Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

There's a lot of info about Chaya on YouTube  (LINK) --if you are keen on the research.

I'm still waiting for my cutting -- so I amuse myself with possibilities.

Of the YouTube fair -- I thought this one was very useful as it explores Chaya primarily as  tree -- even as a bee and butterfly attracting shade tree.

Grown from cuttings. How easy is that!

Chaya out-performs most other green leafy vegetables nutritionally.

I see Chaya as a companion kitchen green to Katuk and Okinawan Spinach.


The leaves are prepared much like spinach. Chaya must be cooked, however, because of the presence of cyanogenic glucosides. A recent study in Guatemala (Molin a Cruz, et al. 1999) of different ways of cooking chaya* found that boiling in water for 10-15 minutes removes toxins to below harmful levels. Boiling with salt added to the water resulted in less loss of Vitamin C from the leaves. The stock or liquid the leaves are cooked in can also safely be consumed as HCN (Hydrogen cyanide), the principal toxin leached from the plant, is volatilized during cooking. The Guatemalans also found that the HCN toxins were removed by pressure and steam cooking, as well as frying (no less than 5 minutes) and microwaving for 10 minutes at 550 watts in a small amount of water.This last method resulted in the least loss of Vitamin C compared with all other methods. (LINK)

Views: 1014

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Read the discussion link Dave, it was very interesting reading, do you microwave your leaves.  That recipe with ginger and garlic sounds tasty.  The need to vaporise with cooking is not a hassle as we boil most of our brassica  veggies anyway.  Thanks for sharing.

No I've not microwaved the leaves.

Must do.

You can boil Chaya for about 10 minutes, with a bit of salt to preserve vitamin c levels, steam, fry, or microwave for 10 minutes and that will remove any toxins from the leaves.

My Chaya plants are now harvestable, so I'm eating the leaves more often.

Despite the rider than you need to cook them for 20 minutes before eating, they are -- among the 'spinaches' -- one of the tastiest greens I've eaten.

Given that this is a tree that grows to 6 metres --  but is usually kept trimmed to 2 metres -- in height, you'd be able to keep a lot of Popeyes happy.

Mine are still small (picture at right), but I'm looking forward to growth. Maybe not as big as the image at left, below.

...but big enough to feed me ++++...and whoever.

I do eat a lot of greens. Not the salading kind but plenty of Okinawan spinach, Warrigal Greens, and Katuk.

I'd rule that Chaya tastes the best. Yes, even better than my beloved Okinawan Sp -- Gynura crepioides -- despite the extra prep time required.

And it's a big leaf you get to pick and I've not found any taste or texture difference between young and old leaves after prep.

I planted my first chaya in the chook pen and it has taken over a year to consolidate. Now with a couple of cuttings under way, I'm more regularly supplied. Indeed, come to think of it, I should move the first planting  so I can more easily get to it.

Growing tree spinach is cold sensitive, so it should be started at the onset of the warm season. Chaya spinach tree is propagated via woody stem cuttings that are 6-12 inches long in well draining soil. It takes some time for the chaya to establish but after the first year, the plants may be pruned and harvesting commenced. Sixty percent or more of the foliage may be removed with no damage to the plant, and in fact, will promote bushier, healthy new growth. For the home gardener, one plant is sufficient to provide plenty of chaya. Spinach tree care for the home gardener is fairly simple. Chaya spinach is an understory species in forests and as such is ideal grown in shade under fruit trees or palms. Water the chaya canes thoroughly before transplanting. Read more: How To Use Chaya Plants In The Garden

If you are wondering what to do with Chaya in the kitchen here's an eclectic collection of options: Chaya Recipes for the Whole Family.

My fav spinach greens in order of delight:

  1. CHAYA: has to come out as #1. Despite the 20 minute cook time, taste and texture are a delight. I'm stripping the small trees I have in my quest for gluttony. I'm trying to generate as many separate plants  as possible so I can start selling on the cuttings. Aside from Vetiver this is my evangelical plant: every home should have one.
  2. OKINAWAN SPINACH: I love the easy cook, ready on hand and taste of this plant. Not as vigorous as its cousin, Longevity Spinach, but I'm into the taste and gelatinousness in a big way.
  3. WATER SPINACH:I find this one pretty much tasteless but it takes up umami sauces and soups so very well. I love the hollow stems. If you want  a stronger version of this sort of leaf versatility, use Sweet Potato Leaves
  4. WARRIGAL GREENS: This native is a tasty morsel for the feedbag.Won't grow all year for me here, but the closest I come to the texture of English Spinach a la any spanikopita preferences.
  5. KATUK: I've got several Katuk bushes. Pleasant enough taste but the leaves stay a bit firm when cooked. And don't take up flavours.

My disliked spinach greens in order of distaste:

  1. MORINGA: I may eat it sometimes but aside from its bitter taste, it so very difficult to separate the leaves from the stem.
  2. LONGEVITY SPINACH: Only if I'm desperate! OK to fill out a dish but you don't want to add it for flavour.
  3. CEYLON SPINACH: Not likem at all.
  4. BRAZIL SPINACH: No thanks.

I don't mind SILVER BEET -- but it is a resistant grower in my garden.I prefer the stem rather than the green leaf.

KALE I feed to the chooks.

I like EGYPTIAN SPINACH when I grow it. I love the way it performs when cooked.

I also use PIPER LOLOT as a spinach. Gives a wee kick to a dish and grows feral outback.  Leaves are slow to soften in  a dish. So slice them thin. This is why the Vietnamese use them to roll meat mixes in.

So it goes...

But CHAYA -- chaya is magical.

The Chaya plant offers extraordinary attributes as a food crop: potential year-round yields; highly nutritious; tasty; productive; minimal pest or disease susceptibility; tolerant of diverse growing conditions; easily propagated; perennial; handsome foliage; fragrant flowers that attract butterflies, moths and bees; useful forage for domestic animals. -- LINK

Hey Dave I was given what I thought was Chaya but now realise its Australian tree spinach. Are you familiar with this? 

Well, sort there is a plant called 'Tree Spinach' (Chenopodium giganteum) and it is very frustrating that it is often confused with Chaya.

In my initial researches I was confused.

But it isn't Australian either -- but related to quinoa.

Pictured left is Chenopodium giganteum.

There's also 'Mexican Tree Spinach' usage...referring to giganteum.

I think the reason for the mix up is that Chaya is little known or appreciated and must usually be grown from cuttings as the seeds are so fickle to sprout. So it isn't easily distributed, and at present supplies are either very low or empty.

Ceylon Spinach or Malabar Greens is sometimes referred to as 'tree spinach'.

The joke is really, that the only true tree is Chaya -- so it is best to call it, Chaya.

FYI: we had Chaya leaves cooked one of the traditional ways the other night: fried up with scrambled eggs. I usually use nopales with eggs, but the pre-boiled chaya leaves were delicious!

On the Yucatan peninsula, the Maya mix precooked chaya leaves into their tortilla dough. That's something I am looking forward to.

Hey Dave, took a picture of the plant, you might know what it is.

There are a couple of species of Chaya -- one with fine hairs. The leaves supposedly are maple leaf like -- and they are.


When the plant is still young or leaves are forming  they do adopt different shapes like in your image -- and your photo looks like my 'saplings'.

When the leaves form the maple leaf pattern they can become quite big -- like 15cm across. Until then, they throw out leaves that are smaller and less structured.

I have picked only a few maple leaf shaped leaves.

The complication is that I so keenly harvest most of the leaves to eat. Impatience is not good botany.

This is my original sapling which looks so much like yours. Note the stem.Green that gradually hardens. The new, smaller and mottled  leaves on your plant are also Chaya alike.

But the Aibika looks like that too. Abelmoschus manihot tree spinach aibika beli.

And looking at that, sure looks like yours...and it too is called 'Tree Spinach'. Although it was once called a hibiscus.

It also has Australian context:

Abelmoschus manihot comes from tropical Asia south to northern Queensland. The name of the genus is believed to come from the Arabic “abu-l-mosk” in reference to the smell of the seeds and the specific epithet is in reference to the tapioca and cassava plant Manihot which comes from the Brazilian name manioc that was used for for cassava. It was formerly considered a species of Hibiscus. Other common names include Sweet Hibiscus, Edible Hibiscus, Palmate-leaved Hibiscus, Sunset Muskmallow, Sunset Hibiscus, Okra (though true okra is Abelmoschus esculentus), Hibiscus Spinach, Lettuce Tree and Queensland greens.

I have a feeling this is it. Was told it was Australian Tree Spinach. Will still have to plant chaya beside it. The Nepalese are powering along. Picked about 20 paddles on the weekend for folks from the stfc to try. Everyone liked it, that was a mistake as now heaps of folks want cuttings to grow their own.

Good that you have folk from Nepal labouring in your garden!

The trick with nopales cactus is to keep trimming it, even across large paddles, and new nopalitas will form along the cut.

The smaller the nopalita the better. I don't bother harvesting the big paddles as they need to be boiled to soften the skin. But they do grill up really well.

Grilled cactus is great on the bbq.

I let mine get too big so the harvest is up too high. I let it grow for look and shade. My neighbour wants it shading his work area. A metre tall is the farming approach. Needless to say any cut you drop will likely sprout.

I should point out that the cactus is most likely Opuntia cochenillifera f. variagata . Apparently this spineless variety is 'rare'.

AKA:Velvet Cactus, Warm Hand Cactus, Cochineal Cactus, Velvet Opuntia, Nopales Opuntia, Nopal Cactus.

It has purported health benefits and it was used that way by the Maya.

Since you don't want prickly pear to go feral, I've not found any animal -- bird or mammal -- eating the fruits which are pretty tasteless, spine haired covered and seedy. 

I used to drown the offcuts, but now I mulch them and suppress any sprout in the mulch. Walking or stamping on them will suffice.

At first look, I would say it is an aibika, which I think is also called Queensland Greens.  All these non botanical names are confusing.

Aibika has 4 leaf types as you will see on Green Harvest Website.  They are all called Abelmoschus manihot and the 4 leaf types are "Deep Cut, Large Round, Large Vee and Red Stem",   I have had all four but now left with Large round and red stem.  

Chaya leaf is different to all of these in colour and shape. 


Important note about adding photos:

Always add photos using the "From my computer" option, even if you are on a mobile phone or other device.


  • Add Photos
  • View All


  • Add Videos
  • View All

Place your business add here! ($5 per month or $25 for 9 months)

Talk to Andy on 0422 022 961.  You can  Pay on this link

© 2021   Created by Andrew Cumberland.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service