About Bellingen Seedsavers

We are a group of like-minded growers of edible and useful heritage plant varieties in the Bellingen area of northeast New South Wales, Australia.

Our climate varies from frost-free coastal areas to inland river valleys and highlands with frosts. Bellingen has an average annual rainfall of 1507ml.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Food Shortages? Try Chaya Tree Spinach

With projected food shortages now is the time to plant Chaya Tree Spinach and other edible perennials.

Chaya Spinach Tree
3m high Chaya Spinach Tree

Chaya Tree Spinach (Cnidiscolus chayamansa) is a fantastic and abundant food. Chaya leaves do need some cooking preparation as do Cassava leaves and Warrigal Greens. Wikipedia states up to 5 raw leaves a day can be eaten but other sources are more cautious. Although blending and drying also seems to remove the toxic hydrocyanic acid substances, boiling for 20 minutes is recommended. The leaves survive the boiling still looking green and attractive. The broth that is left can also be consumed as the toxic substances have been destroyed by the heat.

Cooking in aluminum cookware can result in a toxic broth, causing diarrhea.[13]


You are left with tasty green leaves to use as a spinach or chard substitute or to be used in a salad and smoothies.


"Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron; and is also a rich source of antioxidants.[10]" Wikipedia


The plant does burn off a little from cold but seems to survive well in a microclimate in our warm temperate-subtropical climate. There are reports that Chaya will regrow from the root after Florida's frosts. In colder climates try growing in a greenhouse.


Leafless stem cuttings are best left to dry and callus before potting up. Keep the cutting reasonably dry to avoid rotting. 

Chaya Spinach Tree leaves for cooking
Chaya Spinach Tree Leaves


The Chaya Spinach Tree (a large bush) fits well into a vegetable patch. It takes up a small ground footprint and provides some shade to other vegetables). We can reach the leaves from our deck or cut a branch that will later become a cutting.




A useful green vegetable for the subtropics
Cooked Chaya leaves,along with Carrot and Starfruit in a quick pickle before refridgeration



Credit: https://www.bioversityinternational.org

Chaya can be used as a chard substitute in many recipes but here is a link to some Chaya recipes: Cooking subtropical vegetables 

Related: Other Food Forest recipes

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