It's been around for thousands of years; NASA could be sending it into space; and the UN General Assembly thinks it could be important for future nutritional needs and to help eradicate poverty. Quinoa is a superfood in more ways than one and has recently had a resurgence of popularity. In fact, 2013 was named 'The International Year of Quinoa'. If you are interested in adding some nutritious and delicious foods into your diet then you might want to check out some quinoa ancient space food!
What is quinoa?
Quinoa is a pseudocereal as it is a grain crop that is grown for its edible seeds. The most common type of quinoa is white but there are also red and black varieties. Quinoa can be puffed, like pop corn or rolled into flakes too, like oats. It looks similar to couscous and becomes light and fluffy when cooked with a rich, nutty flavor.
Why is quinoa considered a superfood?
Quinoa is a good source of protein, the highest of all the whole grains and more so than brown rice, but less so than oats. The edible seeds are also a complete source of protein too, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids the body needs. Rich in fiber, quinoa is also high in magnesium, phosphorus and iron, as well as vitamin E and potassium. The riboflavin (vitamin B2) in quinoa helps metabolism, giving the body a real energy boost. Complex B vitamins promote healthier skin, eyes and liver, as well as supporting the function of the nervous system.
For those on a restricted diet, quinoa can be a good good-to staple. High in calcium, quinoa is good food to include if you are lactose-intolerant or have cut out dairy as part of a vegan diet. Quinoa is also gluten-free and cholesterol-free, not to mention kosher for Passover, so those restricted to grains such as wheat, barley and rye can still enjoy a food which is a great substitute.
What's the history of quinoa?
Considered sacred by the Incas, quinoa was a main crop in South America some 5,000 years ago, specifically in the Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Columbia, where it grew at high altitude. After nearly being wiped out, it was really reintroduced to the world by enthusiasts who began growing the grain in Colorado in the 1980s. It may also be a crop for controlled ecological systems created by NASA for their Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems.
What dishes can I cook with quinoa?
Most quinoa is organic and although the bitter chemical coating, saponin is usually already removed it is best to give the seeds a rinse or soak them before use. Essentially you cook quinoa in much the same way as rice. The softness of the seeds means they can be added to salads in much the same way as couscous and don't have to be eaten hot. Popping the seeds in hot oil makes a great snack. You can cook quinoa in stock to add flavor and you should follow the 2:1 liquid to quinoa ratio.
Asian-inspired quinoa salad
Quinoa is incredibly versatile and one of the best ways to enjoy it is in salads. Cook a cup of quinoa until the two cups of water have been absorbed - about 15 - 20 minutes - and then let it cool. Add in the juice of half a lemon, some fine slices of ginger and some crushed garlic. If you like some heat add in a finely sliced chili. Cut spring onions into diagonal shards and throw these into the mix. Add a few splashes of fish sauce and a good handful of freshly chopped cilantro. Serve and enjoy!
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