CHÍA

Mexico is the center of origin and domestication for chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) and chan (Hyptis suaveolens). In Nahuatl, chian means “plant for oil extraction.” Chia cultivation among Mesoamerican peoples was possibly the third largest by volume, after corn and beans. The seeds were offered to the gods, were tribute, were a medium of exchange, and were used as food and medicine. Chia was an energy source for long journeys as well as sustenance for warriors, combined with corn. Toasted and ground, chia seeds are made into flour, and were used to prepare pinole and other beverages; they could be stored for long periods and easily transported over long journeys. Craftsmen of the day used chia oil to prepare paints as well as a sort of varnish that lent brilliance and durability to objects.
Yet despite its importance, other cereals introduced by the Spanish conquistadors replaced chia and it nearly disappeared from urban mestizo tables during the colonial period.
Today chia’s place in the Mexican diet survives in the nation’s South Pacific and Southern Highlands regions, where it is both cultivated and consumed. Oddly, Mexico’s largest chia producer is located in the Central Highlands region (Jalisco).
Chia is an herbaceous plant with red (male) and white (female) flowers; fruits take on an oval capsule shape that contains numerous oval, gray-to-reddish seeds, rich in mucilage, starch and oil.
The seeds possess the greatest concentration of Omega 3 fatty acids among all plant sources, plus numerous antioxidants, proteins, fiber and beneficial carbohydrates; daily chia ingestion benefits cardiovascular health, aids digestion, boosts immunities, improves joint mobility and functionality, and enhances energy and concentration levels.
In Mexico, one way to prepare and consume chia seeds is in the form of a natural fruit ade. The seeds are soaked in water to release their mucilage, then added to vegetable, citrus or other sweet fruit juices. Chia seeds can be used to prepare atole, tamales, artisanal breads, salsas or to serve as a garnish.
Tender shoots (stems, leaves) are widely used as a raw vegetable ingredient in salads, or cooked into soups or stews.

Recipes

Green shrimp aguachile
Agua de chía con limón