Sunday, October 3, 2010

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is an excellent vegetable source of protein, including the complete spectrum of necessary amino acids for humans. Because this plant is closely related to spinach and beets and not a grass plant, quinoa is not technically a cereal grain.

Grain or not, the seeds are cooked as easily as white rice and work well as a grain substitute in any meal.

What Does Quinoa Look Like?

The plant looks like millet to me - tiny, furry seeds on stems. These seeds are harvested, rinsed, and sold as what looks like a fine birdseed. Basic quinoa is beige, but black and red varieties are also available.

After cooking, quinoa seeds treble in size, yet each pearl is still minuscule and sports a tiny sprout.

Where Did Quinoa Come From?

Quinoa originated in the Andes mountains and was cultivated by the Incas. When the conquistadors overran the continent, they were not impressed with the local "mother of all grains" and ordered the production of other crops. For hundreds of years quinoa remained a subsistence crop of the indigenous South American people.

Coming to America

In the 1980s, quinoa was introduced to a growing vegetarian population in the United States who embraced this new super food. Quinoa grows a bitter coating (saponin) that naturally protects the seeds from pests, so traditional farmers were already growing quinoa organically when it was first discovered by North American predatory capitalists.

Just checking if you were paying attention. ;)

By the way, you should rinse your quinoa before using to be sure all the saponin is rinsed away. You risk quite the belly ache if you don't rinse your quinoa.

Quinoa Diet

Quinoa is now everybody's darling because it works with nearly all dietary restrictions.

Gluten-free? Check.

Vegan? Yes.

Raw? If you choose to germinate it.

Organic? Always. 

Higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than white rice? The diabetics are pleased to hear "yes."

Plus quinoa provides an alphabet soup of vitamins and minerals.

Quinoa Recipes 10/1/10

Quinoa may be the best bang for your grains, but you will have to try it for yourself to find out. Here are some recipes I gathered from around the web that I hope will tempt you:

Quinoa and Lentil Stuffed Bell Peppers - I like the idea of incorporating lentils in the mix.

Note: see my results Lentils and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers.

Quinoa Salad - Mediterranean style salad features feta cheese and kalamata olives.

Vegetarian Quinoa Casserole For One - A great example of someone taking disparate ingredients from her pantry and creating something wonderful.

My son wants to know why none of these recipes have meat. He insists that we not forget that although quinoa is vegan all by itself, it can be incorporated into an omnivorous diet as easily as any other diet. 

Other Quinoa News

Quinoa is among the seeds United Kingdom farmers are encouraged (mandated?) to plant for native birds to eat.

A mother questions the wisdom of insisting schools serve children foods, including quinoa, which are outside their comfort zone.

Today I treated myself to the last of the quinoa porridge stirred into my favorite yogurt. I was very satisfied with my breakfast. I am off to the grocery store so I can cook something new with quinoa this afternoon.

Did you know if you aren’t subscribing to How Do You Cook Quinoa? at the new domain, you risk missing out on new posts and quinoa recipes? Not to mention the upcoming quinoa contest. Subscribe today and learn tasty new ways to enjoy quinoa along with other exciting (and sometimes exotic) ingredients.

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