The easiest plant in the garden. Bugs don’t bother it. Propagation is as easy as breaking a piece off and sticking in the ground. It’s super high in nutrients. Move over fussy spinach. Chaya is my new best friend.
Traditional leafy greens like spinach are notoriously hard to grow in Hawaii. If the bugs don’t get ’em, the heat or sun does, and so we are left with Swiss Chard (pretty easy); some collards (different varieties for different areas) and Tree Spinach, or Chaya.
Compared to other leafy greens, Chaya is at least two times higher in protein, calcium, iron and vitamin A. It can help regulate blood sugar in diabetics and is a good source of anti-oxidants.
How do you eat it? It is crucial to COOK the chaya, boiled or steamed for at least 20 minutes to remove the toxicity of the raw leaves. However, after boiling, you can consume the water as a tea, and it’s quite tasty with a bit of honey or mint added. Then, simply eat the cooked leaves as they are, or add some coconut oil and salt. I’ve cooked the leaves and added them to omelets, chopped up in marinara sauce and friends have prepared dolmades with them.
There’s a few places on Oahu to get this awesome plant. Best bet is to search Craigslist for “underground” nurseries propagating it, or better yet, ask around. It might be that your neighbor has some and you can just take a few cuttings.