Monday, December 21, 2009

Chaya/Mayan Tree Spinach

We read about this plant only this summer, and ordered a start, which was pretty small. At different points it looked a little puny, but even so it withstood the heat really well.

It turns out that this plant should reach a quite tall and broad shrub size. We're not sure how long that'll take. It's not the sort of plant that can be pruned to a formal hedge shape, but since we're not exactly formal hedge folks, we're hoping to propagate some more through cuttings to achieve a loose, informal grouping that can be used as a cut-and-come-again source of edible leaves.
I did find out (since I'd forgotten) that the leaves are NOT edible raw...there are toxins that shouldn't be eaten, but, as with some other types of subtropical plants, they are neutralized if the leaves are cooked. And like so many other tropical leaves, they are described as tasting "like spinach" when cooked. We haven't gotten to that point yet. Let's see how this one weathers We'll also see how it does as the temps dip, and whether frost kills it back. Many of our plants we lost last year came back from the roots (except ALL the papayas and coco plums, wahhh), so we're hoping that's the case with this one if we go down that same road this year.

We'll probably put several layers of cardboard down around it this year before the heat sets in, to help keep the bermuda from choking it out. It does not like standing water or damp roots, so it's in an area that dries out fast.

I'll report back when we taste-test it one of these days. It is said to be hardy in zone 8 and warmer. If it's hardy AND tastes good, it's a keeper :) Will keep you posted....


Meems said...

I'm so happy that somehow I stumbled across your blog as it looks as though you are in FL. Yay... another Fl 'growing' blog I can visit. I'm guessing somewhere in central or a little north? We haven't had any thirties yet down here in Tampa Bay... just high forties last night... nothing to fear. I got my first cutting of chaya from a friend this past summer. It roots easily from cuttings. Its little white blooms are fabulous butterfly magnets as well as all the wonderful characteristics you mentioned. I've not tried eating the leaves yet though.

I look forward to getting some great tips from you as you have so much land to cultivate. What fun. (and work)
Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

P.S. I'm going to add you to my Florida Garden blog roll.

Robbyn said...

I'm glad to meet you, too! I'll be looking over your gardening posts to learn specifically about Florida gardening...I still can't get the hang of having 4 totally different planting seasons back to back :)