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Monday, June 5, 2017


Our 15 Craigside table had quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) chips last night.  They kind of had the texture of chicharron, or pork rind.  No one had the faintest idea what quinoa was, although one person loved it in a special salad served here once a month or so.  This was somewhat surprising, for we all are world travelers and as a group know something about everything.

Quinoa, it turns out, is a grain with edible seeds.  Basically, a cereal related to beetroot and spinach, which now makes no sense to me, for what have these vegetables to do with cereal.  The outer skin is bitter (meaning birds don't bother with this crop) and must be removed.  

However, containing saponins, this outer layer is converted to a detergent for clothes washing and also used as an antiseptic for skin injuries.  The innards are like rice, with a diameter of 0.08 inch.  It is gluten free, but so are many grains.  However, wheat, barley, rye and oats do store glutelins.

So what does a plant look like?

Note the rainbow variation.  I've never seen this crop before.

However, epicurean restaurants are more and more carrying products made from this plant.  But that is because they can charge a lot more for their cuisine.

Quinoa originated in the Andes, might have been domesticated as long as 7,000 years ago and was considered to be sacred in the Inca Empire.  It has been found to grow at elevations up to 13,000 feet.  Wheat was bred 10,000 years ago as a cross of three grasses.  Note that Spain also cultivates quinoa, and more recently, so does Colorado.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN selected 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.  NASA is considering this grain for long-duration occupied space flights. 

Demand has been growing, so that some varieties sell for as high as $8,000/ton.  Wheat at $9/bushel is equivalent to $340/ton.  There are three types, red, white and black:

Quinoa has become popular in the Jewish community as a substitute for forbidden leavened grains during Passover.  This was controversial until the Orthodox Union at the end of 2013, the largest kosher certification agency, said quinoa was kosher for Passover.  Amazon sells two 12.25 ounce kosher Quinoa jars for $12.99.  This price equates to $34,000/ton.

Finally, quinoa is is becoming a super health food because it is:
  • very nutritious
    • protein
    • manganese
    • magnesium
    • phosphorous
    • folate
    • copper
    • iron
    • zinc
    • potassium
    • calcium
    • B1,B2, B3, B6 and E vitamins
    • omega-3 fatty acids
  • plus flavonoids:  kaempferol and quercetin
  • higher fiber content than most grains
  • gluten free
  • high in protein with all the essential amino acids
  • low glycemic index (for good blood sugar control)
  • highest antioxidant content of cereals and legumes
  • may help you lose weight
No wonder it can cost from 24 to 100 times more than wheat, and actually double that, because recent wheat prices have been around $4.50/bushel.  And there are detractors who question that glycemic index as low and say there is less protein in this seed than wheat or corn.  Nothing is perfect, but quinoa looks like a product worthy of your investigation and possible trial.  You want to become an expert on quinoa?  This book sells for $325.


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