Monday, July 9, 2012

The Maya and Chaya



Colorful Caribbean Cocktails
Colorful Caribbean Cocktails at Xcaret

Caribbean cocktails are famous for being colorful, sweet and delicious. Many times you can’t even taste the alcohol hiding within. They rouse memories of turquoise water, sandy beaches and tangy tropical fruits. 

I discovered an array of beautiful, refreshing and fun drinks when I visited the  Riviera Maya in Mexico. Interestingly, I kept encountering one drink that was touted for his medicinal purposes. 

A cocktail that’s good for you?  Really?

The drink I am referring to included Chaya or Mexican spinach.  That may sound horrid but I swear -- it was yummy. The foamy green drink had an uplifting zing to it. Actually, it reminded me of kiwi-based Shrek juice that I was treated to at Gaylord Palms.  

The Chaya Plant
According to the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City, ingesting Chaya will:

            Improve blood circulation,
            Help digestion,
            Improve vision,
            Disincline veins and hemorrhoids,
            Help lower cholesterol,
            Help reduce weight,
            Prevent coughs,
            Augment calcium in the bones,
            Decongest and disinfect the lungs,
            Prevent anemia by replacing iron in the blood,
            Improve memory and brain function and
            Combat arthritis and diabetes.
   
   
That’s a pretty impressive list; no wonder Chaya has been called the Mayan miracle plant. I’m also told that Chaya is rich in protein, iron and a powerful source of potassium and calcium.

Mayan Margarita , Chaya
A Maya-Margarita with Chaya at Yaxche Restaurant
The “Chaya” drink is made from cooked plant leaves (grown in the Yucatan peninsula) that are mixed in a blender with fresh orange juice, pineapple juice or lemonade and ice. Tequila, rum or vodka can also be added to this thirst quencher.

Cooked Chaya leaves are also used to wrap tamales, in boiled or fried dishes, and as pizza toppings. Cooking is vital to inactivate a toxin found in the raw state.

The Maya have used Chaya in their healing practices for centuries and Chaya trees can be seen growing around Mayan temples. 

With all that goodness, bring me another Maya-margarita please.

Read this and other food blog stories on Wanderfood Wednesdays.

Multi-colored drinks at Mahekal Resort

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