- Food and Cooking
Quinoa recipes: Inca delights for modern times!
Peru this week news!
In its current issue, Peru this Week published an article entitled: Perú's quinoa sees increase in popularity.
Quinoa, from the Quechua word kinwa), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds, although its leaves are also eaten as a vegetable. The plant can reach heights of up to 2 metres.
Quinoa was of great nutritional importance to the Andean civilizations, where it has been an important food for thousands of years, secondary only to the potato and maize. It was once considered a sacred seed, being also known as the rice of the Incas. It was scorned by the Spanish colonists as food for Indians and the conquistadors even forbade its cultivation for a while, so the Incas were forced to grow corn instead.
A tiny grain, no bigger than a mustard seed, it once fed an ancient civilization which stretched from Chile in the Pacific coast, to the snow-capped peaks of the Peruvian Andes. The Incas held the crop as sacred and referred to it as chisaya mama or mother of all grains and it was the mighty ruler himself who would traditionally sow the first seeds with a gold spade.
Quinoa is generally undemanding, so it can be easily cultivated at heights of up to about 4,000 meters. It grows best in well-drained soils, but requires a relatively long growing season.
History and culture
The Incas called the earth Pachamama and it was considered a deity. Everything that came from her was like a gift from the gods. Products like Quinoa, now rediscovered for its high nutritious value, fulfilled a fundamental role in the feeding of the ancient Incas.
The flavor of quinoa is similar to wholewheat rice, it is easy to cook (takes approximately 12 to 15 minutes) and it is used to make both sweet and savoury dishes.
A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at and simmering at a low for 14–18 minutes. The cooked germ should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted for water during cooking, which adds flavor. Quinoa can also serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds, or berries.
Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is considered to be a complete protein source due to the presence of all 8 essential amino acids. Quinoa is also glueten free and easy to digest.
As it grows and develops in mountainous regions it has minerals like calcium, potasium, magnesium, iron, manganese and zinc, in greater concentrations than wheat, oats, corn or rice. It is also an important source of vitamin E.
In moden times, it has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians.