Quinoa (KEEN-wah) originated in the Andean region of South America, where it has been an important food for 6,000 years.
The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or the mother of all grains. During the European conquest of South America quinoa was scorned by the Spanish colonists as “food for Indians,” and even actively suppressed, due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies. In fact, the conquistadors forbade quinoa cultivation for a time and the Incas were forced to grow corn instead.
Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. This may also explain why it was rejected by the Europeans who were quick to adopt other indigenous food crops like the potato and maize. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. In contemporary times, quinoa has become 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 protein source among plant foods.
You can treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). As an alternative, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, treating it just like white rice (for both cooking cycle and water amounts).
Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Quinoa flour can be combined with sorghum flour, tapioca, and potato starch to create a nutritious gluten-free baking mix in the following ratio: three parts quinoa flour, three parts sorghum flour, two parts potato starch, and one part tapioca starch. Quinoa flour can also be used as a filling for chocolate.
Greens N Grains is now stocking red quinoa in boxes and in bulk in addition to the regular quinoa.