While it may seem like quinoa is a new trend, it has actually been cultivated for thousands of years. Quinoa is indigenous to the Andean region of South America (specifically Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Peru) and is often referred to by the Incans as ‘the mother of all grains'.
Although small, this seed (yes seed) is mighty. Out of all the foods out there claiming to be 'super', quinoa truly is a superfood and deserves a place in your pantry!
Check out our top ten facts below to learn more about quinoa:
Quinoa is pronounced ‘Keen-wah’.
Technically, quinoa is not actually a grain, but a protein-rich seed obtained from a vegetable that belongs to a family of Swiss chard, spinach and beets.
Quinoa thrives in diverse conditions when other crops would fail; including low rainfall, high altitudes, hot sun, freezing temperatures and poor soil conditions. During drought, quinoa often increases its yields and can thrive on as little as three to four inches of annual rainfall.
More than 120 different varieties of quinoa have been identified, including pink, orange and purple! The organic white and red varieties that we love at Honest to Goodness are the most commonly cultivated and commercialised. Apart from the colour, red, black and white quinoa are very similar and can be used in the same recipes. Nutritional differences are small. Red and black quinoa tend to have a stronger flavour, take slighter longer to cook and retain a little more of their crunch than the white quinoa.
Quinoa is renowned for its protein content but it’s the type of protein, not the amount that makes it so impressive. Quinoa is one of the few plant foods considered a complete protein, offering all of the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts.
In addition to being a complete protein, quinoa is an excellent source of fibre (higher than most grains!), B-vitamins, magnesium, calcium, iron and vitamin E – no wonder the Incas referred to quinoa as ‘the mother of all grains’!
Quinoa is naturally free from gluten so is suitable for people who are gluten intolerant.
WASH BEFORE USE
Quinoa has a naturally bitter coating called 'saponin' which is the plant's natural defence against insects and birds. This also means quinoa crops do not require pesticides.
Saponin is a resin-like substance that can be simply removed by rinsing the quinoa before cooking. Whilst most imported Quinoa is "pre-washed" to remove the saponin, it is still wise to give it a final rinse.
HOW TO COOK
Just like rice, the basic ratio for cooking quinoa is one-part dry quinoa to two parts liquid. Using the absorption method, quinoa is cooked in just 15 minutes!
HOW TO USE
Quinoa is an extremely versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of savoury and sweet dishes. If you're ever confused about where to use quinoa, simply use it as a substitute for rice.
Here are some of our favourite quinoa recipes: