Boy, is it hot! The local produce suffers in the heat; the heat makes the water spinach and lots of other greens very bitter. One plant we are turning to more and more is Chaya, also called spinach tree.
We put the handful of chaya cuttings that we got from a friend down into a bucket of water for a couple months and basically forgot about them. When I finally remembered to check on them, they had developed a nice root system, so we planted them behind our back veranda. For 2 years now we have been harvesting chaya leaves. I started routinely harvesting them about once a week several months ago when all the greens we bought at the market were quite bitter from the heat. All except the chaya, which thrives in the heat and has no bitterness at all. I'm actually rather puzzled about how to describe the taste of chaya. It is mild, but has an almost meaty hint to it that spinach and other greens I am familiar with lack. Maybe this is because it has higher protein content than spinach does. Anyway, the taste is pleasant and mild, almost bland.
I harvest only the newest, still-glossy leaves since the older leaves can be quite tough - even after boiling for 15 minutes! Chaya is incredibly nutritious, packing in a lot more nutrients than traditional spinach. One draw-back is that when raw it contains a cyanide generating compound, which fortunately is destroyed by boiling for 12-15 minutes.
I usually boil up a couple of cups of chopped leaves, which yields about 3/4cup of cooked chaya. The leaves are sturdy enough that they stay intact through the boiling. After boiling, draining, and cooling the chaya, I usually put in a baggie and store it frozen until I am ready to cook with it. You can use it the same way you would for spinach - in soups, enchiladas, scrambled eggs, spaghetti sauce, or added to casseroles.
A couple of nights ago, I added chaya to a creamy cheese sauce that I made to put over baked potatoes. I also put in a couple of red jalapeño peppers to give the sauce a little extra kick.
The hotter the weather, the louder the adult cicadas sing - at least that is I learned growing up in Georgia.
I saw this cicada on the outside of the veranda screen and it stayed still long enough for me to get my camera and immortalize it. They are sure loud these days.
|We were given a hand full of cuttings several years ago that were the start of this big clump of Chaya.|
|Freshly harvested chaya leaves ready for de-stemming and chopping.|
|Boiling the chaya.|
|Chaya in creamy cheese sauce.|
|Chaya cheese sauce over pan-seared turkey sausage bits atop baked potatoes - a meal in bowl.|
The sauce was very tasty. In retrospect, I could have added more chaya. Next time.
Besides bitterness to greens, the hot weather also brings out the cicadas. I had been noticing empty cicada exuviae still clutching knee-level vegetation when out on my morning runs. I got a photo of one, only to realize when processing it that the nascent adult had not yet emerged.
|Last larval stage of a cicada. I think the nascent adult is still inside.|