All Hail Quinoa! Seriously. Quinoa was revered by the Inca as their Mother Grain and was the reigning Queen for thousands of years. It originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru before they were colonized and became nation-states and it was successfully domesticated more than 4,000 years ago for human consumption.
It is believed that the Incas considered quinoa to be a sacred plant: Religious festivals included an offering of quinoa in a fountain of gold to the sun god, Inti; a special gold implement was used to make the first furrow of each year’s planting; and, in Cuzco, ancient Incans worshipped entombed quinoa seeds as the progenitors of the city.
Historians have attributed the success of the Incan empire, in part, to its ability to feed not only its own population, but those of conquered tribes as well. Through wise cultivation, storage and distribution of indigenous plants, including quinoa, the Incans were able to sustain their empire. Planeta
The arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s dramatically impacted quinoa harvesting and use. The Spanish considered quinoa peasant food and disdained to eat it, considering it beneath them. Other non-native crops were imported to suit the Spanish and their palates, disrupting quinoa cycles. Domesticated quinoa fields were purposefully destroyed, leaving only the wild quinoa that grew in remote mountain elevations. Quinoa farmers were taken to work in the gold mines. The Mother Grain was all but forgotten until a resurgence of interest and popularity in the past 30-40 years.
Quinoa loves high mountain elevations. It does extremely well in difficult ecological conditions like high altitude, thin air, hot sun, radiation, drought, and poor soil. Most quinoa varieties grow best at 10,000 feet or above.As a member of the goosefoot family, quinoa is considered a “pseudo-cereal”; foods that are cooked and eaten like cereal grains and have a similar nutrient profile. Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, and the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains..
After harvest, the grains need to be processed to remove the coating that contains bitter-tasting saponins. When buying quinoa, check the box to see if it says pre-rinsed or you will you have to rinse before cooking. Sometimes, I rinse it anyway and find there is less of a bitter taste. While there are over 100 types of quinoa, the most common in the markets are white, red, and black.
Quinoa is generally cooked the same way as rice (see recipe below) and can be used in a wide range of dishes. I like to make a big batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week and have it handy to add to dishes. Bonus – unlike rice, quinoa will not get hard when stored in teh refrigerator for several days. Substitute quinoa for rice, pasta, any grains and cereals. It has a fabulous texture with a slight pop and a mild nutty flavor. Add to salads, soups – really your imagination is the limit. One of my personal favorites is adding quinoa to scrambled eggs with veggies!
Health benefits of Quinoa
- Quinoa is one of the only plant foods that supplies a complete protein profile, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids with an essential amino acid profile similar to milk or an egg.
- Quinoa is nutrient rich with essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E.
- Quinoa is non-GMO and gluten free.
- Quinoa contains a high percentage of the amino acid lysine which is essential for tissue growth and repair.
- Quinoa is a good source of magnesium which is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. Magnesium assists in easing blood vessels and may assist those who suffer from migraines.
- Eating a serving of whole grains, such as quinoa, at least 6 times each week is highly recommended for postmenopausal women.
- Quinoa is higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains.
- Quinoa also contains anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
- Quinoa is an antioxidant.
- Quinoa is a warming chi and yang tonic that supports the kidney and heart functions.
- In Ayurveda, quinoa decreases kapha.
How to Cook Perfect Quinoa
I have found that cooking perfect quinoa is not as tricky as making perfect rice. I frequently make a larger batch and then use it over several days by adding it to salads, soups, or using it for another recipe. Quinoa does not turn hard like rice when you store it in the fridge.
The best deal for buying quinoa is Costco if you are a confirmed quinoa-vore. They have a 4 pound bag for right around $10.99 and is a much better deal than the 1 pound bags for $5 that you see in other stores. Quinoa also works well when combined with black rice – YUM factor expanded!
Direction to Cook Quinoa:
Use 1 cup of Quinoa to 1 3/4 cup of water.
Add water and quinoa to pot with a pinch of salt or spice and turn on high heat until boiling. When at boil, turn heat down to low and cover for approximately 10-12 minutes. Check the pot and if there is still water, return to low heat for another 2 minutes or until water is absorbed. Once the water is absorbed, cover for an additional 5 minutes off heat. Add a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper, or spices. Done!
Eat quinoa as a form of delicious, sacred practice!
See more of my Quinoa Recipes on The Hungry Goddess – my ravenous alter ego 🙂