Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal crop that is gluten-free. Its grains resemble buckwheat. In color, it can be black, beige or red and even purple. The homeland of this cereal is South America. Among the Indians, quinoa was the basis of their diet and considered sacred.
How did quinoa become popular? Quinoa became popular because of its health benefits and low glycemic index. Quinoa is gluten-free, rich in phosphorus, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron. Quinoa has a high fibre and protein content (much more than in wheat, barley and rice). Quinoa is a superfood that gives you power and strength.
Why Is Quinoa Called a Superfood?
Quinoa is called a superfood due to its high folic acid, fiber, and plant protein content. It is rich in minerals, vitamins, iron, calcium and zinc, potassium, magnesium and is a storehouse of nonessential (glutamic and aspartic acids, tyrosine) and essential amino acids (arginine, tryptophan).
Everyone knows that quinoa is one of the healthiest foods. In fact, quinoa is a pseudo-grain. Since quinoa is not a grain or cereal, but simply the seeds of a plant from the amaranth family. The homeland of quinoa is the South American Andes. In ancient times, the local population – mostly Incas – ate, loved and respected quinoa no less than the other available products: potatoes and corn. In the changeable climate on the mountain slopes, nothing grew except for quinoa, potatoes and corn.
Why did ancient warriors eat quinoa? Ancient warriors ate quinoa because of its ability to quickly restore strength and maintain the body and health of warriors in perfect condition. Quinoa was a great source for warriors to get energy and sustain it during battles.
Quinoa has the highest plant protein content and contains all the essential amino acids. In addition to the unique, complete set of proteins, quinoa is valued for its high fiber content, an excellent set of minerals and B vitamins. Nutritionists highlight zinc in the composition of quinoa (a popular weapon among cosmetologists in the struggle for the flawless appearance of hair and skin), iron (affects the quality of blood), calcium and phosphorus (good for the musculoskeletal system).
Quinoa is often combined with other types of cereals or added to vegetable salads. Quinoa will be a great addition to chicken pilaf. Quinoa is perfect for lunch on a hot summer day when you don’t feel like eating meat, but at the same time, you need to refresh yourself with something more serious than just vegetables.
Quinoa goes well with herbs, seasonal vegetables, olives, feta cheese and lemon dressing with black pepper. Quinoa can also be combined with pumpkin and curry, eggplant and avocado, or baked with tomatoes.
When Was Quinoa Discovered?
Where was quinoa originally found? Quinoa was originally found in the South American Andes, where the Incas lived around 6000 years ago. Quinoa is grown in the highlands of Peru and Chile at an altitude of up to 4200 m, where it is strictly forbidden to subject plants to genetic modification.
At the end of the 20th century, quinoa seeds were introduced as an experiment to Tibet and the Himalayas, where they are successfully cultivated. This plant is being adapted to the climatic features of the Eurasian continent. There are already good results in the field of quinoa cultivation in the Caucasus. The only European selection center for quinoa has been created in the Netherlands, and its product (Carmen variety) has been grown by French farmers for more than 8 years.
Quinoa is increasingly popular among farmers in Canada, the USA, England, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Italy.
See also: What Does Quinoa Taste Like?
Why Was Quinoa Significant For Past Civilizations?
Quinoa was significant for past civilizations due to its high content of plant protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins that gave the warrior strength and power during wars and battles. The value of quinoa in the diet of Indian tribes was so great that it was considered sacred and called “the mother of all grains.”
The value of quinoa in the diet of Indian tribes was so great that it was considered sacred and called “the mother of all grains.” Along with potatoes and corn, quinoa was the main vegetable food of the South American Indians. Disc-shaped fruits of various colors were consumed in the form of cereals or flour, and the young green leaves of the plant were used fresh. Today, quinoa is among the top 20 healthiest foods in the world.
Since the 15th century, the importance of quinoa has declined, and it was considered “food for the poor,” although it still played a significant role in the diet of low-income families in rural areas. By 1970 the cultivated area in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru was less than 30 thousand hectares. Quinoa was grown primarily by the locals for their own consumption, selling the surplus in local markets and leaving the seeds for the next planting season.
This gradually began to change in the 1980s. After quinoa was recognized as a strategic culture for the Andean region, the US National Academy of Sciences published a book on the forgotten Inca culture. NASA began to study it to include it in the diet of astronauts. This had a positive effect on the image of quinoa.
Western companies drew attention to it as an exotic cereal for adherents of a vegetarian diet. At the same time, cooperatives and associations of producers were created in Latin American countries to commercialize quinoa, introducing modern farming technologies and searching for sales markets.
When did quinoa come to America? Quinoa came to America in 1984 from Peru. The USA imports 15 million kilograms of quinoa annually from Peru, the leading Quinoa growing country.
Where Is Quinoa Most Popular?
Which country produces the most quinoa? The biggest quinoa exports in 2020 amounted to 112 thousand tons worth $320 million. The largest exporters were Peru ($134 million) and Bolivia ($91 million). The main importers were the United States ($93 million), Canada ($27 million).
The study of quinoa and its properties in Western countries and the development of modern organic production methods in South America have led to the fact that since the 2000s, quinoa has been rapidly gaining popularity as a healthy and wholesome food rich in vitamins and minerals and does not contain gluten.
This caused a boom in production and exports in Latin American countries, which continues to this day. According to the Bolivian Institute for Foreign Trade, from 2003 to 2012, quinoa exports grew 9.3 times in physical volume and 26 times in value. In total, according to ITC Trade Map, by 2012, the world exported 44 thousand tons of quinoa worth 135 million dollars. By 2020, this volume has grown 2.5 times.
The UN General Assembly played an important role in quinoa popularization by proclaiming the “International Year of Quinoa” in 2013 to draw attention to this agricultural crop, its nutritional properties and adaptability to various climatic conditions.
As part of the International Year of Quinoa, various culture promotion materials were created and distributed, numerous seminars, symposia and congresses were held around the world, and technical support was provided to projects in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to spread quinoa.
At the same time, the authorities of Latin American countries took an active part in the promotion of quinoa. For example, in 2013, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, was elected as the “ambassador of quinoa.” Various marketing events were organized in the country and abroad, such as the “quinoa caravan,” a three-day tour of the quinoa-producing regions, during which companies and importers could meet and establish contacts with manufacturers.
Drawing attention to the national cuisine of the Andean region, support of local exporters through various programs of foreign organizations and the UN, scientific research on the composition and properties of culture coincided with a rapid increase in the number of adherents of a healthy lifestyle. Nowadays, quinoa is no longer an exotic product and can be found on the shelves of all major supermarkets and ordered in leading Peruvian and Bolivian restaurants as an element of the national cuisine.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the health benefits of quinoa through health food publications and famous cooking shows about the foods that quinoa can make. Quinoa is widely used in vegetarian, gluten-free, and weight-control diets as a low-calorie protein product with an amino acid composition similar to milk.