since 2013


The chaya plant or tree spinach, is a large, fast-growing leafy perennial shrub that is believed to have originated in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. It has succulent stems which exude a milky sap when cut. It can grow to be 6 meters tall, but is usually pruned to about 2 m for easier leaf harvest. It is a popular leaf vegetable in Mexican and Central American cuisines, similar to spinach.

The leaves should be cooked before being eaten, as the raw leaves contain a high content of toxic hydrocyanic acid. Up to 5 raw leaves can be eaten a day. To be safely eaten, the required cooking time is 5–15 minutes.



Another way to detoxify the raw leaves is soak them in a vinegar solution for 20-30 minutes, or blend the leaves and let the puree sit for 20 minutes. Just a few raw leaves might not make you sick, but don’t eat them in quantity. Cyanide is not good for your health.

I started growing chaya in 2013 from 2 cuttings. In the 2019 growing season, I had 4 small trees in 5-gallon buckets. I have to bring them indoors during winter because they are not completely freeze-resistant, can survive in USDA zone 8b or higher. (Puerto Rico, Hawaii, parts of FL, AZ and CA.)

Cuttings are hardy and likely to take even without leaves. I prefer to leave them a few leaves, but it is not required. That way you can make 5-6 cuttings from a 3-ft. branch.

Established plants tolerate neglect even in the desert, but if you want to harvest regularly, you'll need to keep it moist but not wet. Chaya produces more at least 3 times more greens with a higher nutritional value than spinach or any other known vegetable.


This is what you need:

  • chaya cuttings, 5-10"
Pic1: my 4 chaya trees, end of 2019 season



Pic2: chaya cutting — 2016-10-26
Pic3: rooted cuttings — 2016-11-05
Pic4: young leaves — 2013-09-10


Mayan chaya cream soup

Recipe adapted from a recipe by Chef Josue Cime on THIS PAGE.

One of the easiest recipes for chaya. Since chaya has to be cooked anyway, this is a good way to get started.


This is what you need for 2 servings:

  • 20 tender chaya leaves, washed
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cup of vegetable bouillon
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 4 fresh leaves of basil
  • S&P
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cream



Pic6-8: detoxifying chaya

Final Touches: