Quinoa – The Mother Grain



Quinoa – The Mother Grain.  

The first time I served quinoa to my husband for dinner, the conversation before hand went a little like this: him, “what are we having for dinner tonight,” me, “[something] with quinoa.” “Keen what?” “Keen-wah” “whats that?” “quinoa,” “really what’s for dinner?” “Quin-Wah” “huh?” “KEEN WAH” him, “I mean, is it rice? pasta? what?” “no honey, its quinoa” 


We finally got there. I explained to him that Quinoa was neither rice nor pasta. To be truthful, it’s not really a grain either because it’s not a grass.  It’s in the Amaranth family. This family also includes spinach and beets, strangely enough. These are all plants whose flowers have no petals and in the fruit itself is more like a seed pod.  While both the greens and the “grain” of quinoa are edible, we most often see the grain. 

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is a great starchy side and substitutes well for rice, couscous, barley, pasta, etc. The flavor is often described as nutty.  I think the cooked result is more like toasted brown rice, or maybe delicate oatmeal.  I actually had quinoa and asparagus for breakfast this morning but tomorrow morning I think I’ll have it with maple syrup, walnuts, raisins, and milk. Yum! 


The Incas were the original cultivators the name being a Spanish translation of an Incan phrase meaning (loosely) “The mother of all grains.”  Quinoa was a crop so important that there were entire ceremonies dedicated to it. Spanish conquistadors, in attempts to oppress the native Incas, demeaned quinoa by feeding it to the pigs or made it criminal to grow and destroyed crops. Quinoa fell out of favor and was not traded to other parts of the world leaving it relatively undiscovered until a boom in recent years. 


South America and regions of Southern North America. Countries rich in quinoa history include Peru, Chile, and Bolivia in the Andes mountains. Farms in the North America have been commercially producing quinoa since the 1980s. Quinoa grows best in well-drained soils with long growing seasons. It is an altitude-hardy and low maintenance crop. 


Evidence of mans relationship with quinoa and amaranth can be easily traced almost 6000 years before present. For many years it only remained popular in the Andean culture. 

Now we can find bulk or convenience packaged quinoa at local co-ops and grocery stores. There is a wonderful rainbow of color available (which I freely mix together) ranging from creamy white, toasted brown, earthy red, and purplish black, most of which are pre-rinsed and require no other prepration before cooking. 


Quinoa is an excellent super food being high in protein, amino acids, fiber, and a good source of lysine, copper and manganese, and a host of other nutrients. It is a great choice for vegetarians as the protein quinoa supplies is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids.  Quinoa is gluten-free, rice free and easy to digest. 

It will sprout in just a couple of hours (compared to overnight with other seed sprouts) and when sprouted will add an additional nutritional boost. 


To cook boil, like rice, 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer approx 12-20 min, until water is absorbed and texture is tender. 

Red & White Quinoa


Eat for breakfast, with milk, brown sugar, raisins & walnuts 

in salads like tabouleh 

stir fry with veggies and soy   

with rosemary, raisins, apples, and onions… stuffed into acorn squash   

so many possibilities!   

One Reply to “Quinoa – The Mother Grain”

  1. Two years later and I finally made quinoa for dinner. It was so easy, quicker than rice and better tasting than rice. I was expecting it to be heavy, like other grains, but it was so light. My new favorite grain!

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