Chia seeds are the edible seeds of either Salvia hispanica or Salvia columbariae. Both flowering plants are members of the sage family. But, hispanica is native to central and southern Mexico. Meanwhile, columbaria is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. Chia seeds have been around for hundreds of years. Perhaps, since the pre-Columbian times. It has become a staple food in Mesoamerican cultures. And while it is native to its hometowns, it has been brought and commercially marketed through other parts of the world.
Nevertheless, these oval-shaped seeds are gray in color, with black and white spots on its body. Even though it only ranges 1 mm in diameter, it can grow up to twelve times its weight when liquid is incorporated. Hence, this is what gives chia seeds its distinctive gel-like texture. In its raw form, however, the seeds are crunchy and dense like poppy seeds. Likewise, it also provides a mild and nutty flavor that compliments both savory and sweet dishes.
Chia Seed Trivia
- Chia seed is a superfood. It is one of the most nutritious foods in the world. It has 30% more antioxidants than blueberries, 24% more fiber than flaxseed, 8 times more omega-3s than salmon, 6 times more calcium than milk, and 2 times more potassium than bananas.
- Chia seeds can be used as a face mask; it works to hydrate the skin so well. Just mix two tablespoons of chia seeds with a tablespoon of lemon juice and half-a-cup of coconut oil and spread onto your face. Leave it for 15-20 minutes for optimum results.
- Long before the resurgence of chia seeds, there were chia pets. These were American-style terracotta figurines that produce chia sprouts on its hair within two weeks of being taken care of.
Chia Seed Buying Guide
Chia seeds can be easily found in almost any grocery store. But, it can be quite confusing to know which ones are good. Not to mention that there are a lot of adulterated ones out there, which aren’t beneficial to our body. Thus, here are some helpful tips on how to buy chia seeds:
- Chia seeds can be found in the healthy food, nuts, or seeds aisle. Some large grocery stores also showcase these in their self-serve section.
- Buy whole seeds instead of ground. Whole chia seeds have a longer shelf life and its nutrients are more protected. After all, you can always ground chia seeds on your own anytime.
- Buy the ones that come in either black or white color. Brown chia seeds are immature and contain very low nutrients; thus, avoid getting this one.
- Buy the ones that say “100% pure chia seeds.”
- If possible, buy the ones that are “organic” or “chemical-free.”
- Since the FDA hasn’t approved China’s processing methods yet, avoid chia seeds that are manufactured in this country for now. Instead, look for chia seeds that are made from Mexico or Ecuador.
- Think twice if you found chia seeds that are cheap.
- As always, edible seeds from local food vendors and artisans in farmers’ markets are better than the mass-produced ones. Here, you’ll get close to no preservatives and the ingredients are usually organic. Their products are also made in small batches and you might be able to get free samples along the way. Feel free to check some of the local producers here at our Texas Real Food website.
Chia Seed Production & Farming in Texas
Chia plants thrive in the USDA Zones 8-12, covering more of the southern regions of the United States. Thus, such plants can be grown in the state of Texas, especially in parts like McAllen, Corpus Christi, Laredo, San Antonio, Houston, and Austin.
It is easy to grow chia plants organically, as the natural compounds found in its leaves can prevent most bugs. However, these plants are prone to whiteflies. Herbicides are also not recommended to be used as the plants are quite delicate. Instead, growers tend to weed out unnecessary sprouts manually. And, once the purple flowers start to dry out, not when it’s already brown, it is now time to harvest. Once harvested, transfer the seeds in a cool, dry, and dark place and follow the storage instructions down below. Meanwhile, don’t worry if you were not able to harvest your seeds on time as they will self-sow in the next season.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Fortunately, most of the store-bought chia seeds are pure and organic. However, some conventional chia plants are sprayed with chemical pesticides, fungicides, and even chemical fertilizers. These substances soak in the seeds and cannot be washed off. Thus, it’ll always be better to buy the ones without chemicals.
Chia seeds are commonly sold by the pound. They’re sold in pouches, paper bags, plastic jars, or canisters.
Enjoying Chia Seeds
Chia seeds can be consumed raw. It actually makes a great and healthy snack. But, they also make a wonderful addition to water, juices, salads, cereals, yogurts, or smoothies. When mixing chia seeds with liquid, remember the 1:3 ratio. Add a tablespoon of the seeds for every three tablespoons of water. This superfood is also a great way to increase your daily fiber; the recommended two tablespoons a day already makes a big difference. Meanwhile, ground chia seeds are traditionally used in baking. Moreso, it makes a good vegan alternative to eggs. Thus, for every egg that the recipe calls for, replace it with a tablespoon of chia mixed in three tablespoons of water.
Home-cultivated chia seeds should be kept in a sealable and airtight container like mason jars. Same as the unopened, store-bought ones, they should be stored in a dark, dry, and cool place away from sunlight and away from hot and humid zones like stoves, grills, or ovens. Following that, they can last for two years more than its best by date. However, to prevent volatile oils from penetrating the seeds, which can result in oxidation and rancidity, transfer it to the refrigerator once opened. There, it can retain its freshness for another 3-4 months. For optimum results, press the air out of the pouch and tightly seal it. Chia seeds can also be frozen to prolong its shelf life, which could last up to a year.
Let’s use Chia Seeds!
Indeed, it’s very easy to finish a pound of chia seeds in a week. It’s convenient to just simply add a tablespoon or two to anything. But today, we’re going to step up a bit and create something amazing. Below is a quick recipe for overnight chia pudding that only takes 5 minutes of your time – the same time it’ll take for you to finish eating it. Yes, it’s that good! And it’s a perfect treat for those who are trying to lose weight too!
Yield: 4 servings
- ½ cup dry chia seeds
- 2 cups low-fat milk or unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup fresh, mixed berries, chopped
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Optional: sliced almonds or unsweetened coconut flakes
- Soak the chia seeds in milk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, take the mixture out of the fridge and top with the rest of the ingredients. Serve chilled and enjoy!