In the 80s Chia seed pets were in stores every Christmas. The instructions said to soak the clay figure and spread the seeds over the wet clay. The dry Prairie air tended to dry out the clay shape before the seeds had sprouted giving the animal lush green seedling hair. For the most part, Chia Pets were not successful.
An alternative is to make a Chia Head out of an old sock, cotton balls, cup, plastic bag, buttons, wool or a permanent marker to make facial features, string and Chia seeds. Chia seeds are available in most grocery or bulk food outlets. They are likely sold as a high energy grain not for sprouting but most of the seeds are viable and will germinate within a few days.
Take the sock, place it toe side up and make a face either by sewing o buttons, embroidering with wool or drawing with a permanent marker.
Open up the sock and stuff it with cotton balls. The stuffing will absorb moisture insuring that the sock remains wet, providing the seeds with enough moisture to germinate.
When the head is the desired size, tie the bottom of the sock shut with the string.
Soak the stuffed sock in warm water until it is saturated. Do not squeeze the sock to remove excess water. If squeezed the absorbent material will become stuck together, and not hold moisture.
Place a tablespoon of seeds in a cup and add enough warm water to cover the seed. Stir the seed to insure all the seed becomes wet and sticky. Once the seed starts to form clumps smear it on the sock where hair should grow. Spoons work well for this part of the project as the seed will stick to everything.
Fill the cup or other container full of water and place the sock head on top of the container with the leg of the sock hanging in the water. This part of the sock will work as a wick keeping the head and seeds moist.
Place a clear bag over the sock and container to create a greenhouse effect with high humidity. If the seeds become wet then dry out they will not germinate. The bag should not touch the seeds as they will stick to the bag.
Place the Chia head in a warm area of the house and the seeds should germinate within 3 or 4 days. Be sure to check the water level in the container and add water when needed.
Once the seeds germinate move the container to a sunny area which will encourage the seeds to grow faster and turn a dark green. Once two leaves sprout they can be eaten fresh, in salads and sandwiches
Other small leafed seeds, such as alfalfa, radish and cress can be substituted for chia seeds. Food grade seeds must be used if the end product is going to be eaten. Seeds that are meant to be planted out are often treated with chemicals to inhibit the growth of fungus.
Once all the material is gathered it takes most children about a half an hour to finish the creation. Follow up by checking the water level daily.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org