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Quinoa, The Mother Of All Grains

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a plant that is grown for its edible seeds. It's not a true grain like wheat, barley or oats because grains are grasses and quinoa is not a grass. Quinoa is a species of goosefoot, of which there are 150 species. Beets and spinach are relatives of quinoa. It is a green leafy plant with tiny brown flowers that produce the quinoa seed. Quinoa was originally grown in South America over 5000 years ago as food eaten by the Incas, along with potatoes and corn. It is a hardy plant that can grow up to altitudes of 13000 feet in the Andean mountains.

The Incas considered quinoa to be sacred and to be the "mother of all grains." However, the settling Europeans rejected the cultivation of quinoa because of its representation of non-Christian values. Today, the cultivation of quinoa has been re-emerging. There are many varieties of quinoa that range in color from white, pink, red, brown and black, but there are three varieties that are cultivated commercially - white, red and black. Quinoa is produced primarily in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Quinoa seeds are small, roughly the size of millet or sesame seeds. The germ of the seed is a tiny thread-like structure along the side. When quinoa is cooked, the germ unravels from the rest of the seed and remains crunchy while the seed becomes tender and fluffy.

Quinoa can be eaten in its natural grain state or it can also be added into recipes like bread. In its natural form, it can be mixed with raisins and cinnamon for a healthy breakfast meal. As a "grain" it can be added to bread recipes for wholesome whole grain bread. Eaten either way, quinoa is a high source of protein that is an excellent supplement to a healthy diet.

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