Grain of the Month is Quinoa
High in the Andes, the quinoa harvest
starts in late March, when farmers gather together for celebrations
like the two-day Harvest Festival near the salt flats of Uyuni
a gathering of representatives from 4,000 family farms. By celebrating
quinoa in March, we're honoring these timeless traditions, with
information about this unique "mother grain."
Sacred to the Incas, quinoa was referred
to by them as chisaya mama, or the mother of all grains. Legend
has it that each year, the Incan emperor would sow the first quinoa
seeds, with much solemn ceremony. Although it's estimated that Bolivians
in the Lake Titicaca area began to cultivate quinoa at least five
thousand years ago, quinoa came close to disappearing after 1532.
That's when Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish explorer, destroyed the
quinoa fields to undermine the Incan culture, built as it was on
ceremonies that almost all involved quinoa. Only small pockets of
wild quinoa at high altitudes survived, and quinoa was largely forgotten
until its "rediscovery" by the outside world in the 1970s.
Health Benefits of Quinoa
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
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.
Fun Facts about Quinoa
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.
Cooking Tips and and a
Recipe for Quinoa
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.
with Peas - 6 servings:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium
heat. Stir in the quinoa, and cook 2 minutes until toasted. Pour
in the chicken broth, onion, garlic, thyme, and black pepper. Cover,
and let come to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the frozen peas. Recover,
reduce heat to medium-low, and continue simmering until the quinoa
is tender and has absorbed the chicken stock, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in half of the Romano cheese and
the parsley until evenly mixed. Scoop the quinoa into a serving
dish, and sprinkle with the remaining Romano cheese to serve.
% Daily Value
The Whole Grains Council is a nonprofit consumer advocacy group
working to increase consumption of whole grains for better health.
The WGC's many initiatives: encourage manufacturers to create
delicious whole grain products.; help consumers to find whole
grain foods and understand their health benefits.; and help the
media to write accurate, compelling stories about whole grains.