North American Quinoa
North American Quinoa
Quinoa is an annual herb that has been cultivated for thousands of years in the west Andes Mountains of South America. It was a staple food of the ancient Inca Indians and their Empire. Quinoa was such an important food of the ancient Incas that they considered it the "Mother Grain." Quinoa is a plant that is very hardy and drought resistant. They bears seeds in a cluster on top of the plant and during the fall the color of the plants can range in color from bright oranges to vivid reds and unique purples. They are beautiful during this time of year. The ancestral seed color of Quinoa was black and the other colors have been obtained from mutations and breeding. The Quinoa seed, about the size of millet, resembles the grain of some cereal grasses, but it is not a grass. The seeds are coated with a saponin which has a bitter taste. This bitterness is removed by washing in water or by a dry polishing process. Before consumption of Quinoa the seeds should be rinsed to remove any of the saponin dust that may remain on the seeds. The seed of Quinoa is an excellent food, rich in protein and high in fiber. The protein is well balanced and is particularly rich in the amino acid lysine, which is difficult to obtain from other vegetable sources. It is also high in calcium, phosphorous, vitamins B and E. Quinoa is a very versatile food plant that can be cooked many ways and tastes excellent. The green leaves can be used in salads or cooked like spinach. The grain can be sprouted, like alfalfa; cooked as a hot cereal; added into soups, casseroles and souffles; used in the place of almost any other grain, including rice; ground into flour; and toasted. An imaginative chef can find many more uses and ways to prepare Quinoa than those given above. Dishes ranging from appetizers through desserts can be prepared from Quinoa. In 1982, Steve Gorad and Dave Cusack was one of the first to introduce Quinoa to North America. With the help of Colorado State University, Sierra Blanca Associates, and a few hard working individuals Quinoa is now available to the public at most health food stores. Certified Organic Quinoa that is grown in the high elevations of the San Luis Valley of Colorado, has a rich delicate nutty taste that cooks quickly and easily.
Before cooking, always rinse the grain well, either by using a strainer or by running fresh water over the Quinoa in a pot. Drain the excess water.