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The UN recently deemed 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa.” If you missed it, Agenda Item 25 in the 66th session of the UN General Assembly calls for everyone everywhere to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa biodiversity can play, owing to the nutritional value of quinoa, in providing food security and nutrition and in the eradication of poverty.” The UN resolution goes on to “call upon Governments and relevant regional and international organizations to make voluntary contributions and lend other forms of support to the Year.”
You know what I say to that? Every year is the year of quinoa!
Known as the “golden grain of the Incas,” quinoa hails from the Andes where it has been a perennial staple (think 3,000 to 4,000 years – It seems like the oﬃcial Year of Quinoa was a long time coming!) and was held sacred by the Incas. During the Spanish conquest of South America, Europeans scorned the golden grain, referring to it as “food for the Indians.” Oh, how the times have changed!
Quinoa is largely still produced in the Andes, growing from coastal regions of Chile through the mountains of Peru and Bolivia, to Ecuador. Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture recently reported “that production and exports of quinoa increased more than ﬁvefold in four years…” and Peru exported 6,956 tons of quinoa in 2011 alone. And we know where all this quinoa has been going. It’s been popping up in all sorts of unexpected foods and places in North America, Asia, and Europe.
Why quinoa and why this sudden burst in popularity? To begin with, quinoa is ﬂavorful without being overpowering, it’s easy to cook, and it’s versatile; with its hearty, nutty, yet subtle ﬂavor, quinoa can be used in sweet and savory recipes, from cookies to salads to breakfast cereals and so very much more.
What’s more, quinoa provides fantastic health beneﬁts without packing a high caloric punch. Emily Gelsomin, a clinical nutrition specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital claims quinoa is “one of the only plant-based sources of protein that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs.” Now that’s a pretty big health claim to fame.
Where can you ﬁnd quinoa without having to board a ﬂight to South America? The best part about quinoa’s popularity is that it is becoming a regular on restaurant menus, in prepared food sections in your local grocery store and even in unexpected places like chocolate bars (think “crunch bar”) and popped quinoa granola—yes, you can pop it like popcorn!
Quinoa is also easy to prepare at home; simply prepare quinoa according to its package (similar to rice preparation but very quick – quinoa takes only 12-15 minutes) and then the possibilities are endless. Cooked quinoa can become a salad, a base for a veggie burger, a great addition to soup, and an ideal mix-in for breads, cookies, and bars. With a repertoire like that, it’s no wonder 2013 will be the Year of Quinoa! (Mallory)
Here are some great quinoa recipes: