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Andean ‘Super food,’ Quinoa

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, second only to the Potato, and was followed in importance by Maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), and like oats, Quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it a complete protein source, unusual among plant foods. It is a good source of dietary fibre and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.

Nowadays, you can find quinoa in health food stores and restaurants that emphasize natural foods. The most commonly cultivated and exported quinoa are white, red and black. White quinoa has the most neutral taste and is soft. It cooks fast, and is good to mix with soup. Red quinoa is tastier and sticky, good for juice or dessert. Black Quinoa is dry and crunchy which can be used for fried dishes.

Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin, that can make the cooked grain taste bitter. Wash and rinse 3 times just before cooking using a fine mesh colander. Add 1.5 times more of water to Quinoa and little amount of salt. Let it boil, then cook 15 minutes under low fire until it looks transparent. Quinoa has an exterior germ that covers the entire kernel (the Germ is the nutrient rich middle layer of a grain). As it cooks, the quinoa germ separates from the kernel, appearing as little white rings. When you see the rings are evident, the grain is fully cooked. You can keep cooked quinoa in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. The simplest way is to just mix it with salad, soup, or any dish. Its mild, earthy, nutty taste goes well with so many ingredients. (Floro Mercene)