This ancient grain of the Incas is native to South America and grows in high altitude on the snow-capped Andes. The wonder grain was regarded as sacred by the Incas, who called it chisaya mama or “mother of all grains,” and by custom the first seed of the year was planted by the Inca emperor with golden implements. The grain kept the warriors of the ancient peoples going strong for thousands of years – until the arrival of the Spanish that is, when the grain experienced a 400-year decline in production and was cultivated only in remote locations for local consumption.

Rediscovered in recent years by the western world and highly regarded for its nutritional value, Quinoa’s health benefits are now widely known. Quinoa has become extremely popular especially amongst celiacs, vegans and vegetarians as the grain is gluten-free and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source. Quinoa is also high in magnesium and iron, and provides a good source of dietary fibre and phosphorus.

Technically not really a grain, Quinoa is actually the seed of the chenopodium or goosefoot plant, but considered a grain due to its cooking characteristics. It is cooked like rice, by boiling it in two parts of water to one part of Quinoa for about 15 minutes, but the important part is to rinse the grains before boiling to remove their bitter resin-like coating. Quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged, but it is best to rinse it again to make sure the scrummy nutty flavour of the grain is not taken over by horrid bitterness. Quinoa can now be purchased in health food stores and well-stocked super markets all over.

Petra Nyman - 6D