What Is Quinoa?
What is Quinoa? Whatever is this...a grain...or is it a seed? What is all this fuss about?
Here's a stand of quinoa. It's not only easy to cook, but super healthy for us.
Quinoa, pronounced Keen Wa is a seed rather than a true grain or cereal and comes from a family of plants called "chenopods" related to spinach, beets and tumbleweed.
Here is a photo of what the quinoa plant looks like. What I, a lay person can see, is that it really does not look like a grain type, tall grassy plant, what with those large fleshy leaves.
It's a wonderful food for easy recipes as all you do is boil it using the absorption method as you'd do with rice. It's that easy.
The proportions are 1 cup of seeds to 2 1/2 cups of water or stock. Because it is costly, I mainly use this in recipes for special salads, rather than as a staple.
It's cooked once the water is absorbed. You can see a little curl in each seed and that's the germ that's separated from the seed. It has a "bite" to it, much like pasta cooked al dente.
Commercially available Quinoa will have had the unpalatable saponin layer removed, but if it is not, rinse thoroughly in lots of running water using a fine cheesecloth.
Quinoa has been re-discovered in modern times and I use it extensively in my easy recipes for a special salad and in one-pot meal as a salad. Try this Quinoa salad with Roast Chicken Breast and Beetroot - just delicious!
It is a hardy plant with optimal growing at cool climates and mostly grown at altitude, between 2500m and 4000m.
The plant, an annual, stands about 1 - 2 m high with large, broad, smooth, powdery, lobed, edible leaves.
On harvest, the seedheads are threshed, then seeds winnowed to remove the husk and dried to prevent germination. The seeds have a natural protective coating of saponins, a bitter tasting layer which is removed before packaging for consumption. This layer of saponins, while inconvenient, has the advantage of protecting the seed from bird pests.
What is Quinoa 's Nutritional Aspects?
Quinoa has a high protein content of 14% compared to most cereals, although not as high as legumes and beans, is gluten-free and is meant to be easily digestible, is a source of calcium, a good consideration for those who are lactose intolerant, contains phosphorus, is a good source of magnesium and iron and is an excellent dietary fiber.
The United Nations have declared 2013 as the Year Of Quinoa and NASA is considering including this crop in its Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights.
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