An ancient seed that was thought to be sacred by the Incas in South America, Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has been grown in South America for thousands of years. Most of the world's supply is grown in the Andean region of South America in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
While it is thought of as a grain, it is actually a seed from a plant that is related to Swiss chard, beets and spinach. In fact, the leaves of the plant can be eaten but are hard to find in grocery stores in the United States. It has a delicate, nutty flavor and can be used in place of rice or couscous in most dishes.
Quinoa is higher in protein than most grains (about 12-15%) and contains all nine of the essential amino acids. This makes it a complete protein and desirable for vegans and vegetarians who are concerned with getting the right amount of protein in their diets. It also contains lysine which is needed for tissue growth and repair. Along with high protein content, this super food is a very good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus and is a good source of riboflavin. Its high content of manganese and copper make it a powerful antioxidant. It is also high in fiber making it a heart healthy food.
It is also gluten free which makes it a great alternative to wheat, barley and rye for people with Celiac disease, wheat allergy and intolerance. Not only does it come in its original seed form, it is also ground into flour and is used with corn to make gluten free pasta.
The first step to preparing it is rinsing off the soap-like residue that is naturally present on the seeds. To do this, pour the seeds in a fine mesh strainer and rinse until you can no longer see the foam (which looks like soap suds). Once rinsed, it can be prepared just like rice. Combine two parts water to one part quinoa in a medium sized pot. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cover for about 15 minutes. When the seeds become translucent and the germ forms a ring around the grain, it is ready to eat.
George Mateljan Foundation. The World's Healthiest Foods. www.hwfoods.com. Accessed 10/1/09.
Wikepedia - The Free Encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa. Accessed 10/1/09
Savvy Vegetarian. www.savvyvegetarian.com. Accessed 10/1/09