Mother Grain: A Brief Intro to Quinoa

Quinoa and pine nuts, garlic, and raisins

Quinoa, pine nuts, and raisins

recipe available here

The new health food fad that’s taking the world by storm, quinoa, is a super grain grown primarily in Bolivia. Quinoa contains all eight amino acids essential for development of tissue, is gluten free, and packs more protein than any other grain. While researching foods beneficial to astronauts, NASA found quinoa unrivaled in its nutritional benefits. Grown by the Incas in South America, it was known as “mother grain,” and was used to feed Incan armies. Quinoa has been for many years a staple of the Bolivian diet, however in recent years it has been introduced to American and European markets.

Quinoa is prepared similarly to rice and takes only about 15 minutes to cook. It’s an excellent replacement for rice, bread, or couscous. It has a nutty flavor that works as a perfect side dish and delicious on its own. Quinoa is well suited for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone looking for foods that pack a nutritional punch. Additionally, quinoa flour can be used in baking as a gluten and wheat free alternative. For breakfast I like combining cooked quinoa, a dash of maple syrup, a bit of almond milk and fresh berries for a healthy and filling breakfast that holds me over well into lunch time.

quinoa plant

However despite all of its nutritional value, quinoa’s growing popularity has had negative effects on Bolivians. The export to America, Europe, and now Australia has resulted in higher prices of quinoa in Bolivia, making the growers of quinoa rich in the process. Those native to Bolivia can no longer afford the super food and are looking to cheaper processed grains that are lower in nutritional value leading to fear of malnutrition in an area that has long been affected by it. Additionally it’s view as a third rate rural food by centuries of agricultural imperialism by Spanish invaders has discouraged its local consumption.


Quinoa is a great food for experienced and novice cooks alike looking to add something new to their pantries. Because it’s so easy to make, it’s perfect for exploring new recipes.


Catherine, Hudson County Community College, Read my blog

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