Tree Spinach Cuttings
Tree Spinach Cuttings – Chaya, commonly known as “tree spinach”, is a perennial shrub and an excellent source of vitamins, fiber, proteins and enzymes. As a year-round source of high-quality food in a wide range of conditions, it could be one of the most important edible-leaved plants in the tropics. Chaya requires little maintenance and is widely cultivated in Mexico and Central America. In Costa Rica, it’s also known as “chicasquil”. Unfortunately, most locals only know it as an ornamental or living fence-line.
Tree spinach grows around 3 meters tall, with a thick main stem up to 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. It can be cut and kept at a height of around 1-2 meters for easy harvesting. Chaya was long used by the Mayans of the Yucatan Peninsula as a food crop and a medicinal plant. The name “chaya” is derived from the Mayan name “chay”.
How To Grow Chaya
Chaya is easily propagated by stem cuttings. Make a 6-12 inches cutting from a woody part of the stem and be sure that there are at least a few nodes on the cutting. Remove all leaves and let the cutting air dry for a 2-3 days. This will allow the cut ends to seal, making them less susceptible to rotting. If you’ve ever propagated moringa, the process is much the same.
When you’re ready, put the cuttings in the ground with 1-2 nodes under the soil and keep moist. Don’t over water, or the cutting will rot. You can also start them in pots or starter buckets first and the transplant them if you’re concerned about them rotting. Chaya is cold sensitive and should be started at the beginning of a warm season. It does fine as an understory shaded plant, so northerners may be able to grow them indoors and bring them outside in the spring. If you have an aquaponics system, don’t both trying to propagate chaya in it, the cuttings will just rot. I’ve tried repeatedly in gravel media without luck, but they might work well in a wicking bed setup.
Inside the stalks there is a white latex sap that can irritate the skin, so gloves are recommended if you’re going to do a lot of chaya choppin’.
After 3-6 months you’ll have a strong chaya plant ready to harvest from. Transplants can also be planted in an established legume living ground-cover. Perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi),which is common in Florida and Costa Rica, is an ideal living ground cover. This is particularly favorable planted on slopes to prevent erosion and control weeds.
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