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Plantidote of the Day 2011-03-30

twig's picture


Chenopodium quinoa


It's a protein-rich meat substitute, a gluten-free side dish or main course, and a delicious alternative to rice. It's quinoa (KEEN-wah), and if you haven't tried it, what are you waiting for?

[Q]uinoa is highly nutritious and can supply us with all of the body's requirements: carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Quinoa is gluten free and considered an ideal food for those prone to food allergies. Common allergens include grains from the grass family such as corn and wheat. Quinoa, a leafy grain, is not in the grass family, making it beneficial for people who cannot tolerate common grains like wheat, corn, rye, barley, and oats.

A staple food in South America for centuries, quinoa has a mildly nutty taste and cooks quickly. You can use it as a substitute for rice in dishes like stuffed peppers, pilaf and even pudding! And that short list barely scratches the surface of cooking possibilities. Plus, if you're a gardener, you can grow your own, provided you're in a spot where summers are on the cool side. Quinoa is easy to grow and harvest, and, once it's dried, can be stored for months.

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editor_u's picture
Submitted by editor_u on

But in this photograph it looks darker than any I've seen. Is it toasted, or a different variety than what's usually out there?

If toasted, good idea. Never thought of it, though I've toasted other grains.

Bulk Quinoa can be a real pain to work with, if one doesn't have a lot of kitchen time, requiring careful rinsing to eliminate gritty bits (soil, etc.). I've found a packaged brand (can't think of the name at the moment – there's none in the house) in the grocery store that's pre-rinsed. So, though it's more expensive than bulk, that's all I buy now.

It can be used in many (most? all?) recipes in place of couscous. As much as I love the latter (I buy the whole wheat variety), Quinoa is better nutritionally, being a whole grain and not a flour product. Also, as it says in the quoted Vegetarians in Paradise excerpt, there's no gluten, so I can serve it (or brown rice) to friends with wheat allergies or Celiac disease.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

there's also white and black, and maybe more! There are lots of recommendations for toasting it before boiling to enhance flavor, but I haven't tried that. The flavor seems just fine without an extra step!