Chia Plant - The Chia that Got Left Behind

Chia Flower
            Chia Flower
       Salvia columbariae
         Photo by Michael Miller

Chia Plant - Salvia columbariae

This particular variety has been one of the edible desert plants for the Southwestern Indians here in the United States.

I grew up in the Antelope Valley where these plants probably bloomed every spring but I didn't pay much attention and didn't even know their value, until recently.

My brother, Michael, sent me some emails that inspired me to do some research into the Salvia columbariae variety of chia.

Excerpt from Michael's E-mail

"Weird thing happened.  Had some weeds pop up in the yard last year and then more again this year.  

"I recognized them from when I was a kid in Palmdale. They used to (probably still do), grow there in the desert around Palmdale.  

"Checked it out on the net - it is Salvia columbariae, the variety of Chia that was/is used by the natives of the Southwestern United States. Got me thinking about "forgotten" foods.  Ordered some "Chia" (Salvia Hispanica, the currently farmed variety), and really like it."

Now, this was interesting enough to me to get me thinking about doing another chia page, so I indicated that to Michael and...

Excerpt from Michael's Second E-mail

"I've attached a couple of pictures of the chia that is growing in my yard.  You may remember plants like these in Palmdale - I sure do.   This is Salvia Columbariae.  I'm hoping to find a large field of them close by so I can harvest some seed later on this summer."

Chia Plant
               Chia Plant
        Salvia columbariae
           Photo by Michael Miller
Here's the chia plant picture I got from him. I do remember this growing up out in the desert where we lived. You can see it looks just like another desert plant.

And this one has beautiful little flowers in the spring. But now you and I know it has something else - chia seeds!

Now, I go a little crazy with pictures. I love them. So I got really excited and started planning my next chia page.

But before leaving this one, I'll share with you a few more tid-bits from Michael.

Ideas on How to Eat Chia

Everyone should experiment a little with this new food. Here's some ideas from Michael. But these are the Salvia hispanica chia seeds, not the columbariae.

  • "Chia - we eat it raw and also cooked in stuff."
  • "I make smoothies in the morning and use 1 Tbl spoon of raw seeds as well as a couple spoons full of jell. "
  • "I grind the raw seeds into flour in my coffee grinder. Works really good. Kathy made some cookies the other day using Chia jell to replace the shortening. The cookies were the best I have tasted in years."
  • "I've added the jell to scrambled eggs and other "regular" foods."
  • "Still experimenting. I use the jell in a "cooler" in the afternoon. Here in the desert, the Chia's property of jelling and slowly releasing the liquids (and sugars), is a great way to maintain hydration and energy level in the body - which was one of the original uses for it."

What's the Difference Between These Chia Plants?

The Salvia columbariae chia seeds are not the same as the ones you find being sold here in the United States. The columbariae chia never passed the mark to be grown commercially like the Salvia hispanica did. In my book, "Discovering Chia's Secrets" I go over the difference of these two and their history. But here's what happened after I finished my book.

Since doing the research on them I wanted to see if there was a difference. Michael sent me a sample of the columbariae from his yard this last Christmas. So I was able to see what they were like.

I found them more potent than the hispanica. When doing my research for my book, this was brought out by Harrison Doyle. He had a lot to do with bringing attention to the columbariae chia here in California. From his personal tests he felt this chia provided more energy than the other varieties.

After eating the columbariae chia seeds, I could agree with his findings since I didn't want to eat much of it. I consider it was too potent for me to eat every day. I believe that the hispanica chia was a better choice to grow commercially for the variety of ways it can be eaten. I don't think it would be possible for me to put a tablespoon or two of the chia gel in my breakfast everyday. Perhaps, once every couple of weeks.

I'd be interested in knowing other people's experiences though. Let me know if you'd like to know where to get this chia plant to do some testing of your own. We all have different tolerance levels.

I'll stay with the Salvia hispanica chia seeds for now. You might want to read my story on finally finding the best brand over a few years of searching and testing.

The Best Chia Seeds - Why My Choice

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