Friday, October 4, 2013

Survival Plant Profile: Chaya

Greens aren't all that interesting to me. That doesn't mean I cut them out of my life... but they're not as exciting as big piles of roots or amazing homemade grits.

Some greens are better than others, of course.

For instance, I firmly stand by the mathematical postulate that mustard greens > collards.

Moringa leaves are good in soups. Bidens alba greens are fine in stir-fries... and turnip greens are about as interesting to me as the 1974 Bowling Championships.

Yet there is a green I find quite enjoyable. So good, in fact, that I will sometimes cook up a pot and eat them as a meal. That green, as you've hopefully guessed from my title, is chaya. I think the flavor is similar to a mild and sweet broccoli. It has a nice chewiness to the cooked leaves I also find enjoyable.

Chaya is in the same wild, wonderful, beautiful and often toxic family as cassava. It also contains high levels of cyanide, so you need to take care not to eat it raw, even if you want to. Just don't. Stop. Put it down. NO!

Boil leaves for 20 minutes, then enjoy them. They're apparently ridiculously good for you and full of vitamins, which makes sense to me since they taste hearty and delicious.

Growing chaya in Florida is a cinch if you can find cuttings. Cuttings root in a month or so when it's warm. Just stick them in moist soil and wait. They're not as fast as cassava but they'll usually take.

I've seen chaya wild down in South Florida, but in the northern half of the state you're not likely to come across it. Where I live it freezes to the ground every winter but will usually return from the roots and rapidly shoot for the sky. Once you get a couple plants, it's easy to make more.

A young chaya bush. This one has been harvested multiple times.

Bugs don't seem to bother my chaya plants (CYANIDE!) and they grow decently even in poor soil. I've planted them in full sun and in almost full shade and they've lived in both places, though the ones grown in shade are thin and leggy.

Grab some chaya, tuck a few into your yard... and you'll have great perennial greens for years to come. This plant's a winner.


4 Spuds

Name: Chaya, tree spinach
Latin Name: Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Type: Perennial shrub
Size: Can grow to over 15'.
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Medicinal: No
Cold-hardy: No
Exposure: Full sun/part shade. Sunny is the best.
Part Used: Leaves, tender new shoots
Propagation: Cuttings
Taste: Excellent
Method of preparation: Boil leaves for at least 20 minutes.
Storability: Poor
Ease of growing: Easy
Nutrition: Excellent
Recognizability: Low
Availability: Low


At October 4, 2013 at 9:51 PM , Blogger stevo_61 said...

No mention of kale. Kale>mustard greens. By the way, about half of my red potatoes came up that I planted maybe a week before you. I'm surprised that many came up. It was just too hot at the time.

At October 7, 2013 at 2:37 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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