Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grains of the Gods

Pronounced Keen-Oh-Ah, is the most nutritious grain on Earth.  How come you have never heard about it?  There are a few reasons, but first lets look at the legacy of Quinoa.  There is a company called Ancient Harvest which produces Quinoa and Quinoa products (pasta, flour, flakes, and whole Quinoa).

I first became interested in Quina because it grew in my yard.  Turns out that it grows wild all over the Americas.  The reason for this is it was cultivated by the Inca's and the Mayan's thousands of years ago, and this tradition stuck, even though the empires fell.  The Indian tribes traded it all over the Americas, and the tradition is long embedded in American Culture, so much that we can't get rid of it.  Largely American Commercial Farmers consider it to be a weed and do everything they can to eradicate it.  But, it doesn't go away.  It is persistent, like The Great Spirit.

So anyway, after spending some time researching Quinoa, and its cousin Amaranth, I decided to cultivate Quinoa and work it into my diet.  I bought some at the local farmers market to see what it is like, and to see what I can cook with it.  It is a very small grain, and it can be cooked whole, like rice.  Its flavor is mild and accepts seasoning well.  The pasta is nearly identical to wheat pasta, and it works good for any pasta or Chinese noodles recipes.  I also wanted to make bread with it, so I found some Quinoa flour at the Whole Food Place, and integrated it into my Pizza Doh recipe.  Quinoa has no gluten so if you want to make yeast bread with it you also need to add a glutenous flour.  I used 3 parts wheat flour and 1 part Quinoa flour.  The mild taste of the Quinoa is not noticeable in the Doh.

Quinoa is a cold weather plant.  It sprouts mid to late winter when the days are just starting to warm up.  It is also frost tolerant, which is a big plus here.  We have been having crazy weather here lately.  The plant will produce big, broad leaves, which are edible.  Then around mid to late spring the plant will flower.  It sends up a stalk which is covered with seed pods.  The idea is to let the seed pods fully mature before they are harvested.  The will change from a bright green color to a rich, rusty red/brown color in the late spring.

These are some of my Quinoa plants...

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