If food was a stock market the quinoa stock would be skyrocketing. Since 2006, quinoa crop prices have tripled. If you are unfamiliar with quinoa it is a whole grain that has been eaten for 3,000 to 4,000 years by people in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. The Incas domesticated it for human consumption because it was one of the few crops they could grow at such altitudes in the Andes mountains. The grain remains an important staple in the diets of the Quechua and Aymara peoples who still live in the region.
Health Benefits of Quinoa
Quinoa has grown in popularity in conjunction with more people becoming vegan and vegetarian over the last half decade. It is a considered a complete protein because it provides all 9 essential amino acids which is necessary in a diet that contains no meat. Compared to wheat, barley or corn, quinoa is higher in calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc and has a lower sodium content. Furthering it’s new found success is the fact that it is kosher and is almost always organic. However, some of the kosher certification organizations have refused to certify it for fear of cross-contamination from nearby fields of prohibited grains, so it is always smart to check for the kosher logo before buying quinoa if it is a concern. You can find more comparisons to other grains here.
Cooking with Quinoa
Quinoa can be prepared like other grains such as rice or barley by covering it in vegetable broth or water and boiling for about 15 minutes until it is soft. You can also use your rice cooker with 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water. The health benefits make it a common choice to replace pasta, wheat or couscous as we did in this recipe for Tabouleh. It can also be used as a base for stir-fry or mixed with chicken for a high fiber and high protein meal like this Smoked Paprika Chicken with Squash recipe. Baking quinoa with vegetables is also another great vegetarian meal that makes wonderful leftovers. The options for using quinoa really are pretty limitless when you consider that it even tastes great on it’s own. Cooking quinoa and adding a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and a touch of sea salt can make a great snack or a side dish to just about any meal.
One of the major advantages of quinoa is that it is gluten-free. It serves as a replacement for wheat flour, but it doesn’t translate to bake yeast breads because it lacks the elasticity and plasticity qualities needed. It can be used for flatbreads, such as toritllas or nachos, baking mixes, or as a thickener in sauces and soups. Along with being gluten-free, it is also one of the most nutritious flours available due to its high fiber and protein content.
Quinoa is gaining popularity as a “superfood” and for good reason. Quinoa can often be found at natural health food stores but due to it’s increasing popularity it can be found in more and more grocery stores and supermarkets. It’s a good time to buy stock in it because it shows no signs of slowing down.