I Might Be In Love With Quinoa…

I have been replacing rice with quinoa lately and I am wondering why I didn’t do this earlier.  I really like the nutty flavor and al dente texture.  I thought I would share some of the Quinoa Facts I found, you can find recipes and more at the Whole Grain Council’s website:

While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is in fact not technically a cereal grain at all, but is instead what we call a “pseudo-cereal” – our name for foods that are cooked and eaten like grains and have a similar nutrient profile.  Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains.

Quinoa grows on magenta stalks three to nine feet tall, with large seedheads that can be almost any color, from red, purple and orange to green, black or yellow.  The seedheads are prolific: a half pound of seed can plant a full acre, yielding 1200-2000 pounds of new seeds per acre.  Since nutrient-rich quinoa is also drought resistant, and grows well on poor soils without irrigation or fertilizer, it’s been designated a “super crop” by the United Nations, for its potential to feed the hungry poor of the world.

Over 120 different varieties of quinoa are known, but the most commonly cultivated and commercialized are white (sometimes known as yellow or ivory) quinoa, red quinoa, and black quinoa.  Quinoa flakes and quinoa flour are increasingly available, usually at health food stores.

Quinoa is known as an “ancient grain,” but to most scientific researchers, it’s a new kid on the block.  While the existing research on quinoa pales next to well-studied grains like oats or barley, the pace of quinoa research is picking up, and presenting some intriguing preliminary data:

  • Quinoa is a more nutritious option for gluten free diets.
  • Quinoa may be useful in reducing the risk for diabetes.
  • Quinoa helps you feel fuller longer.

It’s not surprising that quinoa supports good health, as it’s one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids in a healthy balance.  Not only is the protein complete, but quinoa grains have an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain.  (For comparison, wheat germ comprises less than 3% of a wheat kernel.)  Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure.

What’s more, quinoa is gluten free, which makes it extremely useful to the celiac community and to others who may be sensitive to more common grains such as wheat – or even to all grains in the grass family.

Quinoa has quickly become a favorite of whole grain cooks, because its tiny grains are ready to eat in just 15 minutes!  You can tell when it’s done, because you’ll see that little white tail– the germ of the kernel – sticking out.  Like couscous, quinoa benefits from a quick fluff with a fork just before serving.

Quinoa has a subtle nutty taste that marries well with all kinds of ingredients.  But make sure you rinse it well before cooking: quinoa grows with a bitter coating, called saponin, that fends off pests and makes quinoa easy to grow without chemical pesticides.  While most quinoa sold today has had this bitter coating removed, an extra rinse is a good idea to remove any residue.

Cooks can choose from ivory, red, or black quinoa; from sprouted quinoa; from Arzu (a blend of buckwheat, quinoa, beans, and spices); or from quinoa flakes or flour, as a starting point for cooking.

Here are some surprising facts about quinoa that you may be interested to learn:

  • Inca warriors ate balls of quinoa and fat to keep them going on long marches and in battle.
  • NASA has proposed quinoa as an ideal food for long-duration space flights.
  • The Natchez Indians, on the lower Mississippi River, may have cultivated a variety of quinoa.
  • Chicha is a traditional beer made from fermented quinoa.
  • A quinoa poultice or plaster was traditionally thought to heal bones, and Andean families have traditionally used the saponin-filled wash water from quinoa as a shampoo.
  • Lamb’s quarters, a common weed increasingly sought after as a gourmet salad ingredient, is a cousin of quinoa.
  • Chenopodeum, the botanical name for quinoa, means “goose foot,” so named because the leaves of the plant resemble the webbed foot of a goose.
  • In times of drought, when other crops in quinoa-growing areas fail, quinoa can actually increase its yields.  The crop can thrive on as little as three to four inches of annual rainfall.

Posted on March 19, 2012, in Ramblings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I always forget if I like Quinoa or not and my wife always reminds me that I do…I can be such a bad foodie sometimes.

    Interesting tidbit about the Inca warriors.

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