A more precise historical, picture, however, is beginning to emerge. Corn, for much of the Western Hemisphere, was only one of several grains, and it often wasn’t even the most important. Stable carbon isotope studies indicate that maize did not become a major dietary component in the northeastern woodlands until about 1150 A.D., only 500 years before the Mayflower’s landing.
The seeds of quinoa and amaranth (and related plants), on the other hand, with a 5,000 year history, had much more significance. In North America, however, partly because the European settlers preferred corn, cultivation of these plants eventually ceased, and our primary North American native grain is now extinct.
In the Andes, quinoa was exalted as the most sacred grain, despite corn’s presence. As it was inextricably connected to the Incas’ religion, the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries sought to obliterate it (and to destroy amaranth cultivation in Central America as well). The people of the altiplano, however, continued to grow quinoa persevering under the most adverse conditions even as they do today.
Quinoa’s cultivation began in Colorado in the early 1980’s and it was introduced to the U.S. natural foods market in 1983. Having gained a firm foothold in the marketplace, and becoming increasingly popular, quinoa’s initially high price has plummeted.
Quinoa boasts phenomenal nutritional properties, including a nearly complete protein profile and high levels of minerals. People who suffer from cereal-grain allergies are able to cat quinoa without bad effect. Quinoa is amazingly versatile as a stable ingredient and it’s quick and easy to prepare. It can easily be sprouted. Much softer than wheat or corn, it pulverizes into flour very easily. For super-fine, powdery flour, use a grain mill. A nut grinder, food blender, or coffee mill will suffice, but will yield a beady flour. Quinoa is so soft, however, that even when coarsely ground it works well in most recipes, lending a light, moist, and delicate crumb to quick broads and fine pastries. (11 does not need to be washed before it is ground).
The writer of this article, Rebecca Theurer Wood, recently visited the Andes to compile research for her forthcoming book Quinoa: The Super Grain'(Japan Publications, 1988).
Vol 8 Issue 2 Page 6