Quinoa is a "cereal-like" plant originated in South America (especially in Peru, Chile and Bolivia) that is a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium). It is called the "Golden grain of the Andes" and it has a nutty taste.
Although the seeds of quinoa can be used like cereals and also the nutrients of quinoa are similar to corn, it is (botanically) related to vegetables like spinach, mangelwurzel and garden beet. They all belong to the family Amaranthaceae.
The coating of quinoa contain bitter-tasting saponins, which the plant uses for protection against pests. In commercially sold quinoa most of the saponins where removed by plunging in alkaline solution. Cooking reduces the saponin content even more. But, nevertheless, infants younger than two years should avoid the intake of quinoa because of the residual content of saponins.
Preparation and Usage of quinoa
The preparation of quinoa is similar to rice. In order the remove the rest of the saponins, the grain requires soaking in water a few hours. You should add twice as much water than grain in a pot and bring it to boil. The cooking time is about 10-15 minutes (until the water is gone).
If you like, you can flavor the quinoa with nutmeg, curry, pepper or coriander. In order to enhance the nutty taste of quinoa, you can roast it in a hot pan before cooking.
Quinoa is suitable as a side dish, it can be added to a clear soup or in muesli together with fruits and nuts. Its leaves can be also be prepared and eaten like e.g. spinach and mangelwurzel.
Nutrients of quinoa
Since quinoa is gluten-free, it is a great alternative for people with celiac disease, who have to avoid all sorts of ingredients derived from gluten-containing cereals. Quinoa of its own is not suitable for baking because of the lack of gluten.
Quinoa is an excellent source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. It contains all essential amino acids, which is not the case in other cereals.
Like other Amaranthaceae (e.g. spinach, mangelwurzel), the leaves of quinoa are rich in oxalic acid and therefore should be avoided by people with kidney stones.
Quinoa has a high content of magnesium and iron. The following table gives you an overview of the nutrients of quinoa.
|Nutrients of quinoa|
More nutrients of quinoa
Books on Amazon
- The Art of Cooking With Quinoa: A Complete Vegetable Protein
- The New Whole Grain Cookbook
- Quinoa: Golden grain of the Andes
- The Splendid Grain