Research indicates that Chia was widely cultivated and given as tribute in many Aztec provincial states at least 1,000 years ago. Economic historians also suggest that it was a staple food that was grown and consumed as widely as maize (the original corn of the traditional North American indian).

Chia is a zone-hardy annual herb growing up to 5 feet tall. Its flowers are purple or white and are produced in numerous clusters in a spike at the end of each stem. Typically, chia seeds are small, mottle-colored with brown, gray, black, and white. The seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. While soaking, the seeds develop a mucilaginous coating that gives chia-based beverages a distinctive gel texture.

The growing cycle length for chia varies over cultivation locations and is influenced by elevation. The cultivation of Chia requires light to medium clay or sandy soils, as it prefers well-drained, moderately fertile soils. Chia is a short-day flowering plant, which has traditionally limited farming of chia seeds to tropical and subtropical latitudes, mostly in Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. However, new patented varieties are being tested for planting in Kentucky and in northern latitudes of the United States. It is also grown in Australia.

Chis is well known as a “Superfood”. It is said that a handful of Chia seeds can sustain a Bolivian person for 24 hours. In Iran, Chia seed (“Tokhm-e-sharbati”, meaning “beverage seed”) is used to prepare a sharbat (cold beverage). The gel from ground seeds may be used to replace as much as 25% of the egg content.

Chia seeds may be added to other foods as a topping or put into smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, and bread. A serving of Chia seeds is a rich source of B vitamins, thiamine, and niacin, as well as a good source of the dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.



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