A Package of Chia Seeds for Sale in San Pedro Market , Cusco.
Chia is a seed that does not need special preparations. You can eat it as is or in combination with other natural foods. It has a solid consistence. But if you let it soak from 30 minutes to an hour it becomes a valuable tasteless gel.
In Cusco’s traditional markets it is easy to find the vendors of chia. The caseras who sell it are found in the flour section. Chia is offered by the side of grains that are most important for our region. You can also find it on several streets such as Ayacucho, Pera, Tres Cruces, and Santa Clara. They bring the seeds in small plastic sacks. Within them you can see white and black seeds. The kilo of black seeds costs 10/S and they come from Pilcopata in Cusco. The white chia is imported from Mexico and Bolivia and costs 18/S a kilo.
The difference between white and black chia seeds, according to the caseras, is their efficacy and the selection of seeds. They say that white chia is more effective for gastric problems has more curative properties than the black.
The caseras, vendors, who offer chia consume the seeds in order to prevent obesity, high cholesterol, attention deficit disorder, and alleviate digestive problems. You use it by adding it to salads, desserts, drinks, breakfasts, though its traditional form is to let it sit in water (3-4 tbs. per liter of water). You leave it for an hour and then can drink it. The seeds take on weight and you get a light flavor a bit like flax seed.
Chia contains proteins like calcium, iron, potassium, and antioxidants. Because of its natural and curative properties it is good to eat this seed. For the people of Cusco chia is a remedy and a good and nourishing food for athletes. It has been made into a supplement for children, youth, and adults in Cusco.
I remember the first time I tried this seed. Like every weekend, In the morning I had gone out to run up the Circunvalación, a street that winds out of the valley to Saqsayhuaman. Many people run weekend mornings. They stop in the green spaces to do exercises. There I met a friend who had stopped where I was. He had a two-liter bottle of water mixed with chia. He stopped to exercise a bit with me and afterwards offered me some of his chia. It had an undefined flavor. Each fo the seed was surrounded by a transparent and gelatinous cloak that felt good inside my body.
In different countries od the world this seed is claiming more and more interest given people’s concern for health. In countries like Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and others, they get even more benefit from it by making it into a flour, extracting the oil, and making new dishes from these different products.