Martin Price, executive director of ECHO, asserts, “I would consider chaya to be one of the five most important food plants ECHO distributes. I give it this rank because of its ability to thrive in both arid and rainy regions, its little need for care or extra fertility, its lack of insect or disease pests, and its exceptional nutritional value.”
A few years ago, while working as part of ECHO’s technical staff, Kristin Davis wrote about an experience with the chaya plant in Kenya (see below). Kristin is now in a PhD program at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
In addition to Kristin’s report, we want to share what some members of our network had to say about chaya after we asked for feedback in issue 72 (July 2001) of ECHO Development Notes.
For years we have referred to chaya by the scientific name Cnidoscolus chayamansa. However, we recently learned from Mr. Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra at the University of California-Riverside that the scientific name of chaya has been changed to Cnidoscolus aconitifolius ssp. aconitifolius. This latter subspecies contains many wild varieties and four main cultivated varieties of chaya, including the cultivar ‘chayamansa’. There are significant differences in levels of cyanogenic glycosides among cultivated varieties. Chaya is closely related to Manihot species (e.g. cassava) and Jatropha species.