Most of us are very familiar with plain old regular spinach, but have you ever heard of chaya spinach or tree spinach? This type of spinach is native to the tropics and the Pacific region, specifically Cuba, Hawaii, and now Florida as well. Growing as a shrub or a tree, the chaya spinach is a leafy vegetable that grows into a shrub to about 6-8 feet and resembles a cassava plant or a hibiscus flower shrub. Grown extensively for its nutritious leaves, the chaya spinach is an important part of a diet in tropical regions.
Let’s take a look at how to grow chaya spinach as well as how to care for it and consume it!
How to Grow Chaya Spinach
Planting Chaya Spinach:
- The chaya spinach or tree spinach is cold sensitive and should only be grown in warm regions.
- Most chaya spinach shrubs are grown via propagation with woody stem cuttings that are 6-12 inches long in well draining soil.
- The chaya spinach plant will take a while to grow, but after about a year, you may prune and harvest!
- Grow in shady spots, especially under fruit or nut trees.
- Spiraling roots of the starts should be trimmed so that they grow downwards.
- The planting hole should be deep enough so that the roots can hang vertically.
- Add compost or green manure to the planting hole so that the nutrients can get through.
- Pack the soil firmly around the chaya starts and mulch around the transplant to retain moisture.
How to Use Chaya Spinach:
- Chaya spinach leaves are harvested while young and used much like spinach.
- Unlike regular spinach though, chaya spinach must never be consumed raw as they are toxic. They must be cooked for at least 1 minute for the toxins to dissipate.
- Chaya spinach can be sauteed, boiled, added to soups and stews, frozen for later use, and even for brewing tea.
So now that you know how to grow chaya spinach, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to planting!