Chaya, Mexican Tree Spinach (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius)
Cnidoscolus aconitifolius also known as Chaya, aka 'Mayan Tree Spinach' or 'Mexican Tree Spinach', is a large fast-growing and productive perennial shrub. In Mexico, Chaya is eaten as a leafy green vegetable, and is very common. Chaya is cooked just like spinach and is excellent in stir-fries! It's a great source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron and also a rich source of antioxidants. Chaya actually has more nutritional benefit then Spinach. Chaya is quite literally, a super green!
The plant is native to Central America, and is believed to have originated on the Yucatan peninsula. The stems of the plant are woody and succulent-like, and expel a milky white sap when cut. The plant can quickly grow to a height of 15 ft if growth conditions allow, but can very easily be maintained as low as 2 ft.
Chaya leaves should not be eaten raw, as the plant contains a toxin similar to cyanide (the stuff in Apple seeds) that is toxic when consumed. Luckily, the poison is easily neutralized by boiling the leaves for 5-15 minutes then straining the water before cooking with. This process is called blanching and is required prior to consumption.