What is quinoa (keen-wa)?
Quinoa was known by the Incas of South America as 'chisiya mama' or 'mother grain', second only in importance to maize. The majority of quinoa is grown at high altitudes in the Andes of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Along with amaranth, it is the only vegetable protein that presents an equilibrated balance of amino acids, particularly rich in lysine, as opposed to other cereal grains. It's also a good source of iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins B6 and E, and can be an excellent source of fiber. It cooks in 15 minutes and can be used like rice or couscous in salads, stews, soup, stir- fries, pilafs, or as a cereal. Quinoa is gluten free. The flour is an excellent substitute for wheat flour in quick breads or baked goods that don't use yeast like cakes or cookies.
Do you have to store quinoa in the refrigerator?
Quinoa can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Unlike many grains whose oil goes rancid quickly leading to off-flavors, quinoa, which has a high vitamin E content that acts as an antioxidant, can be stored for several years.
Do you have to wash or rinse quinoa before cooking and eating?
Some quinoa has bitter compounds called saponins in the seed coat which protect the seed from being eaten by birds. These compounds were traditionally removed by washing before cooking and eating. Most of the quinoa that was imported to this country from South America in the 1980's was unprocessed so it was important to wash it before cooking. Today, the saponins are removed either by polishing or washing so the consumer does not have to do it, although many people wash it just to be sure.
Is all quinoa whole grain?
The quinoa sold by Inca Organics in the US, England and Australia is a whole grain quinoa. It is washed in a 3-step process that thoroughly removes the bitter saponins with only a minimal loss of vital nutrients. After washing, it is dried to a specific moisture content and is ready to be cooked without further washing. All other quinoa from Peru and Bolivia is mechanically polished by abrasion to remove the seed coat and the bitter saponins. This produces a saponin-rich powder that is used as an emulsifier in the pharmaceutical industry. The quinoa is then sold as grain quinoa, but because of the polishing it cannot be considered whole grain, being more akin to white rice or pearl barley. It is lower in protein, vitamins and minerals and has half the dietary fiber of washed whole grain quinoa.
Is all quinoa the same?
No. Only quinoa grown in Ecuador by Inca Organics is cleaned by the unique washing method and not polished. Inca Organics quinoa is, therefore, the only whole grain quinoa on the market in the US, England and Australia. All other quinoa is polished to remove the bitter taste~ but this polishing also removes many of the vital nutrients and makes it a refined grain.
Why purchase certified organic and fair trade quinoa?
Purchasing organic quinoa reduces the environmental impact of agriculture practices and reduces the carbon footprint related to the manufacture and commercialization of fertilizers and pesticides.
Purchasing fair trade quinoa ensures that farmers receive a fair price for their quinoa. In Ecuador, many of the members of the farmer's cooperatives are small landowners, producing anywhere from 100 to 130 lbs of quinoa per harvest. Fair trade prices guarantee the profitability of continuing to cultivate quinoa, while creating important ties and trust amongst the farmers, processors and buyers. Further, a sustainable market helps stabilize the economy of families and thus of their communities, In the particular case of quinoa, fair trade is an important means of preserving a cultural heritage by providing a market for an ancestral crop.