chaya leaf

Pronunciation: [CHAY-yah]

The leaf of a fast-growing shrub that's native to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. In Mexico and Central America it's prepared and eaten much like spinach is in the United States, which may be why it's sometimes referred to as tree spinach. Chaya leaf dates back to the Mayan culture, where it was valued for its health benefits. Studies show that it's actually richer in iron, calcium, potassium and other vitamins than spinach. The chaya leaf, like yuca, is toxic unless cooked. In addition to its use as a vegetable, the leaves can be used to make tea.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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