Although Quinoa has risen in popularity over the past few years, the seed is actually nothing new…in fact, its quite ancient. It is believed that quinoa was first cultivated in the Andes Mountains in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia around 4000 years ago. The Incas called it “gold of the Incas” and it was one of the main food sources for the Inca Empire.
Quinoa may look like a grain, but it actually isn’t a grain at all. It is closely related to beets and leafy greens, such as spinach and swiss chard. It falls under the goosefoot family- a plant family of shrubs and non-woody plants with simple leaves, small petal-less flowers, and tiny, dry fruit.* It grows well under harsh conditions, even with little or no water. It does the best in desert-like climates, with temperatures that range from 25°F at night to 95°F during the day, and soil that is sandy with a low nutrient content.
Quinoa is Nutritious
Quinoa is packed full of nutrition: protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and E, and calcium. It contains flavonoids and antioxidants, all of the essential amino acids, has a low glycemic index, and is gluten free.
How to prepare Quinoa
The first thing you want to do in Quinoa preparation is to rinse it. Quinoa has a natural coating that, if not rinsed off, tastes bitter or soapy. Boxed varieties of quinoa may come pre-rinsed, but always take the extra step to rinse your quinoa.
You can use quinoa like any grain or in a side dish. You can prepare it with water or, if you’d like extra flavor, broth. The ratio that yields the best quinoa is 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups liquid (water or broth). You can add salt and other spices while it is cooking. Because quinoa is so versatile, feel free to experiment.
Brenda has a fantastic recipe using quinoa: Mexican Quinoa Recipe.