Quinoa, once the livelihood of INCA warriors, has made the incredible journey to health food store shelves across the country. Quinoa is believed to have been cultivated more than 5,000 years ago in the mountains of Bolivia and was the staple diet of INCA warriors who feasted on this nutritious food as they prepared for battle. Armed with their weapons and sufficient energy from the slow-release carbohydrate of Quinoa, the INCA embarked on long marches and went into battle safe in the knowledge that the grain of Quinoa gave them strength and energy.
A very durable and hardy crop, quinoa thrived in these arid, high-altitude regions, but was nearly wiped out during the 1500s by a Spanish explorer named Francisco Pizarro. Quinoa was considered a frightened food of the INCA people and Francisco believed that if he destroyed the quinoa plant he could weaken the culture of the INCA. It was not successful and 5000 years on Quinoa is available on the shelves of most supermarkets.
Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is not actually a cereal grain, but rather a seed. Quinoa is known as quinoa grain or pseudo-cereal, which is the term given to foods that are cooked and eaten like grains and have similar nutritional profiles to grains. Surprisingly, the quinoa grain is closely related to leafy vegetables such as beets, Swiss chard, and spinach, and its leaves can be eaten just like the seeds. Quinoa is often misspelled ‘kinoa’ and mispronounced as ‘keenoha’. The correct pronunciation is ‘keenwa’.
Quinoa is a hardy plant that thrives in dry terrain and can grow in poor soil with very little water. This quality has earned it the reputation of a super crop by the United Nations. The plant itself can grow to almost 2 meters and produces colorful seed heads, the loveliest of the lot being the red quinoa. Each seed head contains a large amount of quinoa grain.
There are many different varieties of quinoa, but the one most commonly found on the shelves of your supermarket or health food store is the white variety. Black and red quinoa seeds are also available. Also, you will find quinoa flour and quinoa flakes for sale. It’s a fabulously versatile ingredient that will complement just about any meal, from breakfast cereals, salads, breads, and even chocolate cake. So not only does it provide a tasty feast for INCA warriors, it will also provide the nutrients missing from most modern diets today.