Chia seeds are known for their nutritional benefits and are now widely considered one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Knowing how to properly harvest and dry chia seeds will provide you with a long-lasting supply for your pantry or seed store in the future.
The tiny black and white seeds of the chia plant are high in fiber and can be added to salads, smoothies, cakes and yogurt for a quick nutritional boost. Among the best edible seeds you can grow, chia seeds are said to promote heart health and are loaded with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia plants, also known as Salvia hispanica, are one of the best low-maintenance plants you can grow in your border. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, it thrives in warmer, more humid climates, although it will tolerate temperatures into the low 50s. This annual herb can grow up to 3 feet wide, taking up a decent amount of space in the backyard. Its blue and purple flowers are also great at attracting pollinators to your garden.
As with many edible seeds, such as borage and sunflower seeds, knowing when to harvest them is key to getting the best from your crop. Our five steps will show you how to harvest chia seeds to benefit your health and your backyard.
When is the right time to harvest chia seeds?
When it comes to knowing when it’s time to harvest energy-boosting chia seeds, patience is key. The essence of successful harvesting, says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, is to wait patiently until the plants reach full maturity before beginning the harvesting process.
Once all the flower petals have fallen from the stems, that’s your cue to get started.
“Chia plants usually mature within 90 to 120 days after planting,” says Jin. “You should wait until the flowers are fully mature and the seeds are formed. The moment when the flower heads take on a brown and dry appearance is an indication that they are ready to harvest.
Gene Caballero is a seasoned landscaper with over 25 years of experience. As co-founder of GreenPal, the “Uber of lawn care,” he has overseen its growth from its beginnings in one city to now serving more than 250 major markets. His deep knowledge of the industry and innovative approach make him a respected figure in the landscaping business.
What is the best time of day to harvest chia seeds?
Aim to harvest chia seeds during the morning hours. This is the period after dawn, before the sun has risen too much, when plants are less wet from the morning dew, reducing the risk of seeds sticking together.
Cut off individual flower heads, then give them time to dry completely and air them in a paper bag for up to three days before you start harvesting the seeds.
How should I handle chia seeds when harvesting them?
Just as when you collect seeds from any garden plant for future storage and planting, when harvesting chia seeds, be sure to rub the dried flower heads very gently between your fingers and over a fine mesh strainer. “This technique will release the seeds and help them separate smoothly from the plant,” Jin explains.
At this point, you can sift the seeds, separate them from all the remaining flower pods, and collect them in a large, clean paper bag.
If you find that you have left too much time in the season to cut off the flower heads without all of the seeds falling to the ground in the process, there is still a way to harvest chia seeds successfully.
Leave the plant stem intact, simply place a large paper bag under each head and shake the seeds into it. This process may take a little longer, as you will have to shake each head individually, but it is just as effective.
How do I dry chia seeds?
“After harvesting, spread the seeds thinly to let them dry for several hours in a shady, warm place,” says Jain. “It is important to make sure they are well dried before storing them to prevent any mold from forming.”
The drying process may take up to two weeks. If storing in a container, remember to stir the seeds from time to time to prevent clumping and ensure they dry properly.
What is the best way to store chia seeds?
Once completely dry, be sure to transfer the chia seeds to an airtight container and place them in a cool, shady place. Aim to consume your seeds within a year to take advantage of all the fresh nutrients stored within.
Provided you keep them dry and away from too much light, you should be able to use your seeds to create new plants for up to three years.
Can I add home-grown chia seeds to my baked goods?
You can definitely use harvested chia seeds in home baking. Whole chia seeds are great in muffins and bread, while soaked seeds are often used in vegan baking recipes as an egg substitute.
Can I harvest chia leaves for tea?
You can harvest the leaves as well as the seeds of the chia plant. The leaves can be used fresh or dried and made into a medicinal tea.
The benefits of harvesting chia seeds from your plants are enormous – they may be small but these seeds are packed with nutrients, and knowing how to harvest them from your own backyard will definitely save you a trip to the health food store.