As reported previously, Natural Products Expo West was abuzz with new-to-market superfoods. Yet one in particular has garnered a great deal of curiosity for its nutritional merit, incredible versatility, and unique modern history. Decades ago I recall sitting in front of the TV, listening to ch-ch-ch-chia pet jingle that still rings clearly in my head. In the 70’s that little wonder plant captured the attention of millions, but now it is the seeds that we are enthralled with … and for good reason …
Though it is relatively new to the United States for general consumption, the chia seed has solid roots in Mexico and South America. Chia seeds boast a good ratio of protein (20%) and fiber (25%), a higher concentration of those wonderful Omega-3’s (64% – even outshining the average flax seed), significant levels of antioxidants, and a great “free-from” profile (including no gluten).
But what does one do with these miniscule little seeds?
Amazingly, chia seeds are one of the most versatile foods that our test kitchen has ever come across. They worked marvelously as an egg replacer in our first recipe creation, Banana Chia Muffins. But the real test came with the second recipe. Hannah Kaminsky, author of the popular dessert cookbook My Sweet Vegan, pushed the limits by using chia seeds in place of eggs in a Clafouti. We were skeptical, since this traditional French dessert is quite dependent on dairy and eggs. Yet, to everyone’s surprise the vegan, chia-based Clafouti performed perfectly, and was positively delicious … devoured in a matter of minutes.
Chia seeds are also excellent in raw food dishes, and unlike nuts and grains, they require very little soaking time. Within a matter of minutes, whole chia seeds soften to a very edible consistency, plus their size allows them to be easily ground to add to smoothies and no bake desserts. An interesting new raw food product that takes advantage of the chia seed’s quick prep time is Chia Goodness, a very hearty breakfast cereal by Ruth’s Hemp Foods.
Boasting such high qualifications, we do expect the chia seed to be “the new flax seed” for many years to come. Try this little powerhouse in the following dairy-free recipes.