Quinoa is easily digested, the least mucus-forming and requires the least amount of cooking time of all grains.
The Incas crowned quinoa as being the mother grain, considering the kernels holy because eating them resulted in long healthy lives. Quinoa grows high in the Andes Mountains where grass cannot exist. The plant is so versatile even the leaves can be used to make a salad. If you have never heard of quinoa before, you are in for a treat. Here again, we find a grain that is not a grain. Even though in cooking, we treat it much like a grain, it is actually from the fruit family.
Quinoa is easily digested, the least mucus-forming and requires the least amount of cooking time of all grains. Quinoa is the food that is most like mother’s milk in nutritional properties. A cup of cooked quinoa is equivalent to a quart of milk, in calcium. This is also a more digestible form of calcium. It is about 6% higher in protein than wheat, barley, corn and rice. The quality of this protein is what makes quinoa so exciting. All essential amino acids are present and are considered to be in perfect balance. Quinoa is high in lysine, an essential amino acid that is scarce in the plant kingdom. It is also high in essential sulfur-bearing amino acids, methionine and cystine. Quinoa is an excellent source of phosphorus, vitamin E, several B complex vitamins and iron. Its low gluten content is a disadvantage when trying to make bread, but a great advantage to human health, considering the difficulties in breaking down this tough protein.
You can find organic quinoa at your local health food store. It is only starting to be introduced into mainline supermarkets. Look for a plump, clean, light ivory-colored grain. Once you find a good source of quality quinoa, it will be well worth your time and money, and may become your favorite grain. The darker brown quinoa is grown in California and does not seem to have the quality of flavor as the lighter colored quinoa. Some lower-priced quinoa will have the presence of a brown, powdery residue. Rinse thoroughly before cooking because this saponin powder has a bitter, soapy flavor, and gives the quinoa a sticky texture.
There are three different varieties of quinoa that vary in flavor, texture and color. The highest quality quinoa is called altiplano which is the purest strain and is grown in Bolivia and Peru, 12,500 feet above sea level. The result is a sweet, delicate ivory seed that is more expensive but well worth the cost. The second grade is called valley variety which is also mountain-raised, but at 7,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. This variety is commonly grown in Peru, Ecuador and Columbia. The quality of valley variety is not as good as altiplano because farming methods can often be primitive. The lower altitude results in a yellower color and is 50 to 60 cents cheaper. The lowest grade quinoa is called sea level, describing where it is grown. This results in brownish-colored seeds and tends to be bitterer than mountain-grown quinoa. It may be half the price of high quality quinoa, but the savings are not worth the loss in taste. Always store quinoa in the refrigerator because of its high oil content.
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