Chia Seeds. Yes, this is indeed what Chia Pets are made of. Not having grown up in America, I can't verify this first-hand, but those are the rumours.
"…and its relevance to ultralight backpacking" I hear you ask? Patience grasshopper, we'll get there…
First let me tell you the story of how I learned about Chia Seeds… In search of a better dried milk product for my breakfasts (with more fat content), I heard of a Nestle product called Nido that is common in Spain/Mexico. Unlike typical non-fat dried milk found in the likes of Whole Foods in the US, Nido is whole-milk. My search led me to a Latin Grocery shop in Pike Place Market.
Sadly they were out of stock of Nido, but while there I got chatting with the nice lady that owns the shop and quickly onto the topic of backpacking. Her eyes opened wide with excitement as I told her about traveling light weight. "Oh my", she said "You have to try Chia Seeds. They are a miracle and are perfect for what you talk of." … "Aztec warriors used to march for an entire day on just a handful of seeds.". (Now probably wasn't the time to mention that my recollection of Aztec history is that they died out due to hunger and Spaniards). She went on to tell me how long distance runners and STP cyclists come to her shop to buy these precious seeds.
I was admittedly quite intrigued. So what are the proclaimed benefits of Chia Seeds? According to thechiaseed.com:
1. Nutritious. Full of omega-3, antioxidants, calcium, protein, fiber, and many other vitamins & minerals.
2. Energizing. Gives an energy that lasts, providing stamina and endurance.
3. Reduce Cravings. Because Chia Seeds absorb so much water and have high soluble fiber levels, they help release natural, unrefined carbohydrate energy slowly into the bloodstream.
So how do I prepare them? At breakfast – I simply fill a 2-cup pot with water… add a Tbsp or so of dried coconut milk (for flavor and fat-boost) and then dump in about 1-2 Tbsp of seeds. Wait 5-10 minutes and drink. Waiting is important – over time the seeds absorb the water and puff up into small balls almost like mini tapioca balls in Bubble Tea.
I've used them with much success on the West Coast Trail and also in our recent Pasayten hike. Both Nigel and I used them two out of three mornings on the Pasayten trip. We both experienced feeling a lot more hydrated in the mornings and also in need of less mid-morning food. Our breakfast sustained up well beyond lunch time with strenuous hiking.
I am going to have to try that!
That’s crazy, I had no idea you could eat these things. What do they taste like?
they don’t have much taste at all. they have a weird texture when water-logged. maybe like drinking frog-spawn 🙂
i’ve tried then sprinkled on my cereal (cereal goes a bit soggy waiting for them to expand), with nuun-tablets and with coconut milk power to distract from texture with a little more flavour. but really – they aren’t that bad 🙂
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hey brett, i get my chia seeds from http://www.thechiaseed.com too! they are great and i eat the chia seeds on cold cereal, oatmeal, on salad, on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pretty much anything else i can think of!
why not put them into the bowl + liquid first … Then put the cereal in?:)
FriendlyFoe – hhmm… because sometimes I can’t see the forest for all of the trees. Good point! 😉
The Chia seed is indeed amazing for fighting hunger and giving energy. The modern example of people who use it are the Tarahumara Native Americans out west (known for winning all those marathons)
But it doesn’t have to be “drinking frog-spawn” (which might scare some people away) Because the seeds have no real flavor of their own, you can mix them into anything. If your item is liquid (say, fruit juice or smoothies etc) they’ll actually magnify the flavor as they hydrate/make that gel stuff….but that’s also a warning against hydrating them in unfiltered water, they’ll magnify the nasty taste of that just as well!
You can also bake with them (gelled) as a butter substitute. The baked goods you get are heartier/moister and keep better than regular baked items, all with half the fat. They’ll also keep you full longer. However if you don’t want to go to that trouble…The beauty is, as you stated, they’re lightweight and you don’t need much to use them, just some water and a cup to hydrate.
do you have to wait for it to turn into a jell before you drink it?
i don’t think you need to – but i suspect you want to so that it retains the water and releases slowly.
I got a recipe for “yin/yang water.” Put 3-Tbs of Chia seeds in a glass of water. Let it soak for 5 min, then add another glass of water and simmer for 10 min. Take 3-Tbs of the boiled Chia gel and add to a glass of water and drink. It is tasteless. I don’t know why it has to be boiled, but I suppose it has something to do with the yin/yang aspect of it.
Drinking “Chia water” before meals will fill one up. It aids in weight loss.
In drinking Chia seeds, to stay hydrated, one definitely wants to soak the seeds before drinking. It holds about 12 times its weight in water, and then one would add the liquid to drink it down. More bang for the buck, so to speak.
Since the Chia gel does not taste anything, I have experimented by grinding the seeds in a coffee grinder, and soaking it in fruit juice to make Chia Fruit Leather. Tastes great and is great on the trail. It does not look that palatable because it is dark in color. One could always use white Chia seeds.