by Steven Nyland, OrganicCrops. Posted on 05 January 2022, 12:15 hrs
For over a decade now, quinoa has been a go-to food for people looking for a healthy and versatile ingredient to incorporate into their meals. Its popularity skyrocketed in 2006/7 when restaurants began featuring this ancient grain on their menus, and it quickly won over people's taste buds with its unique flavor and texture profile. Despite taking a few years to hit supermarket shelves, quinoa has now become a staple ingredient in kitchens worldwide, joining the ranks of rice and potatoes as a beloved pantry item. As a trusted exporter of organic quinoa from Peru, OrganicCrops is proud to play a role in bringing this delicious and nutritious grain to people all over the world.
Quinoa, pronounced "keen-wah," has been a staple food in the Andes for thousands of years. It originates from the high plains of Peru and Bolivia, where it thrives in a climate where most crops fail. With broad, slightly hairy leaves, the quinoa plant can withstand temperatures ranging from -4 to 35 degrees Celsius, making it an incredibly resilient crop.
Despite being a seed, quinoa is often marketed as an ancient grain due to its impressive nutritional profile. In fact, its make-up is similar to that of grains, making it a popular choice for health-conscious consumers. The quinoa plant, which belongs to the same family as spinach, is technically a pseudocereal. Interestingly, the young leaves of the quinoa plant are also used as a vegetable in soups and stocks by natives in Peru, with a flavor that is stronger than that of spinach.
Did you know that the Andes Altiplano produces around 120 million kg of quinoa each year, with 40% of it being organic? The majority of this production comes from small family farms, often organized into farming cooperatives and communities. Quinoa is also grown in countries such as North America, the UK, Holland, France, Spain, India, China, and even Australia, reflecting its growing popularity as a global food item.
Quinoa has been a staple food for Peruvians and Bolivians for hundreds of years, with many traditional dishes featuring this nutritious seed. One popular breakfast drink is a hot quinoa and apple beverage, often served with sugar and cinnamon. In Lima, street vendors can be found selling this beverage in plastic cups, which has come to be known as "quinua carretillera," named after the street vendor carts. Another popular dish consumed in the Peruvian Andes regions is called 'quaker' (pronounced "kwaacair"), a porridge made with quinoa and oats or just quinoa. Sometimes the quinoa is overcooked or ground to make it into a pap, and the porridge is sweetened with Panela (raw cane sugar). A delicious variation of this dish includes cacao, honey, cinnamon, and nuts. At OrganicCrops, we take pride in sharing the flavors and traditions of Peru to the world through our high-quality organic quinoa.
The Andean ancient grain boasts a unique and hearty flavor that is beloved by chefs worldwide. Its slightly nutty taste makes it a versatile ingredient, suitable for use in salads, as a coating for meat dishes, or as a tasty alternative to potatoes and rice. Darker colored quinoa varieties, such as red, purple, and black, have an even nuttier flavor and can be used as a substitute for brown rice. Black quinoa, in particular, is best cooked al-dente and can add a playful touch to any salad or dish.
Although the unique flavor and nutritional benefits of quinoa had been recognized by food writers in New York since the 1980s, it remained a niche health store product consumed primarily by athletes, health-conscious consumers, astronauts, and Latin American chefs.
However, in 2008, everything changed for quinoa when Oprah Winfrey featured it as "the complete food grain" on her 21-day "cleanse diet". This propelled quinoa into the public eye, and soon large retailers like Whole Foods began promoting it. Little did Oprah know that her endorsement would significantly impact the lives of farming communities in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, as demand for the ancient grain skyrocketed. In 2013, the United Nations declared it the "International Year of Quinoa," leading to an almost 500% increase in demand for this "new" ancient superfood, making quinoa a highly sought-after product for several years.
After nearly 10 years of producingand marketing quinoa the product (and market) has matured. Peru and Bolivia are still the main producers of quinoa with a market share of approx. 65-70%. Other producing countries such as China, India, USA and various European countries are gaining market share each year with innovative quinoa crops that are produced in less harsh environments and are cheaper and easier to harvest. The flavor profile and nutritional values of Andes Altiplano quinoa is still superior. Combined with the marketing value of "Andean grains" and "Superfoods from the Andes", quinoa from Peru and Bolivia continues to thrive.