Sunday, January 23, 2011

Culinary Trends and Staple Crops

Only a few years ago, this little known grain-like seed made its way into American health-nut culture. Since then, it has become an excellent gluten-free grain substitute and a vegan's best friend. This relative of beets and spinach does best in sandy, nutrient-poor soils - a real catch. Quinoa is a rare case of a complete-protein in a plant, containing essential amino acids and micro-nutrients. It is no wonder, then, that this diamond in the rough was of sacred importance to the Inca and remains a staple in Andean diets.

While forming the dietary basis for many rural Bolivians, the continued and increasing popularity of quinoa in the Western world is changing its traditional role. On the one hand, an international market means elevated incomes for Bolivian producers who choose to sell their crop instead of consuming it. At the same time, the tradeoff for a poor family between eating the grain with a price-premium and complete nutrition, or choosing a cheaper fuel (such as rice) and earning the extra income is a difficult one.

Luckily, "The Bolivian government is backing quinoa, supporting loans to small farmers and promoting internal consumption by giving rations to pregnant women and young children." Listen to the recent segment on NPR.

There are no shortages of uses for quinoa, either. Sweet or savory, veggies or baked good. You can do ANYTHING!

Heather's Quinoa on 101Cookbooks.
Ricki of Diet, Desserts, and Dogs has some tasty Almond Quinoa Muffins.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa Burgers on Fat Free Vegan.
Whole Foods has some fun recipes, including Acorn Squash, Cranberries, and Quinoa!
And a quinoa substitute for coconut sticky rice with sliced mango would be fabulous!

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