Chaya also known as Jatropha aconitifolia or Cnidoscolus Chayamansa is similar to spinach and even richer in iron. This plant was well known to the Mayan culture and is still available in some parts of Mexico. The chaya leaves are used medicinally, as well as a cooked as a vegetable. The leaves are typically quite large measuring on average about 5 to 6 inches from edge to edge.
A 3 1/2 ounce serving of cooked chaya provides 9 percent protein and 7 percent carbs. It is also high in calcium, phosphorus as well as vitamin B1 and B2.
You can add the chaya leaves to soups, stews and a variety of egg dishes. Additionally the leaves are also used as a tamale wrapper or a tamale filling but they must be cooked through before eating. A popular dish is Chaya Con Huevo, simple eggs scrambled with cooked chaya leaves, onion, garlic, green bell pepper, tomatoes, and a little fresh hot chile.
If you have a recipe that calls for chaya leaves but you can't find them then either of these alternatives will work well:
You're not likely to find just the leaves in your grocery store. Depending on if you are in an area with a good-sized Hispanic population you may find them at a farmer's market. You can purchase plants online if you'd like to grow your own. This site offers some great growing tips here. There are a few sellers on Amazon that sell them. The plants like rich soil and can easily be grown in a pot with some good purchased potting mix. They can be planted in the ground too if you have garden space. We have seen a seller on Ebay that sells the leaves only if you want to purchase them online.
First, you should trim away the stems which tend to be very tough. Rinse the leaves then shake them off and place them in a saucepan. Cover the leaves with boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes until the leaves are tender. Once cooked, the leaves are ready to add to your recipe.