pot.

Hope this helps.


Des January 2, 2012 at 16:33

I consider Chaya to be an amazing plant which is certainly under used. It grows, here in Zimbabwe, so easily and prolificaly. It withstands our weather challenges magnificently.
If properly promoted it will surely become a popular vegetable to overcome anaemia and many other health problems that are caused by poor/unbalanced nutrition.
We are bulking up planting material for free distribution with the agreement that each recipient will pass on an equal amount received to someone else.
Any advice and ideas will be welcome. The same applies to Chia – Salvia hispanica, which seems to be a gift from nature. The only real draw-back might be the seed eating birds.


Elna May 12, 2014 at 09:55

Hi, any possibility to obtain cuttings from you? I’m in SA


Cilliers de Kock September 1, 2014 at 12:43

Good day
Did you manage to get cuttings? I am also in SA, Pretoria.
Thank you.


Barb August 29, 2015 at 02:31

I would love to have some and then share with others. I try to share all that I produce of everything.

Also, on the Chia, I have heard that one can survive on three tablespoons of Chia seeds a day. Do you know if that is correct? I know they expend with water and are extremely nutritious, but wondering if that is correct about surviving on only Chia and water.

Thank you.


Colleen Wiggins October 23, 2011 at 21:09

We have heard it is edible but never have tried it. We only know that

it is easy to grow & butterflies love the flowers. We have two kinds.

One with stinging leaves. Thanks for the info. We have aregular

forest of it.


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