Monica Madrigal gathering seeds of thistle chia on the Cahuilla Reservation. She is using a seedbeater made from Rhus trilobata and Juncus textilis. Thistle chia, also known as thistle sage, or Salvia carduacea, is relatively rare, but this year was prolific in some places. The other local and more common chia is Salvia columbariae. Its seeds are smaller, and to my taste, not quite as delicious and nutty as the larger thistle chia seeds. Both plants are annuals, love full sun and are drought tolerant. The chia you can buy in health food stores is Salvia hispanica. We’re organizing our files for the ethnobotany project . . .

Thistle chia on the Cahuilla Reservation.

Phil Hoog, from the Museum of Man, helping a group of southern California Native American basketweavers gather chia, Salvia columbariae, in Bautista Canyon in Riverside County. gathering chia

The Gathering Chia video documents Abe Sanchez (Purapeche); Marian Walkingstick (Acjachemen); Diania Caudell (Luiseño); Irving Morales (Luiseño); and Maureen Castillo (Cupeño) harvesting the tiny black seeds of the chia plant, a vitally important edible food for southwest native people. The group are basket weavers passionately interested in anything related to traditional native basketry. In southern California, chia seeds were harvested using a seed beater woven from willow and other local basketry plants. The seeds were collected in a a burden basket or basket tray, then winnowed to remove the chaff using a woven winnowing tray. Except for Abe, no one is using traditional tools in the video, but rather whatever is at hand. Irving is beating the seed heads with a fly swatter and using a plastic bucket to collect them. Although his pink plastic fly swatter works well enough as a seed beater, it doesn’t have the beauty or resonance of a woven seedbeater. And the red bucket from Home Depot, although inexpensive and functional, lacks any connection to the gathering site, unlike the traditional collecting baskets woven with local juncus, deergrass, Rhus trilobata, and yucca. This video is part of a larger project to document traditional gathering practices in southern California. Music is by composer William Bradbury.

Posted by deborah small

19 Comments

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  5. […] démangeaisons (ou prurit) causées par la sécheresse de la peau. Récolte de graines de chia : https://deborahsmall.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/gathering-thistle-chia/ Comment préparer la graine de Chia : Mélanger bien les graines et dans un liquide. Laissez […]

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  6. […] Here’s a link to a neat blog that has some excellent information, pictures, and a video that s… […]

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  7. Its great to see that people to this day are still harvesting chia seeds the same way they were thousands of years ago.
    Great photos of the harvest.
    I have seen these hundreds of times and had no idea they were a chia plant.
    The beaters look like they would be fairly simple to make for natural harvesting.

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  8. is it possible to grow chia in south China ?

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  9. wich is the difference between Salvia columbariae and salvia hispanica???

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    1. Salvia columbariae is the chia native to southern California. In edible and medicinal qualities, it is very similar to Salvia hispanica. Salvia hispanica is now cultivated extensively, and is what is sold in health food stores and online. Salvia columbariae is quite difficult to harvest, as if often grows on precipitous hillsides, and is often sparse, depending on weather conditions. Hope this helps.

      > New comment on your post “Gathering Chia Seeds” > Author : ARB (IP: 189.242.148.213 , > dsl-189-242-148-213-dyn.prod-infinitum.com.mx) > E-mail : el_lechero83@hotmail.com > URL : > Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/189.242.148.213

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  10. More than 40 yerars ago I did my graduate thesis on the pollination of Salvia carduacea, S. columbariae, and S. dorrii in the Anza Borrego (Hwy 78/S2) and Mojave (Hwy 138/Ave 165) deserts. In Anza Borrego I found specimens of S. carduacea with pure white flowers. Pollination of S. carduacea was primarily by bees and butterflies, and at dusk by moths. S. columbariae is self-pollinating but is sometimes visited by bees.

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  11. You can buy Chia Seeds of High Quality in
    Chia Seeds

    The article is great !!!

    Thank You.

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    1. deborah small May 19, 2010 at 9:55 am

      Hi Rob,
      Thanks for the link to a good chia purchasing site.
      Deborah

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  12. That was so fun to watch- your singing and excitement over collecting these little jewels was fabulous! :~}
    thank you

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    1. deborah small May 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      thanks, the singing i think you’re referring to is my friend and basketweaver, marian walkingstick. we had a really great time the day we shot that video.

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  13. Thanks for the inspiration. Not only could South American foods (like the potatoe has) help the poor of the world to feed themselves, but also the rich could get great health benefits too. I’m very impressed by your ethno botany and want to follow in your footsteps.

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  14. Thank you for this interesting blog on Chia. I’m studying permaculture design currently, and am also very interested in obtaining important food seeds for propagating and eating. I’m wondering if it’s possible to purchase some Thistle chia or Salvia carduacea seeds from you or your contacts. I live in northern CA.

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  15. I’d also like to link to this post!! Wonderful!! Thanks.

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    1. To get seeds for Salvia carduacea, you might try networking with some of the people here. (I have been eating chia for 2 years and really like it. I too have plans to grow my own Thistle Sage, and found some seeds for sale at: http://www.southwesternnativeseeds.com and http://www.de sertseedstore.com. ) This website is really cool, it conveys so much more than a book ever could. Thanks.

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