Monday, July 13, 2009



Pronounced (it's "KEEN-wah"), this nutritionally exceptional grain has grown in popularity during the past decade as more people have become familiar with the taste of this diminutive grain.

Cultivated in South America for thousands of years, quinoa was a cornerstone of the Inca diet. It's a comparatively recent addition to U.S. supermarkets and health-food stores, but its popularity has been growing steadily. This is no doubt due to its exceptional nutritional profile, which boasts a protein content as rich as milk and an alphabetic list of vitamins and minerals (including B vitamins, and vitamin E, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium). Its gentle nutty flavor and speedy preparation time (it cooks more quickly than rice and is just as easy to make) only heighten its appeal.

What was a sacred crop to the Incas has been classified as a "super crop" by the United Nations because of its high protein content. It is a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids. It also contains the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair, and is a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous.

Both the grain -- which is actually the fruit of the Chenopodium quinoa plant -- and the spinachlike leaves are edible, but the leaves are a rare find. If you spot some at a farmers' market, use them in a salad. The grain is most commonly available in red or white -- each of which grows on a different variety of the plant -- and should be stored in the refrigerator. Red is less prevalent, so if you can't find it use white instead. Either can be served hot or cold and will add a great texture to baked goods -- not to mention, of course, a whole roster of nutrients.
Isn't that why you bought quinoa in the first place?

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