After being out of circulation since the Spanish conquest of South America, the food plant Quinoa is staging a comeback in the world’s food arena. Acknowledged by the world’s nutrition experts and food scientists as one of the world’s most nutritionally rich (if not the richest) food sources, Quinoa’s re-appearance couldn’t be more timely.
As a food plant that had been extensively cultivated by Colombian cultures all the way to the Incas, Quinoa has a more than 6,000 year track record of providing nutritionally rich diets to the people in the Andean valleys and surroundings.
Marginalized after the rise in popularity of the grains barley, corn and wheat, it suffered the most when its cultivation was outlawed by the Spanish regime.
Presently, it is now grown in high and cold regions of the countries Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia Chile and Argentina, although in reduced quantities. This is, of course, mostly due to economic and social reasons.
Harvesting and threshing, done mostly by manual labor, consume great efforts and time (days on end). Aside from this, Quinoa needed an extra laborious process – the rinsing of the seeds to remove the bitter saponin before it can be deemed fit for consumption.
The Quinoa also has an outstanding ability to withstand and adapt very harsh environmental conditions like cold and drought. Normally, seeds germinate when conditions are suitable, although in the wilds, they may remain in the soil for 2 or 3 years without germinating.
The plant has strong resistance to droughts, but it requires sufficient humidity at the start of farm time.
The plant’s natural nutritional values are incredibly rich and considerable. For one, it has all of the 8 essential amino acids needed by the body, excluding lysine which is good for tissue growth and repair.
It also has great quantities of calcium, and the other minerals like iron, copper, phosphorous, and manganese. It also has most of the vitamin B types and riboflavin (B6). Not least of them all is the considerable fiber content of this incredible seed.
Quinoa is being recommended by health professionals as a natural source of large quantities of magnesium which is good for cardiovascular maintenance. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, and consequently lowers the risks of high blood pressure and other heart illnesses.
The leaves, stems and grain have been known to have some medicinal properties like anti-inflammation, as analgesic, and as a disinfectant of the urinary tract. It is also used in cases of fractures and internal hemorrhaging.
To date, there are around a hundred food preparations and recipes that use Quinoa as the primary ingredient. These include tamales, salads, pickles, soups and casseroles, stews, pastries and sweets, desserts and beverages. It also include making of breads, biscuits, and pancakes.
Quinoa is most versatile because many of its parts can be used for a number of preparations. Usable are the whole grain, the roasted flour, small leaves, and instant powder.
To date, there are three main varieties of Quinoa that are commercially available – the white or sweet variety, the dark red and the black variety. The seeds are all similar and almost of the same size.