Maybe you’ve heard about quinoa and thought, “What the heck is that?” In the past few years, quinoa has gotten a lot of attention and the name has become more common on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus alike, but have you actually figured out what it is yet or why you might want to eat it? Alright then, listen up: We’re about to give you the skinny.
Quinoa is usually considered a whole grain, but it’s actually a seed that you can cook up just like a whole grain such as barley or rice. (You might give it a try with stir-fry instead of your old favorite white rice) It has a similar nutritional profile to brown rice but with slightly higher protein content. It’s also a relative of some leafy green veggies we love like spinach and Swiss chard. Here are some of the reasons that quinoa is so great:
1. It cooks up faster than other grains, like rice. It’s usually ready in 10 to 15 minutes.
2. It’s quite tasty all on its own (unlike millet and teff). Try adding a little olive oil, some sea salt and a dash of lemon juice. Voila! Delicioso!
3. It’s great for vegans and vegetarians because it has the highest protein content of all the whole grains. It contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein. Bonus points: It’s gluten-free, cholesterol free, kosher for Passover, and most of the time—it’s organic. Quadruple threat! AND it’s high in copper and manganese (great for your immune system), magnesium (for your heart), and fiber (to keep your digestive tract running smoothly).
Now, I’m sure, you’re wondering—what does it taste like? Here’s the best description we found (from Dietriffic.com) : “The taste and texture of quinoa is a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal. It’s fluffy, creamy, crunchy and somewhat nutty, all rolled into one.” It’s versatile and can be prepared several ways. Before you cook it though—wash it. Most commercial brands have been washed beforehand to remove a chemical called saponin that can be found on the surface of quinoa. Saponin, apparently, has a somewhat bitter, soapy taste, and who wants that? So, give it a rinse just like you would with rice before you cook it up (and cook your quinoa according to this ration: 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid).
Some interesting facts about quinoa:
1. Quinoa comes in different colors or varieties just like grapes. The most common is white, but sometimes you can also find red or black.
2. The Incas held quinoa to be sacred and called it the “mother of all grains” and cultivated it for years. Traditionally, the emperor would sow the first quinoa seed of the season with “golden implements.” The Spanish conquistadors actually forbade the cultivation of quinoa, forcing the Inca people to grown wheat instead, because they called it “Indian food” and didn’t appreciate its place in certain religious ceremonies.
3. 2013 has been declared the International Year of Quinoa by The United Nations.
The long and short of quinoa is this: There are good reasons to give it a try. It’s healthy, packs a nutritional punch, and by most accounts, it’s delicious. So, cook some up and let us know what you think. Leave a comment on our Facebook page and tell us what your favorite recipe is. If you’d like more info on quinoa, along with recipes and cooking tips, visit Quinoa Corporation.