Quinoa was a staple food of the Incas, but crops were destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores seeking to destroy the culture of the Incas, if not their civilization. They have been eating quinoa for 5, 000 years, and it is mainly cultivated in the Andes in Bolivia, Chile and Peru. It is still a staple of the Quechua and Aymara peoples who live in rural areas at high altitudes. It was known to the Incas as “chisiya mama” the mother grain.
  Quinoa is classed as a pseudo-cereal as it is not a grass but a member of the goosefoot family, so a relative of the stinking goosefoot. (Chen is Greek for goose and podi means foot and this is how it gets its name in Latin - the leaves were thought to resemble a goose’s foot.)The grains are actually seeds which may be white, red or black. It can grow to heights of between 4 and 6 feet.
  It can be used in much the same ways as rice and couscous, (in both sweet and savoury dishes) although as the seed husks contain saponins the grains have to be thoroughly soaked to remove any residue after they have been processed. In South America the saponins are used for detergent to wash clothes.
  The red quinoa seeds are more bitter than the white, and so need extra soaking time. To see if they are ready to cook taste a few seeds and if they are very bitter still, they need a change of water and longer soaking. It’s probably best to soak it overnight and then rinse it a few times. If it has been processed it may be Ok to put it in a sieve and run cold water through it while rubbing the grains together with your fingers.
  To cook quinoa you need 1 part of its seeds to 2 parts water, (the same as rice), bring it to the boil and then turn it down to simmer for 15 minutes. The seeds become translucent and fluffy. They have a nutty flavour which becomes even more pronounced if you dry fry them for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent them burning before boiling them.
  It has been cultivated in Europe but has not really become popular, although that may now change, when its full range of health benefits become known to a wider public. It is chock full of amino acids, especially lysine which is essential for the growth and repair of tissues. The 18 amino acids are particularly well balanced in this seed. It is protein rich and contains the B-complex vitamins along with vitamin E and the minerals calcium, chloride, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc. It is particularly rich in potassium and the phenolic compounds in the plant along with the lignans (also found in flax seeds and pumpkin seeds) provide potent antioxidant protection for our cells.
  Quinoa like the real grains, barley, wheat and sorghum, for example, lower the risk of contracting Type 2 Diabetes, and help to protect the heart and our cells from cancer. It is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli and diets which contain whole grains, pulses and leafy greens protect us from cancers and heart disease according to medical research. Its leaves are edible and can be used like spinach or the amaranths (e.g. Elephant’s Head).
  In the 1980s quinoa was rediscovered by two Americans who realized its nutritional value and potential and began cultivating it in Colorado, so it became more widely available in the US.
  Red quinoa has been used in traditional medicine to get rid of intestinal worms and as an emetic (purge). A decoction of the seeds can be applied externally to sores it is said.
     In 1997 Michael J. Koziel in “Quinoa: a Potential New Oil Crop” pointed to the fact that because it is rich in protein and essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and -6 as well as linoleate and linolenate acids) it could be used as an edible oil. He also said that the oil cake, the residue after the oil has been extracted, “would be an important complementary protein for improving the nutritional quality of both human and animal foodstuffs.”
  The recipe below uses quinoa as you would couscous, and is very nutritious.

75 gr of quinoa seeds, soaked and cooked as directed above
50 gr black olives
1 large courgette or zucchini, cut into very thin strips
1 small red onion, very finely sliced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
olive oil
100 gr tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, very finely chopped
100 gr Feta, crumbled
small bunch of fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
few leaves of mint for garnish

Drain and rinse the quinoa under cold running water after cooking and leaves to drain again.
Trim the top and bottom of the courgette, and cut into very thin strips.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl and pour the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them.
Toss so that everything is well mixed, garnish with mint leaves and serve.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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