(Salvia hispanica var. ‘Chia')
Chia is a frost tender annual herb that is native to Mexico and northwestern South America but can be found growing throughout the southern United States. At maturity, this plant reaches the height of 48” and features 1 ½ -3 ¼” pointed, textured green leaves with serrated edges, and purple flowers that cluster on spikes. This plant can be grown in a container, attracts bees, butterflies, and predatory wasps, tolerates drought, is edible, and self sows!
Native to: Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua.
Introduced into: Austria, Bahamas, Bolivia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Florida, Germany, Great Britain, Jawa, Spain, Texas, Venezuela.
Grown as: Annual
Maturity (Blooms): July to August
Light: Full Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry.
Attracts Beneficial Insects?: Yes. The bright purple flowers attract bees and other pollinators. Chia also attracts beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps that can help with biological control of other pests in the garden or on the farm.
Containers?: Yes. If you intend to grow chia in a pot, it is important to anticipate the size of a mature chia plant when choosing the pot size.
Sow Depth: On soil surface.
Produces: 1 ½ -3 ¼” pointed, textured green leaves with serrated edges, and purple flowers that cluster on spikes.
USDA Zone: 8-12
Successful collection of chia seeds without waste has a lot to do with timing. When growing chia at home, it is possible to pick individual flower heads when they look ready instead of doing a mass harvesting like they do in a commercial growing environment.
If you wait until the flower head browns, you risk losing the seeds.
Begin harvesting your chia as soon as most of the petals have fallen off the flower.
Give the heads time to dry in paper bags or on a drying rack. Expect at least some of the chia seeds will break free in the process.
Do not hang the plants upside down in your shed.
Chew Chia Seeds:
You can chew chia seeds, releasing their nutty taste, as a snack on a busy day. They swell a little as they absorb saliva, making them soft and ready for the journey to your stomach.
Soak and Drink:
Soaking the seeds first in water or fresh juice makes them even easier for your body to digest. Wait long enough for the seeds to swell. Chia seeds have appetite suppressant qualities and are useful for dieters.
Add Chia to Milkshakes and Smoothies:
If you enjoy a summer smoothie or your kids like milkshakes, add some chia seeds for extra energy. You probably won't notice them as you drink, but the goodness will be there!
Sprinkle Chia Seeds Over Food:
Chia seeds can be sprinkled over breakfast cereals, jam on toast, or a nice fresh salad. When I serve my home-made pumpkin soup, I add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle chia seeds over the top of each bowl.
Eat Chia Sprouts:
Sprouting chia seeds increases their vitamin content and makes them even more nutritious. Just like sprouted alfalfa and mung beans, chia sprouts are a great addition to a salad.
Drink Chia Tea:
The leaves, fresh or dried, make a relaxing and therapeutic tea. Chia tea has traditionally been used for fevers and pain relief, to relieve arthritis and respiratory problems, as a gargle for mouth ulcers and sore throats, and to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you want to sweeten your chia tea, use a healthy sweetener like honey or stevia.
Add Chia to Bread Mix:
When baking bread, toss a handful of chia seeds in the mix. This is not the healthiest way to eat chia because essential fatty acids are at their best when uncooked, but it makes the bread a little lighter and provides a nice change in texture.