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Quinoa


For the town with a similar name, see Quinua, Peru. Quinoais also a title of a 1992 music album by Tangerine Dream.

Quinoa ,a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium),is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a grass. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach and tumbleweeds. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited.

Overview

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America, where it has been an important food for 6,000 years. Its name is the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name. Quinoa is generally undemanding and altitude-hardy, so it can be easily cultivated in the Andes up to about 4,000 meters. Even so, it grows best in well-drained soils and requires a relatively long growing season. In eastern North America, it is susceptible to a leaf miner that may reduce crop success; this leaf miner also affects the common weed and close relative Chenopodium album, but C. albumis much more resistant.

Similar Chenopodiumspecies, such as Pitseed Goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri) and Fat Hen (Chenopodium album), were grown and domesticated in North America as part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex before maize agriculture became popular. Fat Hen, which has a widespread distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, produces edible seeds and greens much like quinoa but in lower quantities. When grown in heavily fertilized fields, it can accumulate dangerously high concentrations of nitrates .

File:Chenopodium quinoa greens.jpg|Quinoa greens

File:Chenopodium quinoa before flowering.jpg|Quinoa before flowering

File:Chenopodium quinoa in flower.jpg|Quinoa in flower

File:Harvested seeds of homegrown Chenopodium quinoa.jpg|Harvested quinoa seeds

Wild distribution

Chenopodium quinoais most familiar as a fully domesticated plant, but it was believed to have been domesticated in the Andes from wild populations of Chenopodium quinoa. There are non-cultivated quinoa plants (Chenopodium quinoavar. melanospermum'') which grow in the same area where it is cultivated; those are probably related to quinoa's wild predecessors, but could instead be descendants of cultivated plants.

History and culture

The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or mother of all grains, and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using 'golden implements'. During the European conquest of South America quinoa was scorned by the Spanish colonists as food for Indians, and even actively suppressed, due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies. In fact, the conquistadors forbade quinoa cultivation for a time and the Incas were forced to grow corn instead.

Nutritional value

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary 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 , making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Saponin content

Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. Some have speculated this bitter coating may have caused the Europeans who first encountered quinoa to reject it as a food source, since they adopted other indigenous food plants of the Americas like maize and potatoes. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation as the plant is unpopular with birds and thus requires minimal protection. There have been attempts to lower the saponin content of quinoa through selective breeding to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties. However, when new varieties were developed by agronomists, native growers in the high plateau rejected the new varieties despite their high projected yields; because the seeds no longer had a bitter coating, birds had consumed the entire crop after just one season.

The saponins in quinoa can be mildly toxic, as can be the oxalic acid in the leaves of all the chenopodium family. The risks associated with quinoa are minimal, provided it is properly prepared and leaves are not eaten to excess.

Preparation

Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to white rice or couscous.

The first step in preparing quinoa is to remove the saponins, a process that requires soaking the grain in water for a few hours, then changing the water and resoaking, or rinsing it in ample running water either in a fine strainer or in cheesecloth. Removal of the saponin helps with digestion; the soapy nature of the compound makes it act as a laxative. Most boxed quinoa has been pre-rinsed for convenience.

A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). As an alternative, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, treating it just like white rice (for both cooking cycle and water amounts).

Vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of dishes. Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted for water during cooking, adding flavor. It is also suited to vegetable pilafs, complementing bitter greens like kale.

Quinoa can serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds, or berries; it is also sold as a dry product, much like corn flakes.

Quinoa flour can be used in wheat-based and gluten-free baking. For the latter, it can be combined with sorghum flour, tapioca, and potato starch to create a nutritious gluten-free baking mix. A suggested mix is three parts quinoa flour, three parts sorghum flour, two parts potato starch, and one part tapioca starch. Quinoa flour can be used as a filling for chocolate.

Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content. In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 24 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours overnight with wheat. This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

Name

This crop is known as quinoa in English and is pronounced with the stress on either the first syllable ( ) or on the second ( ). In Spanish, the spelling and pronunciation vary by region. The accent may be on the first syllable, in which case it is usually spelled quinua , with quinoa being a variant; or on the second syllable: ), in which case it is spelled quinoa. The name derives from the Quechua kinwa, pronounced in the standard dialect . There are multiple other native names in South America:

Quechua: ayara, kiuna, kuchikinwa, achita, kinua, kinoa, chisaya mama

Aymara: supha, jopa, jupha, juira, ara, qallapi, vocali

Chibchan: Suba, pasca

Mapudungun: dawe, sawe

See also

Deficit irrigation

External links

AquaCrop: the new crop water productivity model from FAO

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Quinoa


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