Quinoa - Plant It and Help Solve World Hunger
Quinoa is important to researchers the world over. Why? Because It is a plant that could play a role in alleviating world hunger.
This past summer, in the Okanagan Valley, Canada, I had the pleasure of watching this quintessential super-food, quinoa, grow from a seed, to a tiny plant, to a tall flowering plant, to being harvested.
Just what is quinoa? (Keen-wah)
Quinoa - according to the Dictionary - Quinoa - Chenopodium
According to Merriam-Webster, this crop, quinoa is primarily pronounced with two syllables with the accent on the first (KEEN-wah). It may also be pronounced with three syllables with the accent on either the first syllable (KEE-noh-a) or on the second (kwi-NOH-a). The pronunciation and spelling varies in other languages.
What is Quinoa? - A weed?
Quinoa is a leafy herb that grows up to six feet (2Â m) tall and produces an abundance of seeds - seeds that serve as a nutritious food. It is an amazingly sturdy plant that thrives even in the harsh climate of the South American altiplano.
In Bolivian, for example, on farm lands that are too rocky to be plowed, quinoa is planted simply by digging holes in the ground with a spear-like instrument and then dropping in the seed. Within months, and with a minimum of care, the quinoa matures. The desert is then set aflame with color - yellow, purple, green, and red.
There are some 17 kinds of quinoa, and often a number of varieties grow together. It is very inexpensive to grow quinoa. One gram of seed will sow 50 feet (15 m) of row. An acre requires about one pound of seed.
The wild relatives of quinoa have long been familiar to North American gardeners and is often called pig weed and also called lamb's-quarters. (Chenopodium album). "Aha," you say, "I have heard of pig weed. In fact, I have some growing in my garden." What you may not know is that pig weed has the amazing ability to flower and go to seed at any stage of its growth. Quinoa retains this ability also. Beets, spinach and swiss chard are also relatives of quinoa.
What makes Quinoa so very special? - Amazing nutritional value.
Quinoa has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value. Unlike other plants, its protein content is very high (12-18%) and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it a complete protein source. High in calcium, magnesium and iron, quinoa is also considered a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus. Quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest.
Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's "Controlled Ecological Life Support System" for long-duration manned spaceflights.
Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content. In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2 - 4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours with wheat. This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.
Another remarkable feature of quinoa is its versatility. Quinoa has a unique, nutty taste. You can use it as a breakfast cereal. You can serve it cold with salad, hot with meat dishes, or sweet as a dessert.
Nutritional Values Compared With Quinoa - Simply amazing!
You want to make quinoa flour? - Easy!
I am very frugal, so I cringe at the price of quinoa flour in some supermarkets. All you need is an inexpensive coffee or spice grinder (the kind you pulse - just make sure to clean out the coffee residue!). I love recommending this to people because it is a great way to experiment with quinoa flour without buying an entire package of it.
Here's what you do:
~ Place 1/4 cup (60 mL) of quinoa seeds in the grinder (adding any more will overload the grinder and prevent the seeds from being ground to a fine consistency).
~ Using on/off pulses, process, shaking the grinder every few pulses to ensure an even grind, until the seeds are finely and evenly ground. You can rub it between your fingers - it will be very soft and almost velvety feeling when it is ground all the way. It only takes about 30-45 seconds!
~ Empty the flour into a bowl or measuring cup and repeat with more seeds until you have the desired amount of flour.
NOTE; 1/4 cup (60 mL) of whole quinoa seeds yields about 1/3 cup (75 mL) of fine quinoa flour.
For those who don't want to make their own flour, but still want better price, there are some GREAT online sources for ordering quinoa flour in bulk. A fantastic online quinoa resource Is Amazon.
A good place to buy Quinoa. - The lowest price.
There are over 120 species of Chenopodium, but only three main varieties are cultivated; one producing very pale seeds, called the white or sweet variety; a dark red fruited variety called red quinoa; and a black quinoa.
As the world becomes more aware of this versatile food there will be more stores offering it for sale. I have been pricing it at our Health Food Stores in the area and we can buy it much cheaper online still. Please check your local stores before you purchase it here.
One thing I must mention is that, like rice, it expands in size when cooked so buy a small amount if you have a small family.
Removal of the saponin.
Before quinoa is ready to eat.
When purchased, the removal of the saponin is usually already done for us.
Removal of the saponin is a process that requires either soaking quinoa in water for a few hours, then changing the water and re-soaking, or rinsing the quinoa in ample running water for several minutes in either a fine strainer or a cheesecloth.
A Few Interesting Facts:
1. Saponin is a bitter-tasting coating that keeps birds at bay until the seeds are very mature.
2. The soapy nature of the compound, saponin, acts as a laxitive.
3. Quinoa sold in packets has usually been washed industrially to remove the bitter husks.
4. Cooking times vary widely according to the variety of quinoa, how it was processed, and the altitude at which it is cooked.
5. Quinoa leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like Amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited.
6. 1 cup of quinoa when cooked = 4 cups.
NOTE: Deer love the young, tender leaves! A deer fence is in order.
Harvest Time - Late September/Early October
After a rain the sun came out. These seeds are ready to burst.
Harvesting is mainly done by hand and rarely by machine because of the extremely variable periods of maturity of native quinoa. An exact timing of harvest is important in order to avoid a high loss of grains due to shattering. However, the exact harvesting time is difficult to determine because panicles of the same plant mature at different times.
The grain yield reaches comparable dimensions to wheat yields. (Often around 3 t/ha up to 5 t/ha.) When the time for harvest arrives, the plants are uprooted, allowed to dry in the sun, and threshed by hand.
Now another remarkable property of quinoa becomes manifest. It can be stored for years without spoiling. Quinoa proves to be a real treasure during long dry seasons. It is easy to see why it is the staple food of people in Bolivia. But of what interest is it to the rest of the world?
A Key to Solving World Hunger?
Famine relief organizations believe that quinoa could play a key role in reducing world hunger. The grain is tough and can be grown in a hostile environment without expensive farming equipment. Through crossbreeding, researchers have already developed exceptionally tough strains of quinoa that are resistant to such adverse conditions as hailstorms and frost. Additionally, it is nutritious and delicious and can be served in a variety of ways.
As to whether quinoa will make a dent in the global hunger problem, only time will tell. In the meantime, you may want to see if you can obtain quinoa locally. With a little imagination and experimentation, you may be able to add to your menu a nutritious dish made of quinoa - the everyday superfood.
Children's Gardens in Peru - Helping to feed 600 hungry children.
*MUST SEE* In the Matara District of Peru more than 70 little gardens are sown, weeded and harvested by school children. Quinoa is one of the seeds planted and valued for its nutritious qualities. The seeds are distributed by the schools in Matara to about 600 boys and girls in other school areas.
Quinoa From Planting to Harvesting - Okanagan Valley, CanadaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Grow Your Own Super Food - All gardens could have a patch.
It only takes a little area to grow enough quinoa for your family.
Best Cookbook - Quinoa 365 - The everyday super food
I have advertised this cookbook in my other Quinoa lenses and it is the one I use. This book truly offers something for everyone, including babies, vegetarians and people living gluten-free.
In "Quinoa 365," sisters Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming show you how to use this miraculous super food in all your favorite dishes.
One of the world's healthiest foods, quinoa contains a perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids, and is a great source of protein, making it an increasingly popular food choice for those looking to incorporate "super foods" into their everyday diets. Gluten-free, wheat-free, and nutrient-packed, quinoa is ideal for those who are health-conscious, vegetarian, and/or physically active, as well as for those with gluten intolerance, wheat allergies, and other digestive disorders. But that's not all: You can eat quinoa guiltless knowing it's free of cholesterol and trans fats.
*J. G. Vaughn & C. A. Geissler (2009). The new Oxford book of food plants. Oxford University Press
*Greg Schlick and David L. Bubenheim (November 1993). Quinoa: An Emerging "New" Crop with Potential for CELSS (PDF). NASA Technical Paper 3422. NASA
*Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods, Catherine Shanahan, MD, Luke Shanahan (2008) pp. 148-151
*All pictures - Family photos.
Find out more facts about quinoa.
The world currently produces enough food for everybody, but many people do not have access to it.
There is ample evidence that rapid progress to reduce hunger can be made by applying a strategy that tackles both the causes and the consequences of extreme poverty and hunger.
1. Interventions to improve food availability and incomes of the poor by enhancing their productive activities.
2. Programs that give the most needy families direct and immediate access to food.
Simultanenously, a global food system needs better governance at national and international level. In food insecure countries, institutions are needed based on the principles of the "Right to Adequate Food." These should promote transparency and accountability, the empowerment of the poor and their participation in the decisions that affect them.
Here are a few more sites you may find interesting!
- Quinoa, Alternative Field Crops Manual, University of Wisconsin Extension Service, the University of
This publication provides some costs of production and estimates of market prices as well as other production information.
- Quinoa: A Potential New Oil Crop, New Crops, Purdue University, 1993
Examines the benefits of quinoa as an oil crop, identifying the oil as rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, a product that should appeal to today's health conscious consumer.
- Quinoa, lost crop of the Incas, finds new life, New Farm, Rodale Institute, 2003
This article describes the origin and development of quinoa. It also gives details about quinoa products.
- Quinoa Market, Products and Research
This website is run by Andean Naturals, an organic quinoa importer, with frequent updates on changes in the market and new products.
- Quinoa, Mother Grain of the Incas, planeta.com, 1999
This article gives details of the rise and fall of quinoa in the world, its cultivation details and its nutritional details.
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Have you been eating this delightful, crunchy grain?
Are you now ready to grow a little patch of quinoa for your family?
My family loves it.
Not to get too commercial:
"Mikie" likes it. Why don't you try it, you'll like it.