Chia seeds are among the world’s healthiest foods, and there is plenty of reason to include a chia plant or two in your garden.
ABOUT THE CHIA PLANT
Chia plants are well-known for their large flowers that have a delightful color scheme. When in bloom, these flowers produce tiny white – black seeds inside each petal.
Chia is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 12, which provide the ideal growing conditions for this plant. Because chia needs long nights and cool weather in order to produce flowers or seeds before frost can damage them, those who live in northern regions should cover their plants at least 12 hours every day in late summer time to boost blooming before the first frost strikes.
HOW TO GROW CHIA
Chia is a fast-growing plant that’s naturally resistant to heat, drought and disease. It needs little by way of fertilization making it very low maintenance!
The chia self-pollinates as well, so you don’t have much work going on in your garden.
Light: Chia is a sun-loving plant that loves getting plenty of exposure to direct sunlight. It’s important when deciding where in your garden space you’ll be planting this hardy crop, choose an area with 6-8 hours of sunshine each day.
Soil: Chia loves to grow in loose, well-draining soils that are light or medium textured. To prepare your land for chia cultivation just keep tilling at least 8 inches deep and you’re good!
Watering: Watering is an essential aspect of plant care. Young, seedling plants need regular watering until they are well established, and can tolerate drought conditions; mature plants only require occasional irrigation when rainfall rates fall below their needs for healthy growth.
Fertilization: When you first prep your garden bed, add in some compost or other organic matter like alfalfa. But, once this initial boost of nutrients has done its job and stabilized the soil for chia plants to grow well, it won’t need any extra fertilization ever again!
Sowing: Sow your seeds in a garden bed after the risk of frost has passed. Be gentle when patting them into soil so they don’t get damaged, and thin out any that grow too much before planting outside. To protect your seeds from birds, you can start germinating them indoors under a humidity tent. Plant them in the ground once they are 3 inches tall.
Space: Chia is a hardy annual that grows best when given 12 inches between plants. If you’re planting chias as perennials, allow 18-24″ of space for them to spread out
5 WAYS TO USE THE ENTIRE CHIA PLANT
1. CHIA SEEDS
Chia seeds are certainly a superfood that have loads of nutrition! Per ounce (about two tablespoons), chia seeds provide 137 calories with an excellent source for fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain phosphorous manganese calcium among many other nutrients too.
Chia seeds are natural. They can be eaten raw, and the saliva in your mouth will cause them to swell before they travel down into your stomach! You could also grind up chia for use with many different foods or drinks that need thickening properties – like smoothies and puddings.
To harvest chia seeds, wait until most of the flower petals have dropped but make sure they don’t turn brown.
Dry cut spikes in a paper bag, and allow air to circulate at room temperature so that your plant remains fresh-smelling without any molding growing on top! Crush dried heads on an even surface with good traction – this will release all those tasty goodies hiding within each dry bract inside its shell.
2. CHIA OIL
Chia seeds are a source of numerous beneficial compounds that can be harnessed for healthy skin and hair.
Chia oil is an excellent natural moisturizer that helps to soothe, protect and heal your skin. It also has anti-aging effects on the dermis which makes it great for wrinkles prevention!
Making your own botanical oils may be an investment, but if you’re serious about the quality then an expeller press will give you what’s required.
If not, milling chia seeds into a paste will do the trick. Using a cloth, squeeze the oils from the chia mash into a jar and you’ll have your chia oil.
3. CHIA SPROUTS
Microgreens are small, leafy plants that can be harvested and eaten in two weeks. They pack plenty of flavor for their size with nutrient density on top!
Chia seeds lend themselves well to sprouting – in fact, the hair or fur of Chia Pets are merely chia sprouts! Sprouts add a bit salty- tangy flavor that can be sprinkled on salads and sandwiches as an appetizer.
To sprout chia seeds, soak a clean terracotta saucer in water for several minutes before sprinkling about one tablespoon of the tiny black flakes over dry surface. Place this dish into your larger bowl and add enough liquid, so that it stays moist at all times.
The chia seeds will puff up when they’re wet, but make sure to drain off any standing water or else the gel-like consistency that forms is not something you want. Cover with a plate and place in a completely dark place.
4. CHIA LEAVES
Chia is not just for toppings! The leaves of this unusual plant are entirely edible and contain several antioxidants, including two uncommon ones.
Analysis has found that chia contains flavonoids like acetyl vitexin or orientin which can help fight inflammation in the body.
Chia leaves are very mild in flavor and can be used as salad bedding, added to stir fries or green smoothies. They’re also tasty when steeped with honey for a therapeutic tea that relieves pain and sore throats – just add some lemon juice if you want it extra zesty!
5. CHIA MULCH
Chia is a garden staple, perfect for fertilizing your soil. Once you’ve harvested the seeds and leaves from this plant—the leftover stems can be chopped up as mulch in order to improve its fertility! Add one inch deep in autumn for best results!
When they decompose, their decay adds nutrients to the earth which helps boost growth for next season.
Chia plants are a great defense against pesky insects! Essential oils found in the leaves and stems of chia also provide natural protection from whitefly, other bugs including fungus or disease causing bacteria.