Chaya Spinach Tree – Food Forest Permaculture

I’ll admit that I was at first very reluctant to order the Chaya Spinach Tree.  In fact, I never ordered it — it came as a “bonus” plant.  I’m glad I planted it and gave it a chance because this is probably one of the most amazing plants out of our entire food forest.

Pros of Spinach Tree

  • Needs zero fertilizer and water input.
  • Leaves can be harvested and cooked for dinner within 30 minutes.
  • Grows very quickly and is propogated easily by cuttings.
  • Pest free (so far)

Chaya Spinach Tree, antidiabetic, antimutagenic, antioxidant Free food securityChaya Spinach Tree Uses

Spinach substitute, leaves must be cooked first which is why I was reluctant to have such a plant on our land with our children and animals.  The leaves should NOT be eaten raw.

There are many outstanding uses and claims for chaya including antidiabetic, antioxidant, and antimutagenic (mutations can lead to cancer).  These claims are actually supported by scientific articles like Antioxidant, Antimutagenic, and Antidiabetic Activities of Edible Leaves from Cnidoscolus chayamansa.  That particular article supported these properties of the Chaya Spinach Tree, but stopped short of calling the evidence conclusive and instead called for repetition and more research.

Personal Experience

LIke I mentioned above, I was reluctant to plant this because it contains cyanide in the leaves which boils off after cooking.  On our first harvest, I did not chop the leaves before cooking at the family and kids loved it.  It tasted just like spinach but was a little thicker.  On our second harvest, we chopped the leaves then boiled for 20 minutes.  It was completely indistinguishable from regular spinach.

Propagation of Chaya

Cuttings – Cut a six inch portion of the stem off and stick it in some dirt.  It will grow, slowly if you don’t give it any fertilizer or water, but very quickly if watered regularly until established when it will need no help.

Future Plans

I want to plant about 7 or 8 of these around our house so that we can harvest a family sized meal portion one or two times per week.  I also want to give a few of these to some family with concerns about diabeties.

Cons of The Chaya Spinach Tree

Dies in a freeze to ground, but will come back in the spring

Leaves contain cyanogenic compounds.  Eating too many of them raw could make you ill.


This is a must have tree for any food forest or permie.  5 out ot 5 stars for the lack of care needed, easy propogation, and healthful weekly contribution to family dinners.  Explore other fruit trees for a food forest.

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