The scoop on quinoa.
The United Nations has declared that 2013 is International Year of Quinoa. It was extensively cultivated by pre-Columbian cultures from around 3000 BC, and along with corn and potatoes was a staple in Andean meals and referred to as the ‘mother grain’. During 2013, food security, agriculture, and nutrition experts want to work together to make sure that traditional growers in South America can keep up with the demand, and that the crop can continue to feed millions as the world’s rising population and growing food shortages make eradicating hunger a formidable challenge.
Photo credit: Lauran and Henriette Damen, Kindred Organics
What’s so super about quinoa? One of the things that make quinoa a ‘super food’ is its resilience. In a world where climate change and natural disasters are threatening many traditional types of agriculture, heartiness is a much-desired quality in a crop. It’s a cool climate crop and the world’s main producers are Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador but it is also being grown in the US. Here in Australia, Lauran and Henriette Damen of Kindred Organics in Tasmania are in their fifth year of growing, harvesting, cleaning and polishing organic quinoa on a commercial scale. ‘It’s an amazing crop,’ they told us, ‘but rather challenging to grow.’
Nutritionally, it is an excellent source of low GI carbs (GI 53) and protein (around 8 grams per cup of cooked quinoa) and is rich in B vitamins and minerals including iron, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. It is also gluten free.
It's also versatile. In the kitchen, you can use it in dishes that call for other grains or grain products including rice, couscous, bulgur or barley. It cooks in about 10–15 minutes and has a light, chewy texture and slightly nutty flavour. The beige/tan variety tends to have more flavour than the red – but a combination of the two makes a colourful dish. Here is a taste of the quinoa recipes we have published:
- Chicken and pumpkin soup with quinoa
- Sumac-spiced lamb backstrap with quinoa and roasted grapes
- Quinoa, mackerel and spinach kedgeree
- Avocado, sesame and sumac quinoa in baby gem leaves
- Jamie Oliver’s Blackened chicken with San Fran quinoa salad in Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals and
- Yotam Ottolenghi’s Avocado, quinoa and broad bean salad in Plenty.