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Quinoa: Where Does It Come From?

  • Quinoa: Where Does It Come From?

Walk-in any fancy restaurant these days, their waiters and managers will sure brag about the high-quality quinoa they serve. Even the health bloggers are grooving on this ancient grain. Nutritious, tasty and easy to cook, quinoa is a popular alternative to rice and is classed as a superfood or super grain. Many people are curious as to the origins of quinoa - but whilst it may be new in some parts of the world, it is very well known in others. Its origins are in South America, yet many homes in India have found ways to incorporate it into the Indian diet. Some try to spice it up as a Bhel snack, some puff it to form quinoa puff, some are just happy to fry it up into patties or make an unconventional healthy Upma from it. Many found it a little difficult at first to Indianize his healthy grain, but soon it replaced rice in pulao or dosa. Not to mention all the different styles and flavours, to turn it into a salad.

Originally, quinoa was grown in the Andes Mountains, but due to its ever-increasing demand, it is now grown in over 70 countries including China, North America, France, India, Africa and the Middle East. Though people still struggle to pronounce it, this seed has become an important superfood. Observing so many orders and quinoa-packed kitchen shelves, we were left wondering about what is quinoa anyway? Well, we know that it is a seed that can be cooked like a grain, but from where does it come? If you don’t already know, you are just about to get the answer.

Quinoa is an ancient grain that dates back to three to four thousand years ago. Yes! It is not any newfound superfood, but food consumed by Incas thousands of years ago. This tiny seed is harvested from tall green, low-growing plants with edible leaves. This plant can tolerate extreme weather, maybe that is what empowers the seed! It can thrive in the frosty cold or extreme droughts. meaning it can flourish in locales where common cereal crops such as wheat and rice may struggle. Hence, it was easily cultivated in Andes and Incas before 3,000 B.C.

Quinoa seed has taken the entire limelight of quinoa and that is the part of the plant we typically eat. In order to get these tiny beads, the plant needs to flower properly first. During harvest time, this plant shreds off all its leaves, it’s just seed heads on the stalk. Most of the time seeds are left to dry on the stalk itself, while sometimes they are dried after harvesting. A simple hard shake is enough to release these tiny beads off from the seed head.

Before these seeds are sold commercially, they are well polished. These seeds need to be soaked in water and dried off to remove the bitter saponin coating which is the plant’s natural protection from insects.

When cooked, it has a nutty flavour but is light and fluffy. It lends itself well to many other flavours so you can season it up as much or as little as you like. It is always a good idea to rinse quinoa before cooking, even when boxed, as it can harbour some remnants of a bitter saponin coating. Rinsing your quinoa as well as toasting it prior to cooking it helps bring out its nutty flavour.

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