Quinoa[ PURCHASE INFO ]
Quinoa: Quinoa refers to the seeds of a plant native to the Andes in South America. Used as a grain, quinoa is actually an edible seed that is related to beets and spinach and is very nutricious. Considered sacred by the Incas and other Andean civilizations for over 6,000 years, quinoa has earned it's place in our modern health conscious society. Quinoa is a complete protein and a good source of vitamins and minerals, making it popular with vegetarians. Primarily used like a grain or cereal, quinoa is easy to cook and has a firm texture and nutty flavor.
Quinoa must be rinsed well to remove a bitter coating, something that may have fooled Spanish colonists into rejecting it as a food source. In addition, the Spanish saw quinoa as a non-christian religious symbol, so they destroyed the fields and made growing quinoa punishable by death. Luckily the seed survived to modern times and is experiencing a comeback. In addition to being nutricious, quinoa is not difficult to grow commercially. Although native to the Andeas it has a loose altitude requirement, and is relatively easy to grow. The bitter coating serves as a natural defense against wildlife. Birds and insects avoid the seeds. Commercial strains have been developed for human consumption that are not coated with the bitter saponins, but yields have been very low as birds ate most of the crop! Yields are generally very good with large bunches of seeds on 4-6 foot tall plants. Quinoa is similar to millet in appearance.
With high levels of amino acids that are usually missing in plant proteins, quinoa is a good compliment to beans and other legumes in a protein rich vegetarian diet. Also high in minerals, vitamins E and B, antioxidants, lignans, and fiber, quinoa is also gluten free and quinoa flour has found it's niche in gluten free baked goods and pastas. The seeds can also be sprouted and used in salads and sandwiches. Versatile, healthy, and easily cultivated, quinoa is a new ancient superfood!