View Full Version : Ancient Inca grain is new health food darling

03-02-11, 09:38 PM
by Jose Arturo Cardenas
Wed., Feb 23

COTIMBORA, Bolivia (AFP) – Grown high in the Andes for millennia, a grain the Incas so prized they deemed it sacred has become a global star and is now being touted as the health food of the future.

Quinoa, a good crop for harsher climes as it prospers in semi-arid conditions and high altitudes where rivals struggle, has nutrition experts salivating as it is chock full of protein and essential amino acids.

"We don't ever get sick, because we eat the quinoa we got from our ancestors," Agustin Flores, a third-generation farmer in Bolivia's southern highlands, told AFP with a touch of salesmanship and a hesitant smile.

"When we are tired, after the working day, we have a drink based on the quinoa grain and that picks us up," said Flores, adding that he and his four sons also consume it in soups and cakes.
Quinoa was originally scorned by Spanish colonizers. At one point its cultivation was banned due to its use in what Spaniards saw as "pagan" ceremonies and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.

Known as chisaya mama or "mother of all grains", it was so revered by the Incas that the emperor would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season with special tools made out of gold.

But in the past 10-15 years, quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) has made major inroads in Western cuisine and is often used as a substitute for pastas, risottos, gratins and taboules.
Ever looking for healthier options, chefs and nutritionists are beginning to take notice of the ancient grain, which has a light, fluffy texture and a mild, slightly nutty flavor.
"With its great nutritional profile quinoa has now become a food of the future," said Epifanio Murana, the head of the Quinoa Producers' Association.
"NASA scientists have called it exceptionally balanced and complete, and highly useful for astronauts' needs," he said.

Ruben Ramiro Miranda, a researcher at the University of Oruro, also sang the praises of the grain which is related to highly nutritional amaranth. Quinoa can prevent inflammation and hypertension and helps "in the development of neurons, as well as healthy breast milk," he told AFP. Bolivia, South America's poorest country with around 10 percent arable land, was the world's top producer of quinoa in 2009 with 30,000 tonnes or 46 percent of global supply. Cotimbora, at 3,700 meters (12,100 feet), is the heart of quinoa country.
It is followed by Peru, with 42 percent of production and the United States, with six percent, official Bolivian data shows.

In Bolivia's Cotimbora-Challapata region, progress spawned by the grain's boom is plain to see. Export prices have almost tripled since 2007, now fetching 2,900 dollars a tonne.
"Education is getting better outfitted, nutrition has improved. People live better," said Mario Alanoca, the director general of the producers' group. "But what we worry about is the risk of drought." No rain in November and December in Bolivia's highlands has left as much as 45 percent of the 2010-2011 crop, due in April-May, in danger, producers say.
"Here there should be some," farmer Flores points in his dusty field. "And there, there also should be some. But there's nothing there. Mostly it's the drought. We lost half of what we planted this year."

It may be a bad year for the crop, to be sure. But the surface area being planted in the grain has surged, a Franco-Bolivian study found. The IRD study also found that more quinoa was being planted on land at risk of freezes, and where animals once grazed, increasing potential land disputes.

Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable prior to processing. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. But this bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and thus requires minimal protection.


03-02-11, 10:59 PM
Mellow got me started on using quinoa-I like it in meatloaf in place of breadcrumbs.

03-02-11, 11:14 PM
I use it a lot, in soups and salads, and as a side dish with little fixin's thrown in.

03-03-11, 12:57 AM
I use quinoa in place of rice - it can be cooked just the same as rice. Sometimes I also put it through our flaker to make quinoa flakes which I then use to make a quinoa porridge.

03-03-11, 04:04 AM
I use it whenever I can, I absolutely loooooove the stuff. It gets put in my salads, risottos instead of rice, stir-fries instead of rice, I make burgers out of it for my vegetarian friends (or when I can't be bothered walking up the insanely steep hill/5km return trip to the organic butcher!), I bulk up minced beef with it, add it to stews and muesli... I'm sure I'll think of more uses for it, lol.

03-03-11, 04:22 AM
I wouldn't call it a NEW health food though. The health benefits of quinoa have been known for some time.

03-03-11, 01:15 PM
I like quinoa too but not plain. I usually cook it in bone broth. I have also ground it up in my little food processor to make quinoa flour. For meatloaf, I cook it about 1/2 way then add. It absorbs the other liquids in the meatloaf as it bakes. I have made a quinoa pudding (based on rice pudding recipe) which was good. The one thing I don't like is quinoa with pasta sauce. I don't know why...to me they just don't meld. Costco sells 4lb bags of organic quinoa for $9.97 which is an incredible bargain. Publix sells 12 ounces (not organic) for $5.97. I alway keep about 5 bags in my pantry. You never know when Costco is going to quit selling something.

03-03-11, 03:05 PM
The only quinoa I have found available in NZ is organic quinoa from Bolivia. I'm not complaining about that.
Izzy - I know this is the quinoa Binn Inn outlets supply in their bulk bins even though it is not labvelled as such.

03-03-11, 06:19 PM
Is that the same stuff Ceres do? How much is it at Binn Inn? I get it for about $7.50/500g here at our local cheap Indian bulk foods health shop. Prices do tend to vary depending on if it's red, white, or mixed quinoa though I've noticed. I'm loving the red stuff at the moment.

03-03-11, 06:36 PM
It probably is the same as Ceres. I don't know off hand what price it is at Binn Inn. I think they only have white or at least that is all I have seen at the local Binn Inn.

03-03-11, 07:59 PM
Is that the same stuff Ceres do? How much is it at Binn Inn? I get it for about $7.50/500g here at our local cheap Indian bulk foods health shop. Prices do tend to vary depending on if it's red, white, or mixed quinoa though I've noticed. I'm loving the red stuff at the moment.

From what I've read, the red quinoa is the most nutritious. The only place I've seen red is at the health food store where it was over $8 for 12 oz. When I can get 4lbs of white for just a bit more, the red is out of the question, lol.

03-03-11, 08:12 PM
In NZ it is easy to get red, white and black quinoa. All I have seen has been Bolivian organic and all the same price.