Origins of the Chia

May 2, 2009 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

priest1comezaIn pre-Columbian times chia was one of the four basic foods of Central American civilizations. It was less important than corn and beans, but more important than amaranth. Tenochtitlan, the Capital of the Aztec Empire, received between 5,000 and 15,000 tons of chia as an annual tribute from conquered nations. Chia seed was not just a food, but was also used for medical purposes and as an offering to the Aztec gods.

The use of chia in pagan religious ceremonies caused the Spanish conquistadors to try and eliminate it and replace it by species brought from the old world. The conquistadors came close to being successful in their crusade against New World practices such as growing chia and practicing various customs, as many disappeared. Corn and beans were an exception. They survived the conquistador’s efforts and became two of the world’s most important crops. However, because of its religious use, and maybe because chia was unable to adapt to production under European climatic conditions, it was pushed into obscurity for five hundred years.

Chia survived only in very small cultivated patches in scattered mountain areas of southern Mexico and Guatemala until a research and development program called the Northwestern Argentina Regional Project began in 1991. Under this project growers, commercial entities as well as technical and scientific personnel from Argentina, Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, and the USA began collaborating in the production of chia . The idea behind the project was not only to provide growers with alternative crops, but also to improve human health by reintroducing chia to western diets as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber. A number of technical papers and reports that came from this project as well as subsequent studies are referred to in other pages of this web site. These provide additional information on chia, its composition and its uses.

Source: EatCHIA


Entry filed under: Origins.

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