Chia – ein Superfood im 19. Jahrhundert

Edward Palmer

Vor mehr als 116 Jahren, im Jahre 1891, erschien in der amerikanischen Fachzeitschrift ZOE  – A biological Journal der folgende Reisebericht des britischen Botanikers Edward Palmer zum Thema Chia:


by Edward Palmer

The family of Labiates furnishes few food plants to mankind. Some few, like sage, thyme, sweet marjoram, etc. , are used for flavoring, and several others as aromatic teas with more or less reputed medicinal virtues, but I believe among civilized people, only the Mexicans use them to any extent as regular articles of diet.

Chia, a name associated both with food and drink, occurs in the early histories of Mexico, but no clue is there given to the plants which furnish it. I have given some time in my botanical travels in Mexico to the investigation of the matter and find that several species of the genus Salvia are commonly used, both by Indians and Mexicans, in the preparation of various forms of food and drink.

That the use of Chia is of much antiquity is proved by finding large quantities of it with ancient Indian remains; the custom of burying food with the dead evidently prevailing as it does today.

Among the aborigines it is known by names in their own tongue — the Pimo Indians call Salvia Columbaria “Dak”—but in intercourse with Mexicans or Americans, only the Spanish “Chia” is heard.

As a food both nutritious and palatable it deserves to be better known. The white races are, perhaps, too apt to look with contempt upon the contents of the Indian granary, and though Chia is never likely to to take rank as one of the great staples, it may come to be as universally esteemed among civilized as it is among the aborigines of the region where it grows.

In preparing Chia for use the seeds are roasted and ground, and the addition of water makes a mucilaginous mass several times the original bulk, sugar to the taste is added, and the result is the much prized semi-fluid “pinole” of Indians and others – to me one of the best relished and most nutritive foods while traveling over the deserts; the ground meal mixed with sugar being very portable and easy to prepare while journeying. The taste and appearance is somewhat that of flaxseed meal. One readily acquires a liking for it, and learns to eat rather as a luxury than on account of its exceedingly nutritious properties

  • Salvia Columbariae, a very common plant both in California and Mexico, grows so abundantly in some localities that it can be cut, threshed and cleaned like grain, finds purchasers in the markets and drug stores of Southern California, Southern Arizona, Sonora, Sinaloa, Lower California and the gulf side of Mexico. In these localities it is the basis of one of the most popular drinks used, not only by the Mexicans and Indians, but by many Americans.
  • Salvia Carduacea, of more limited range than the preceding, extending from Central California to the northern part of the peninsula, is used In the same manner and under the same name.
  • Salvia Hispanica grows about Guadalajara, in the State of Jalisco, and in the neighborhood of the City of San Luis Potosi.
  • Salvia Tiliaefolia grows about the settlement known as Norogachic, inhabited by the Tarahumares, in the Sierra Madre.
  • Salvia Chian, inhabiting the central table-lands of Mexico, has a wide distribution.

Each of these plants is prized by the inhabitants of their localities for the uses which can be made of them. S. Columbaria and S. Chian are the best adapted to cultivation, large crops of these species being grown and harvested with profit, the seeds being a staple article and in constant demand.

One of the most refreshing drinks known is prepared by infusing the seed-like nutlets in water. The mucilagious drink resulting retains the aromatic properties, which are lost in the roasting, which is the preliminary step in preparing it for food; and when sweetened and flavored with lemon juice, is especially grateful in the hot days of summer, even to the sick, as it is easily borne by the most delicate stomach, and at the same time affords considerable nutrition, Chia meal is often mixed with the meal of roasted corn, or other grains. If used without further cooking, it is called as above, “pinole”. If cooked in water as gruel or porridge, it is “atole”.

It is a very agreeable food, particularly if sugar or flavoring is added. The Pima Indians are especially fond of Chia “atole” and consume large quantities of it.

The seeds of Salvia are useful in gastro- intestinal disorders, and it is often used in the manner of flax-seed as an emollient, or for cataplasms.

Chia grande is Hyptis soaveolens,  a very common plant in the State of Colima. The seeds are gathered in large quantities from wild plants as well as from those cultivated as a crop by the Indians, and they are used in the same manner as the seeds of Salvia, developing apparently even a greater quantity of mucilage when wetted.

Among the Indians it is called “Chan,” and to the attolle or gruel made by mixing it with corn they apply the name “Bate.” Its aromatic properties are destroyed by cooking, but the mucilaginous property is largely developed. It makes a rather tasteless dish unless a little salt is added, or, as the Indians remedy the defect, a syrup made from sugar is sprinkled over it. Both the drink and the attolle prepared from Chian grande, are sold in the markets, the Indian women keeping it in large gourds, covered over the top with banana leaves for cleanliness. In supplying customers a small gourd is used as a dipper, and water is added whenever the attolle becomes too thick. Tea made from the roots of Hyptis suaveoleus is used to purify the blood, and it is also used as a remedy for the diseases of women.