Rediscovering Chia

PB070010 lowresI wrote and published this post originally on 10th May 2011. The Chia seeds and seedlings below grew into enormous plants with late-blooming stunning blue flowers lasting well into November that year! They formed no seeds though and the next year’s plants from the same seeds weren’t so good (chia plants are annuals). Chia seeds are a currently popular ‘superfood’. And they are pretty energising. Having some in my breakfast this morning reminded me of those amazing plants. This post isn’t really about superfoods, though.

I Have Discovered Chia

P5107052This of course is untrue. A statement worthy of Columbus. As if Chia did not exist before I came upon it. Which it clearly did, because it has been growing in the place we call Mexico and all the way down to South America since way before 1492. Despite its given Latin name of Salvia hispanica. There is another Chia, Salvia columbariae, (I think that is to do with doves, by the way, not Christopher) that grows in the Southwestern states. But that’s a different plant.

I don’t know what it is with sages. The lovely Mexican Fiery sage (that’s one of its English common names – another is Red Mountain sage) was known as Salvia oresbia until someone decided in 1991 it needed changing to Salvia darcyi to reflect its modern ‘discoverer’. I’ve been growing it since I collected seeds from a herbalist’s garden in Arizona ten years ago and I keep it going by cuttings. It’s awesome. And now blue Chia has joined its red relative downstairs in the conservatory.

So what’s all this about? Well, last week Charlotte gave me a packet of Chia seeds for my birthday. She told me to close my eyes whilst she placed the packet in my hand. I was so exited when I saw them I didn’t know what to say. This is the endurance food of the Tarahumara, a people famous for their ability to run long distances in hot desert conditions. I put the equivalent of a teaspoon in my mouth. And chewed. They swell up immediately and are crunchy as well as mucilaginous. And quite delicious. Taken as a drink they are a stimulant, but I haven’t tried that yet.

In Aztec times the seeds of Chia (from the Nahuatl chian meaning ‘oily’) – were used as a form of currency to pay taxes. A direct link between food and value and the natural world.

And what about planting some? I checked out an old Horizon Herbs catalogue for sowing instructions. Easy, germination in 4-8 days. TWO days later and the little pots were full of sprouted seedlings. I’ll post an update later in the Summer when they’re in flower. I don’t think seed from plants grown here will be so full of soluble oils and fibre, but it’s been a hot Spring so far. Who knows what the Summer will bring? And whether Chia will be a plant for the future in these changing climes.

And talking of changing climes and why it’s vital to really value the natural world and recognise that all our lives depend on the living earth first, which should not be held hostage to untrustworthy governments, the free market global economy or our own apathy, take a look at this. (May 2011)

Pics: Chia flowers (later that year); Chia seeds, Mexican Fiery Sage, old Horizon Herbs catalogue, Chia seedlings

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