UN Declares 2013 the International Year of Quinoa

Filed under: Bites & Bits , Author: Caron Golden , January 21, 2013

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 “The International Year of Quinoa” (IYQ) to focus world attention on the role that quinoa´s biodiversity and nutritional value play in providing food security and nutrition, as well as poverty eradication, throughout the globe.

All natural, sustainably produced and highly nutritious, quinoa (KEEN-wah) is fast entering the lexicon of discerning diners looking for new experiences. For those who haven’t tasted quinoa in a restaurant, many are familiar with this whole grain from home use. Not only does it have particular appeal as a plant source of all eight essential amino acids, but quinoa is a wonderfully nutty and versatile grain.

The IYQ recognizes ancestral practices of the Andean people, who have managed to preserve quinoa in its natural state as food for present and future generations, through ancestral practices of living in harmony with nature.

Imagine a salt flat at 13,000 feet, far larger than the salt plains of Utah, carved amid a Bolivian mountain range from an ancient sea. The nearest airport in the capital of La Paz is a 14-hour drive. On this vast plateau, only quinoa can grow in the rich mineral soil and dry, cold air, where it’s thrived since the age of the Incas, when quinoa was reserved for royalty and stocked to feed armies in times of war.

Today, thousands of small family farms representing ancient tribal cultures grow quinoa in a way virtually unchanged since 500 A.D. Heirloom seeds have remained the same for centuries, never hybridized or genetically modified, and harvesting is solely by hand on each small plot of land. During the fallow season, llamas and alpacas naturally aerate the soil by trampling the ground in search of wild grasses, and their dung provides rich fertilizer for the quinoa seeds. Once shrubs emerge, farmers lovingly tend to each by hand, shielding them from frost and cold winds with small stones and the same straw used to form roofs of dwellings. The only water comes from the sky, to the tune of 4 to 8 inches of rainfall each season.

Quinoa: a Supergrain
Quinoa is considered a “supergrain” because it’s the only complete protein from a single plant source. A good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and high in magnesium and iron, quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest. Quinoa cooks quickly and adds earthy flavor and crunchy texture to any soup, salad, stuffing or pilaf. No wonder the ancient Incas called quinoa, which they revered as a sacred crop, “the mother grain.”

Fifteen years ago, when quinoa was just beginning to take root on restaurant menus as a “new” grain that diners found intriguing and innovative, chefs featured the white variety. White quinoa is soft in texture with a delightful, almost buttery flavor. Today, black and red varieties are the next evolution in quinoa popularity, as chefs capitalize on their vibrant color to add pizzazz to plates.

Quinoa is as easy to cook as brown rice. Rinse 1 cup of dry quinoa in cold water until the water runs clear, then place it in 2 cups of boiling water or chicken stock and simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy.

Quinoa will only become more popular in restaurants as more chefs discover its versatility, wholesomeness, flavor and ability to meet many diner trends—such as whole-grain goodness, high nutrition and gluten-free status. For more information on the International Year of Quinoa, visit http://www.aiq2013.org or “like” the IYQ page on Facebook.

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Caron Golden

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Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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