If you, like I was, are absent to the appearance of a chia plant, they are tall, brilliant purple-flowering organisms belonging to the mint family.
“Chia” is a Mayan word translating to “something that makes you strong”.
Chia is best known nutritionally for its high content of Omega-3 fatty acids, which assist in digestion and toxin removal. Unlike flax seeds that also contain similar nutrients, there is no need for chia to be ground in order to absorb the desired content. Chia also contains B-vitamins, niacin and thiamine, among others, and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels while offering healthy energy for daily activities.
Originating from Mexico and Guatemala in the 1500’s, the Mayans famously incorporated the crop into their diet nearly as much as they did maize. The flowers grow on spikes reaching over 1.75 meters tall. The seeds themselves are oval, around a mere 1 mm in size. There are over 60 known varieties, including the black and golden types.
Plants are typically suited to sub-tropical climates, meaning that any product purchased in Canada must be imported. Luckily, newer strains have become more tolerant, heading further north and specifically are grown in large quantities in the United States, where their transportations requirements are simplified. Chia is actually well-suited for poor soils, and in fact thrives in areas that have been recently burned by fire.
Chia is a hydrophilic seed, meaning that they can absorb a lot of water content- in fact up to 12 times its own weight when soaked. This has resulted in the incorporation of many chia-based beverages and gels. Chia can also act as an egg replacer, a topping, smoothie ingredient, cereal additive, or mixed into breads or crackers.
The leaves of chia plants can be consumed in teas, assisting with fevers and other pains while calming nerves and strengthening memory. The famous Chia Pets use the exact plant that is cultivated; over 500000 are still sold yearly.
The crushed dried flower heads extract their seeds quite easily- the expensive price that currently plagues consumers is actually due to a shortage in chia production as of late. The increasing popularity of the seed in recent years has not been matched by farmers yet, but this promises to eventually change, especially with ambitious American cultivators appearing.
Because chia is simple to grow organically devoid of serious growth threats, it goes without saying that all chia should be grown in such a manner for the benefit of the planet, and our personal health.