Meet one of the most well-known salvias: Salvia hispanica. The name may not mean much to you, until you learn that this is the plant that produces chia seeds. The common name for Salvia hispanica is chia, and it’s the plant responsible for yielding crops of highly nutritious chia seeds, which are also used for sprouting Chia Pets.
The name chia comes from a Mayan word that roughly translates as “something that makes you strong.” That phrase certainly describes the nutrition-packed seeds of Salvia hispanica. These seeds boast high levels of essential fatty acids (omega-3s) and contain high fiber levels—around 10 grams per ounce (that's about two tablespoons).
Salvia hispanica is native to Mexico and Guatemala, but it’s raised commercially in areas of South America and Australia. Chia seeds are small and oval and can be black or white. The Aztecs and Mayans are said to have relied heavily on chia seed as a sustenance food during hunting and harvesting periods.
Seeds aren’t the only part of Salvia hispanica worth munching. Sprouts are also edible, and you can sprout seeds for edible sprouts, just like alfalfa or sunflower sprouts. Use sprouts in salads or sandwiches. The growing shoots of Salvia hispanica are edible, too, and work well in salads and sandwiches. Or try them with basil for a nutritious pesto, serve them in soups or omelets or toss them into stir fries during the final moments of cooking.
Growing Salvia hispanica is easy. Like many salvias, it thrives in full sun in well-drained soil. Too much water leads to root rot, so locate plantings of Salvia hispanica away from areas where automated sprinklers hit. Pinch plants when they’re young to encourage branching and more blooming shoots.
Salvia hispanica is hardy in Zones 9 to 11. In these areas, plants should flower and produce seed. Chia is a short-day plant. This means that plants need long nights to produce flowers and set seed. In northern growing areas, the short days needed to trigger flowering don’t occur until too late in the season. As a result, frost often arrives before plants can flower.
Flowers on Salvia hispanica open along a spike, like other salvias. The petals have blue-purple tones. To harvest seeds, gather spikes when most of the petals have fallen. Don’t wait for spikes to turn brown, or you’ll lose a lot of your seeds. Place spikes in open paper bags to dry. Don’t bundle and hang spikes upside down because seeds will ripen and fall onto surfaces below.
Store chia seeds in a tightly sealed container with desiccant packs. Chia seed tend to absorb moisture and if they do so in storage can start growing a mold that’s not healthy to consume.
Editor's Note: The content of this article is provided for general informational purposes only. Be cautioned that some plants can be poisonous, and poisonous plants sometimes resemble edible plants which often grow side by side. It is the responsibility of the reader, or the reader’s parent or guardian, to correctly identify and use the edible plants described. HGTV does not guarantee the accuracy of the content provided in this article and is not liable for any injury resulting from use of any information provided.