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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

We have concluded our farm and garden trial of chia as a cover
crop and so are no longer providing free chia seed
Thank you to all of our cooperators. 
Read below for more information on chia and our results.

Chia (Salvia hispanica) was the third most important food of the Aztecs in the time of Cortez (behind corn and beans and in front of amaranth), and has long been an important crop in Mesoamerica for the unique nutritional qualities of its seed.  Chia fresca is a popular regional drink, and the Mexican state of Chiapas is named after the plant.  Global interest in chia seed as a food* is based on its high content of protein, ω-3 fatty-acids, and complex carbohydrates, as well as the gelatinous, moisture-retaining qualities of the seed which make it useful in baking and in clothing the American pop-culture “chia pet.”

Chia as pictured in the Florentine Codex (Fray Bernardino de Sahagun 1575-1580, "A General History the Things of New Spain", Book 11).  See his text here.

Although chia is grown for its seed in tropical and subtropical regions (Mexico, Central and South America, and more recently northern Australia), the plant grows vigorously in higher latitudes, but unfortunately seems not to bloom until very late (October in Maryland) regardless of planting time.  Although it has value in suppressing weed growth, it seems not to be of value for pollinator enhancement north of subtropical areas. 

 

 

Other cover crops such as buckwheat, mustards, and phacelia, may prove useful.  We have concluded our farm and garden trial of chia as a cover crop and so are no longer providing free chia seed.  Thank you to all of our cooperators.

 

* this link leads to an external site which does not relate to USDA.

 

 


Last Modified: 11/30/2014
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