Chaya Facts

Chaya Facts
Chaya, also known as spinach tree, is bushy plant that belongs to the spurge family. It is native to Central America (Yucatan peninsula). It has been introduced to Puerto Rico and Hawaii, where it grows in abundance today. Chaya prefers hot, humid coastal areas, but it can easily survive in dry and arid areas, exposed to full sun or in the partial shade. It is resistant to various insects and diseases, but it is susceptible to frost and strong winds. People cultivate chaya as a source of food and in the ornamental purposes.
Interesting Chaya Facts:
Chaya grows in the form of shrub or small tree that can reach 10 feet in height and 6.5 feet in width.
Chaya has succulent stem filled with milky sap that leaks from the stem after injury.
Chaya has three to five-lobed leaves with toothed edges. They are dark green colored, equipped with long petioles and alternately arranged on the branches.
Chaya produces white flowers arranged in branched clusters. Each flower contains either male or female reproductive organs.
Chaya blooms from spring to autumn.
Fruit of chaya is three-sided capsule covered with stinging hairs.
Chaya rarely produces fruit and seed and it mostly propagates via stem cuttings.
Scientific name of chaya: "Cnidoscolus", means "a thorn that sting a little". Name refers to the sharp hairs that can be found on the stem and leaves of some wild varieties of chaya (leaves of commercial varieties are smooth).
Chaya is an excellent source of proteins, vitamins A, C and vitamins of the B group and minerals such as calcium and iron.
Nutritional value of chaya is much greater than nutritional value of spinach and Chinese cabbage. Leaves of chaya are better source of vitamin C than orange.
Leaves of chaya contain toxic substance - cyanide and they need to be cooked before consumption (15 minutes of cooking destroys toxin). Pots made of enamel, steel and clay can be used for cooking, while aluminum pots should be avoided to prevent creation of toxic substance that induces diarrhea in humans.
Chaya is often used for the preparation of lasagnas, pizzas, tortillas or dishes made of rice, beans and eggs. Large leaves are used for wrapping of food. Small quantities of raw chaya are not harmful for humans. Drink made of raw, blended leaves of chaya mixed with pineapple and orange juice is often consumed in Mexico.
Dried chaya is often used as food for pigs, chickens and turkey and as a fish meal.
Chaya has numerous beneficial properties. It can improve circulation, digestion and function of eyes and brain. Chaya can also decrease blood cholesterol level, keep arthritis and diabetes under control and prevent anemia.
Chaya is perennial plant (life span: more than 2 years).

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