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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Did you give or get a Chia Pet for Christmas? Ever think about what that stuff is that’s growing on the clay shape?

Chia is actually the common name of the Salvia hispanica plant, and the ‘pets’ are simply an easy way to sprout the seeds of this herb. In the same plant family as mint, centuries ago Chia was prized as a food crop, and the ancient Aztecs even used it as a high-energy fast food, eating the seeds to sustain themselves when running great distances. Chia’s a very high-protein, low carbohydrate grain, rich in fatty acids and even nutrients like calcium. I wouldn’t eat the seeds that come with your pet since I don’t know if they’ve been treated with anything, but you can find chia to eat at healthfood stores, online, and even in some snack chips these days.

So, Chia had a great history of keeping people healthy, long before it became famous as a funny last-minute gift and a fun way to show kids how seeds sprout.

Reported By Phran Novelli, KYW Newsradio

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