I have a confession to make. I ate my kids’ Chia Pets—and they were good. I can see now that it might seem a bit wicked: Me content and absentmindedly humming the “ch-ch-ch-chia” jingle as I picked and chewed the sprouted seeds from the clay kittens. But I had to taste them, and once I did I just really couldn’t stop.
It all started with Christmas. I was completely flummoxed by the commercial implications and toxic ingredients inherent in the slew of potential gifts. But it’s hard to compete with Baby Alive, and honestly, I just couldn’t bear the same crestfallen looks that last year’s Easter bunny elicited with yogurt covered “raisins?” I needed something wholesome, but with girl-pleasing pizzazz.
I don’t think I would have seriously considered giving a gift made famous by an annoying television commercial if desperation hadn’t been tapping me on the shoulder. But tapping it was, and it allowed me to see these icons of kitsch in a new light. Chia Pets are handmade from clay—that means crafty and free of phthalates. In addition they can be reused ad infinitum, they offer an ersatz botany lesson and they are, I have to admit, cute. We love growing things, I thought, great, perfect, phew!
We were on our third round of seed plantings when something in the directions caught my eye. “Chia” is the common name for salvia columbariae, a member of the watercress family. Hmmm, I like (love, really) watercress. So, can I eat chia?
A little research later and I learned that chia seeds were a staple of Aztec and Native American diets. But what really left me with an astonished “huh?” is that chia seed oil contains an extraordinarily high percentage (63 percent) of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Who knew? Our Chia Pets would be growing superfood fur. A quick trip to the FAQ section of Chia Pet maker, Joseph Enterprises’ Web site and bingo: “Joseph Enterprises’ Chia seeds are not treated with any chemicals or fertilizers.”
And honestly, they are lovely to eat. More tender than alfalfa sprouts, with a spicy spinach flavor. I really couldn’t stop eating them. We can order different varieties of seeds, too, and many suppliers offer organic. Perhaps the perfect city-dwellers’ garden! I began envisioning our windowsills chock-a-block with Chia rams and kittens, our own little chia farm managed by my chia farmer daughters. We’d have fresh greens (without weeding) and we’d be bursting with omega-3-vigor! Which of course led to my go-to DIY fantasy where, in this carnation, we’d make our own Chia Pets and pots! We’d get the clay, rent a kiln! We’d make faux logs, toadstools and maybe some gnomes, a whole forest scene, baby deer! But I always go there. For now, we are content with our two forever-young chia kittens earnestly working on their new coats—with me, grinning nearby, rubbing my hands in anticipation.
I thought it would be nice to leave you with a chia sprout recipe, just in case you end up with a Chia Pet of your own, but I’ve never done much more with sprouts than add them to sandwiches or salads. I would love to hear what you do with sprouts. So instead of a recipe, I thought I’d share the work of artist, Gene Pool, whose work has always amused me. It’s very chia.