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Quinoa – magical, wonderful super-seed

I love quinoa, don’t you?! If you don’t, chances are that you’ve done something wrong… no offence… My love for this superfood was recently re-ignited when we discovered a new quinoa grower, based right here in the North Island of New Zealand. With food miles of just over 200 km, it doesn’t quite qualify for our local badge (who is lovingly nicknamed Farmer Joe by team EFB) but it’s far more local than the previous supply, which was from South America. What’s more, the cool kids over at the Kiwi Quinoa Company grow their seeds without excess pesticides and sprays – far gentler on the environment. According to their website, Dan and Jacqui had the idea to grow quinoa in the Rangitikei after travelling through South America and noting the quinoa-growing regions of Peru bore quite a resemblance to home. And boy, am I glad they did! Thanks for the hard work team! It also makes me so happy to see that we can be part of making their family business a success, so I tell everyone about this! As a nutritionist, quinoa ticks so many boxes for me and as a foodie, just the same. There is just so much to love about this tiny power-house. So let me share with you:

My top four fun facts about quinoa:

It’s not a grain – it’s in fact a seed

You know the tiny spiral that appears when you cook quinoa? That’s the germ – i.e. the very inner of the seed. Although people often refer to quina as a grain  it’s botanically a seed of a plant that is closely related to spinach. This also means that quinoa is gluten free, making it a great alternative for couscous for coeliacs.

The year 2013 was officially the year of quinoa

That’s right. In 2013 the UN deemed that quinoa would solve so many of the world’s economic, cultural nutritional and food supply related issues that it gave the super food it’s very own year of distinction. The UN regognised quinoa as a potential tool for empowering farmers in underdeveloped areas, primarily in South America, to produce this adaptable crop for the local community, providing empowerment and good nutrition.

It’s a complete protein

Not many vegetarian proteins can boast this fact. Without boring you all with a full biochemistry lesson, it basically means that the protein is complete with all nine essential amino acids. Essential means that the human body can’t make them for themselves, so we need them from the foods we eat. Incomplete proteins need to be consumed alongside other foods (within a 24 hour period) that have the particular amino acids that are absent in that food – these are known as the limiting amino acids. Foods such as quinoa that have a complete set of essential amino acids will act as a valid protein component of a meal and don’t need to be combined with other grains or pulses.

If it’s bitter, it’s your own fault

Each quinoa seed is coated with a bitter, waxy substance called saponin, which needs to be rinsed off before cooking. Simply place the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under a cold tap for a minute, then place ain in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil.

We have featured many quinoa recipes on our menus in the last five years and most of them have been delicious! I’d love to hear which one you loved the most!