Trivia Question:  What are two plant sources considered to have a complete protein profile?  Answer:  Quinoa seeds and Edamame beans contain an abundance of all nine essential amino acids and are comparable to meat protein profiles. 

Originating in the Andes of South America, Quinoa is an ancient grain known as the ‘mother seed’ or ‘gold of the Incas’ and has been a staple in the South American native Indian diets for over 5,000 years.  The Spanish Conquistadors made it illegal to grow Quinoa in the 1500s due to its use within indigenous, non-Christian ceremonies and its cultivation was extinguished through harsh punishments, including the death penalty.  This started a 400 year decline in Quinoa production.  In the 1980’s, Quinoa was rediscovered by two Americans who began cultivating the seeds for its high nutrient content.   Quinoa has grown significantly in popularity as an alternative to gluten containing cereal grains over the past 10 years. It has become the leading wheat substitute in gluten-free foods which are projected to grow to a $5 billion market by 2015. 

Why so Super? Quinoa is a broadleaf plant most commonly used for its edible seed.  Quinoa seed is a gluten-free pseudocereal.  While not a true grain, its seeds are utilized like a grain, but are nutritionally superior.  The United Nations of Food and Agriculture Organization considers the protein from Quinoa to be equivalent to, or better than, the quality of protein in milk.   This well balanced food is also high in other nutrients, such as manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B and phosphorus.  It is high in fibre and low in saturated fats, which makes it an ideal SuperFood for health food products. 

Although most cultivars are grown in South America, its optimal growing conditions are in cooler climates.  It is tolerant to drought, preferring well-drained sandy soils, but can do well in all but poorly aerated soils.  Quinoa is a low maintenance crop with weed competition in the germination and early growth phases presenting the greatest challenge to high yields.  In optimal conditions, it can generate in excess of $4000/hectare.  SuperFoods for Health is a joint research partnership between Katan Kitchens, Ontario Soils & Crops Innovation (OSCIA) and OMAFRA currently evaluating 4 cultivars of Quinoa within the Sand Plains Region of Ontario. For more information on Quinoa and SuperFoods, visit our website at www.katan.ca or email us at service@katan.ca.