Widely cultivated for its edible seed in Mexico.
Requires a light to medium well-drained fertile soil in a warm sunny position. Plants are not very frost tolerant but can be grown as summer annuals in Britain.
Sow March/April in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant out in late spring or early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ during April/May, though this sowing might not mature its seed in a cool summer.
When soaked in water, the seeds form a gelatinous mass which is flavoured with fruit juices and consumed as a cooling drink. The gelled seeds can also be prepared as a gruel or pudding.
The sprouted seeds are eaten in salads, sandwiches, soups, stews etc. Due to their mucilaginous property they are often sprouted on clay or other porous materials.
The seed can be ground into a meal and made into bread, biscuits, cakes etc, usually in a mix with cereal flours. The seed is a good source of protein and easily digested fats.