Is Quinoa Cereal grain or seed? Ancient source of life or health food craze? The answer is both. It’s actually a weed that can grow in cooler temperatures like mountainsides and can even germinate in mild frost conditions (think of the steep mountainsides of the Andes).
Quinoa has a majestic history among one of the most powerful civilizations on the American continent. It originated with the Incas in the mountains of Bolivia, Chile and Peru. It’s been at the forefront in these regions for 5,000 years. Because of its high protein and carbohydrate content, it was known as the rice of Incas and remains a prominent food source for their indigenous descendants. Quinoa was a sacred crop to the Incas who called it the mother of all grains or chisaya mama. The legend states that the Incan emperor would ceremoniously plant the first quinoa seeds every year. This tradition is sure to be a bit more fan-friendly when contrasted with the sacrificial removal of heads and hearts by their Aztec and Mayan contemporaries.
Like many of the ancient grains, quinoa slipped into obscurity with the arrival of the Spanish. Explorer Francisco Pizarro, in his resolve to destroy Inca culture, had quinoa fields destroyed. Only small amounts survived high in the mountains. That all changed in the 1970’s when quinoa was reintroduced to the modern world as a health food. Now, we can all benefit from the “mother grain” that our Inca predecessors left behind.
Peruvian Quinoa Salata
- Optional – Rice cooker or Instant Pot
- 1 cup Quinoa
- 2 cups Water
- 2 medium Roma or plum tomatoes, diced
- 1 medium Cucumber, seedless
- ½ medium Red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup Red onion, diced
- 4 oz Cubed queso fresco or rinsed feta
- 10 Pitted black or kalamata olives, sliced
- ½ cup` Cilantro leaves, chopped
- 2 Limes, juiced
- ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cooking Quinoa – Cook 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water in a rice cooker or bring a saucepan with 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups broth to a boil, cover, and lower heat to low. Simmer until it softens, about 15 minutes. Transfer cooked rice to a bowl for serving and let it cool for at least 10 minutes. Fluff it with a fork to separate grains.
- Preparing Salad – Add the rest of the ingredients to the cooked quinoa and toss gently. Season to taste and serve.
- Quinoa can be found near the rice and other grains in most food markets.
- This salad is delicious chilled and can be made up-to a few days in advance by omitting the olive oil, tomatoes, and cucumber until just before serving.