Chaya: The Spinach Tree

 Cnidoscolus aconitifolius: Tree Pot Herb

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

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 four 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 the same 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 30 years, surviving several light freezes. There are also two plants in Mead Garden in Orlando, the one above in Longwood Fl., and I have seen it in the wild north of the fishing pier at Ft. Desoto in St. Petersburg.

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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{ 105 comments… add one }
  • Colleen Wiggins October 23, 2011, 9:09 pm

    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.

  • Des January 2, 2012, 4:33 pm

    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, 9:55 am

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

      • Cilliers de Kock September 1, 2014, 12:43 pm

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

    • Barb August 29, 2015, 2:31 am

      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.

    • Matebesi JD January 23, 2018, 7:33 am

      Found your posting accidentally but I got interested. I am a horticulturist and a trainer. I would like to multiply this plant for further distribution. Can I get the cuttings and from where? I am based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

  • aaron January 11, 2012, 3:25 pm

    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, 3:33 pm

      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, 7:25 pm

        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, 10:51 am

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

    • Barb August 29, 2015, 2:27 am

      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.

  • zara March 26, 2012, 3:02 pm

    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, 4:32 pm

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

  • Jimmie L. April 17, 2012, 5:17 am

    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>

  • keo August 12, 2012, 8:10 am

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

    • Green Deane August 13, 2012, 9:15 am

      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, 3:35 pm

      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.

  • Alder Burns September 30, 2012, 1:34 am

    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.

  • N.C.U December 6, 2012, 6:53 pm

    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, 8:17 am

      Yes, Cnidoscolus stimulosus.

      • Charzie August 3, 2015, 5:52 pm

        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

  • lourdes March 11, 2013, 4:58 pm

    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, 10:01 am



  • Dainty March 20, 2013, 4:15 am


    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, 4:46 pm

      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.

  • Bob Loggah April 2, 2013, 2:17 pm

    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 !.

  • Brett Stebbins April 22, 2013, 12:28 pm

    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, 3:45 pm

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

  • Carolalayne May 3, 2013, 11:23 am

    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, 1:16 pm

      Hi Carolalayn,

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

  • Joyce E Forager May 28, 2013, 11:09 am

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

  • Cathy June 5, 2013, 7:11 am

    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, 5:04 am

      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.


    • Shikuku January 23, 2018, 8:47 pm

      Hello Cathy,
      I am from Western Kenya,would love to get a few stems. Please share your contacts.

  • Sofia June 12, 2013, 1:54 pm

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

  • Robbyn July 29, 2013, 4:27 pm

    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, 1:20 pm

      Thank you for your story. Where do you live?

  • Karen September 6, 2013, 8:11 am

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

    • Green Deane September 6, 2013, 10:41 am

      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, 9:09 pm
        • Katherina April 12, 2015, 8:36 am

          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, 1:50 am


            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, 12:58 pm

      Yes, it does.

  • Nsimundele Léopold March 4, 2014, 4:20 am

    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.

  • Tara March 27, 2014, 11:10 am

    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, 1:36 pm

      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!

  • Don May 13, 2014, 6:31 pm

    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, 3:35 pm

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

  • Barb June 19, 2014, 12:07 pm

    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.

  • Dennis June 28, 2014, 12:38 pm


    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, 3:41 pm

      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, 6:47 pm

        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, 8:09 pm

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

  • agueda August 19, 2014, 12:31 pm

    where in texas can I get some chaya plants

    • Green Deane August 19, 2014, 5:41 pm

      Google Foraging Texas. He might know.

      • Anton R. December 28, 2016, 7:01 pm

        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.

  • Kathy S October 28, 2014, 8:49 pm

    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.

  • Mimi Castellanos August 3, 2015, 1:32 pm

    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, 5:50 pm

      would like to try chaya–how do I get cuttings

  • Serena Bernstein August 8, 2015, 5:28 pm

    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!

  • dave August 20, 2015, 8:37 am

    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),
    I PASSED A SMALL KIDNEY STONE! I collected it and had it analysed, CALCIUM OXIDE/OXALYIC ACID.

    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, 10:02 am

      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, 8:10 pm

        Chia is not Chaya.

      • Andrea March 17, 2017, 5:03 pm

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

  • dave August 20, 2015, 9:03 am

    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…

  • Lou ann September 18, 2015, 3:30 pm

    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, 4:36 pm

      Where do you buy it?

  • Eduardo Paguirigan September 19, 2015, 12:52 am

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

    • Green Deane September 21, 2015, 10:01 am

      Personally I wouldn’t.

      • Roberta January 14, 2016, 2:40 pm

        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, 11:58 am

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

    • sadie October 24, 2016, 2:28 am

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

    • Arlene Mccormack May 12, 2017, 12:02 pm

      I am wanting some Chaya seeds. I was born in Belize an we ate it all the time, I am into herbal medicines am wanting some seeds to grow my own.

  • Gloria November 11, 2015, 5:47 am

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

  • Q December 11, 2015, 5:51 pm

    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.

  • Melissa Giles January 14, 2016, 8:20 pm

    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.

  • Margaret Tagwira March 11, 2016, 3:45 am

    Hi S.A. ladies,

    I have Chaya plants. I am in Mutare Zimbabwe.

    • Diane October 25, 2016, 6:08 pm

      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, 8:13 am

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

    • Shandu Gumede March 30, 2017, 4:56 pm

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


  • Nelson Anderson March 24, 2016, 4:29 pm

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

  • MerLynn December 11, 2016, 9:15 pm

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

    • William December 15, 2016, 11:11 pm

      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, 5:05 pm

        Do you mean internationally?

  • idy December 21, 2016, 9:53 am

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

  • Agnes Rapau January 31, 2017, 3:02 pm

    chaya spinach the best

  • zawadi February 27, 2017, 5:08 am

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


  • beck March 3, 2017, 12:11 pm

    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, 12:13 pm

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

      • Kevin April 6, 2017, 1:12 pm

        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, 6:37 pm

          Does it sting you?

          • Kevin July 3, 2017, 3:00 pm

            No the leaves or sap doesn’t sting me. During a heavy storm a few weeks ago, the tree fell over due to the height and shallow rootedness of this tree. I did take a stem cutting and planted it at that time. I stripped all of the leaves off and within 2 weeks there was new leaf growth and now 3-4 weeks after planted the leaves are full sized and I think it grew a few inches already. The stubby cutting it showing more growth than the whole tree showed and maybe it’s because the beds around my house are crappy fill dirt the builder must have used and when dry it is like concrete. I tilled the soil where I planted the stub and it is doing well. I’ll probably cut a bunch to replant and properly prepare the soil this time adding compost and biochar. Still a little afraid of eating the leaves knowing it contains cyanide. I do recall eating raw leaves when I first got the plant a year ago (not knowing the toxicity of the raw leaves) but I didn’t die, but glad I did research as I would have been using it in my smoothies everyday like I do with malabar spinach and cranberry hibiscus.

    • Green Deane March 8, 2017, 7:02 am

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

  • Penny April 19, 2017, 6:12 pm

    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.

    • Bee October 28, 2017, 3:19 am

      Thank you for the links. Your work is inspirational!

  • Dan June 29, 2017, 6:37 pm

    We live in central florida and have it growing in a multiple areas. We eat and drink it daily. If grown in pots you need atleast a 7 gal preferrably 15 gal a good compost mix with manure and pine bark mulch. Echo has alot of info. We have a registered nursery and we are promoting healthy eating edible land scape it does need cold protection and takes 2 years to get well established, but then it only takes 2 or 3 plants to provide all you can eat or drink. We have plants for sale on site at our resource center, but all you need is a 10 to 14 inch stem it can set for a month or two cut and in the shade and stick in ground and it will grow.

    • Jan July 8, 2017, 1:18 pm

      Please identify name and address of your nursery. Live in Clearwater and trying to find edible plants to replace grass and non-natives. Large yard and very new to gardening. Thank you.

    • McLaughlin Richard August 4, 2017, 3:29 am

      Very informative article and your comment was encouraging. Would really like to try growing the planting in a greenhouse where the temperature can be controlled.
      Will be living in N. Idaho Panhandle. But, will be able to control the environment for the plant.
      Please send me contact information , and purchase information.
      The nutrition components reads fantastic, which is the motivation for starting this project.
      Thank you very much!

  • Kevin July 3, 2017, 3:10 pm

    I read that you should not cook leaves in an aluminum pot. What about a typical pot that is nonstick coating over what I am guessing is aluminum? Isn’t this what 99% of all cookwear is these days?

    • Green Deane July 4, 2017, 4:40 pm

      You want to avoid bare aluminum pots.

  • Karen Eaker July 5, 2017, 11:09 am

    Wow! I would never be brave enough to try eating this plant. I had a childhood encounter with Bull Nettle (C. texanus ) which sent me to the hospital. I know that this is different but it’s in the same family and looks enough like a giant Bull Nettle to give me the heebie jeebies.

  • Gina Hulse December 6, 2017, 3:29 am

    I have a tree in my yard that I suspect is a type of chaya. I recently also planted some cuttings of the typical chaya, but would like to know if the other tree is chaya. I took a picture of a leaf anf wish I could post it so someone could tell me yay or nay. I know that it can be used to make tea, and the tea is supposed to keep you warm in the wintertime, but I am not sure if it a type of chaya or not.

    How can I post a pic? Would love to know.

    Thanks, in advance.


    • Green Deane December 6, 2017, 7:16 pm

      You can post it on the UFO page of the Green Deane Forum (unidentified flowering objects.) Or send it

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