Don't be fooled by that sad-looking Chia Pet -- They say those seeds are good for you!
Ch-ch-ch-CHIA... Everyone knows what I'm talking about: The Chia Pet is quite possibly the cheesiest gift you could be so lucky to receive, besides of course the lazy man's light switch known as The Clapper (Interestingly enough, both are sold by the same company. Coincidence? I think not.)
But apparently, there's more to the Chia Pet than watching the clay bust of a special edition Chia Obama sprout a green fro -- people eat the seeds, and have been for thousands of years.
more after the jump
The hippie history:
These seeds, which are a member of the mint family, were a huge component to the Aztec and Mayan diet: the four main crops cultivated were corn, amaranth, beans, and chia. The seeds were eaten in lots of different ways: whole and raw, mixed with water, ground into flour, or pressed for oil. Aztec warriors would survive on just chia seeds and water during their quests across the desert, and the seeds were often surrendered to the gods in religious ceremonies.
Why am I eating this again?
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson and one of the forces behind the menu at True Food Kitchen, chia seeds are very similar to flax seeds because they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. They also help aid the digestive process while containing a hefty amount of fiber (25 grams of chia = almost 7 grams of fiber), and provide essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
You can find Chia seeds online or in the supplement aisle at any health food store, but like anything that is rumored to be good for you, these suckers are expensive -- usually around $10-15 a pound.
It is as simple as a sprinkle to incorporate the seeds in your diet, and many people do so on their cereal or yogurt in the morning. Or, get a little more exotic with it: A popular
drink in Mexico and parts of Central America is known as chia fresca: a mix of the seeds, water, lime juice and sugar. Dr. Oz has even mentioned the seed on Oprah, and featured a recipe for pumpkin and chia seed muffins -- and I know all you pumpkin fiends are looking for any excuse to use the orange squash.
The crunchy conclusion:
Trouble opening my chia bag created a chia explosion all over my kitchen - great first impression (and I'm still finding little tiny black specks everywhere).
I recovered and started simple: I mixed a tablespoon in a small glass of water and let it cool in the fridge, leaving me with a gelatinous, gloppy, kinda-crunchy liquid an hour later. It didn't taste like much at all; the seeds had a very faint nutty flavor but the texture of the goop was freaky enough to entertain me for a while.
About 20 minutes post-goo consumption, I am sitting on the couch with my sister reluctantly watching my first episode of Glee (side conclusion: definitely no Gleek here) when there is a rumble so loud my sister pauses the DVR and looks quizzically at me.
"Was that your stomach?"
Yes, as a matter of fact it was. Those seeds sure do work fast -- I was very lucky my feet moved just a little faster that day.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.