The United Nations dubbed 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa back in February, cementing the seed’s rise as a bona fide superfood after several years of growing popularity. Looking to strengthen food security, create jobs, and promote nutrition on a global level, choosing the ancient and perennial quinoa plant must have been a no-brainer for the UN.
This is not to say the abundant benefits of quinoa are anything new. I first remember seeing quinoa at a health foods grocer in 2006, and as an 18 year old college student, it wasn’t pizza so I didn’t give it a second thought. Since 2006, quinoa has exploded into our collective food consciousness and the price of the crop has nearly tripled. The grain-like quinoa—it’s technically a “pseudo cereal”—is nothing new to the people of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, who’ve been growing it for over 5,000 years. (Side not: part of the UN’s campaign may be related to the fact that the rising popularity of quinoa in rich countries means the very people who’ve cultivated the crop for multiple millennia can’t even afford to purchase it now.) The quinoa crop is exceptionally adaptable, thriving in below freezing and 100 degree temperatures.
With a nutty flavor profile and a texture similar to cous cous, quinoa packs a mean nutritional punch. Quinoa offers all nine essential amino acids, high in protein, and packed with magnesium, iron, and fiber, quinoa is the holy grail for vegans; it could also keep malnourished and impoverished people alive. Oh, it’s also gluten-free. In early Spring, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “I hope this International Year will be a catalyst for learning about the potential of quinoa for food and nutrition security, for reducing poverty – especially among the world’s small farmers – and for environmentally sustainable agriculture.”
We’ve championed quinoa’s health benefits and cooking versatility for years, so in celebration of The Year of Quinoa, we’re showcasing our favorite quinoa recipes.
UN image via www.un.org