What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa, pronounced ‘ki:nwa’ is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds and has been cultivated over thousands of years in the Andes region of South America, where it is commonly known as the “Mother Grain”. It has numerous nutritional benefits, is a good source of dietary fibre and protein, is high in Iron, Gluten-free and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol.

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, where it was cultivated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption. The seeds require further processing after cultivation to remove a bitter coating that it grows with.


Biology

Quinoa, or Chenopodium quinoa as it is scientifically known is a dicotyledonous annual plant usually about 1–2 metres (3.3–6.6 ft) high. It has broad, generally pubescent, powdery, smooth (rarely) to lobed leaves normally arranged alternately. The woody central stem is branched or unbranched depending on the variety and may be green, red or purple. The fruits are about 2 millimetres (0.079 in) in diameter and of various colours—from white to red or black, depending on the cultivar.

Nutritional Value

Known in many circles as a ‘superfood’, quinoa has a high protein content for a cereal, even higher than the protein found in brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet. It also is a good source of magnesium, iron, calcium, suitable for vegans and is gluten-free, making it easy to digest. For these nutritional benefits, it is even being considered for use as a crop for a NASA space project!

Quinoa takes only 2-4 hours soaked in a glass of clean water to make it sprout and release gases, as compared to 12 hours with wheat. This process softens the seeds, making them suitable for salads and other cold foods.

International Year Of Quinoa

2013 was declared as the ‘International Year Of Quinoa’ by the United Nations, in recognition of the importance and ancestral practices of the Andean people, who have been cultivating and consuming quinoa throughout the generations. The objective was to highlight the role quinoa could play in providing food security, improve nutrition and reduce poverty in developing nations.