The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as "chisaya mama" or "mother of all grains", according to Wikipedia.
This reference goes on to say:
In contemporary times this crop has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete food. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.
This is one of the primary reasons I have added quinoa to my food world. If I am removing meat products and reducing dairy and eggs, I want to be sure I attempt more protein.
Besides this, I first sampled quinoa (KEEN-wah) in a local Peruvian restaurant. This place is part of the Slow Food movement and is owned by Peruvians. The dishes I sampled there two years ago were just lovely and quinoa was one of my prized finds.
Fun fact to know and tell: Did you know that quinoa is the least mucous-producing grain? (Stole that from a blog commenter named Roosie).
The other reason I am enamored of this quasi-grain, pseudo-cereal, carbohydrate is diversity. Wheat, corn, soy and rice have all been over-planted, genetically modified, destroyed by drought or kept from farmer's fields around the world. With the horror stories of our Mono-Crop, Agri-business, World Trade Organization, Terminator Seeds, International Monetary Fund, Hedge Fund Vultures destroying diversity, indigenous farmers and economies in hundreds of countries – while starving millions upon millions of people for profit, I am guessing quinoa isn’t on the radar screens yet. I am learning to eat it, fix it, grow it and introduce other American native grains. Amaranth is my next diversity quasi-grain, pseudo-cereal (it's not technically a grass). It has the advantage of being beautiful as well as healthy. I have planted it in my own garden and the community garden is next.
Today I planned to have had quinoa and spring onions from the farmer’s market in the solar oven all morning. Well, I had clouds, sprinkles and no sun. Plan B is the cast iron pan to caramelize the onions and then add the quinoa with a bit of miso, salt and pepper. Simple. Oh yes, I added two tiny green onions from my own raised bed garden. They were from last year. I planted that raised bed garden yesterday according to my square foot plan. The two onions were out of their 2 square foot area so they were harvested early. By following the Wikipedia link above the straightforward information about quinoa is right there, but I should emphasize the need to rinse the quinoa. Yesterday I put it in water to soak overnight even though that is not needed. But, I did rinse it several times today before adding it to the onion mixtures. The ratio of water to quinoa is the same as rice.
This week is the end of the month, I fucked up with overdrafts and I didn’t go to the Farmer’s market because of the Laundromat costs – so I am eating from my food storage and what was left from the previous week. This is something that I think is like a test run for people of privilege and/or people of means (read: income). What is it to simply say I don’t have money for food? It is arbitrary for me as I have a lump sum I’m living off of as long as I can manage. But what if I had no reserve and simply hit the end? Time to get creative with what is at hand.
Though this photo shows that quinoa is an attractive plant as well as nutritious, it has no chance compared with the beauty of amaranth. I will be writing more about this edible, ornamental this summer. I just couldn’t resist an image.