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2012-01-19

Quinoa

Carolyn B. Edwards

Have you discovered quinoa yet?

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wha, is a seed that comes from South America.

Some people refer to it as a grain, but it isn't.

It is a great source of protein, assorted vitamins and minerals, amino acids and fiber.

It's the latest health food craze and is touted as ideal for vegetarian and vegan diets and for those with nut and gluten allergies.

If you can cook rice, you can cook quinoa. Just use a bit less than twice as much water as quinoa, salt it lightly and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes. The quinoa is done when the little tails appear.

Fluff it with a fork and serve.

Quinoa is slightly crunchy when you eat it, and, I guess because of the fiber, is quite filling.

We've eaten it unadorned as a side dish instead of rice or potatoes.

We've cooked it in chicken broth and added a few pieces of chopped bacon, onion and mushrooms to it. We've thrown a handful into a pot of soup, both beef and chicken. I've put cooked quinoa in a baking dish, topped it with grated cheese and baked it until the cheese bubbles and begins to turn brown. And we've had it with milk and a bit of cinnamon and sweetener for our breakfast cereal.

It's been delicious every way we've tried it so far.

It's also recommended to toss a couple of spoons full into a garden salad for the extra protein.

I've found that it doesn't spike my blood sugar, but if you are diabetic, be sure to test your blood after
eating just to be sure of its effects on your body chemistry.

The name quinoa comes from the Spanish who got it from Quechua, so it is a very old Western Hemisphere food. It is a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) and is related to beets, spinach and, surprisingly enough, tumbleweeds.

Quinoa originated in the Andes mountain range in what is known today as Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. It has been successfully domesticated for at least 4,000 years.

The Incas believed the seed to be sacred and referred to it as the "mother of all grains." The Incan emperor would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using implements of gold.

The Spanish conquerors in their "superior" wisdom dismissed the seed as "food for Indians" and not worth eating. Because of its ties to non-Christian religious ceremonies, they forbade its cultivation, forcing the Incas to grow wheat instead.

At my table, we're glad someone kept a little hidden field of this wonderful seed growing through the centuries so that we can enjoy it today.