January 17, 2013

The Year of Quinoa

The UN is encouraging people to eat more what?

Maggie: Do you know how to pronounce this word?

Person One: Kween-oh-uh

Person Two: Kween-oh-uh

Person Three: Kwin-oh-uh. I don’t know.

Person Four: Keen-wah? Just a random guess, but I don’t know what it is.

Maggie: Are you guys ready for the big reveal? The moment of truth? That word is pronounced keen-wah! Woo!

And you may not know this, but the United Nations has actually named 2013 the International Year of Quinoa!

Now, have you ever heard of quinoa?

Person Five: No. Never. I thought it was like a porcupine or something.

Person Six: Sounds like it’d be, like, a yoga thing or something.

Person Seven: Isn’t that a vegetable?

Maggie: Quinoa is a seed. And it is closely related to the vegetables spinach and beets. It might look and cook like a grain, but it is fluffy and has a nutty taste.

Quinoa has been farmed and eaten for over four thousand years, and the UN says this ancient, and now trendy, health food could soon be playing a big role in helping to feed the hungry all around the world.

Thousands of years ago, the Incan empire relied on quinoa to grow in the harsh conditions of the Andes mountains, in countries like Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

In fact, the Incas considered quinoa so sacred they held religious ceremonies around its harvest, and even referred to it as chisaya mama, the mother of all grains. Since then, the grain-like quinoa has proven to be an adaptable food and has been grown with success in high altitude regions of the U.S., England and Sweden. The UN simply calls quinoa a super crop.

Quinoa is considered one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. It has more protein and fat and fewer carbohydrates than equal servings of corn or rice. It is gluten-free, and it is just packed with vitamins and minerals.

And there are plenty of types of quinoa growing around the world. More than 3,100 varieties are harvested. This diversity means it can withstand diseases better than other crops that could more easily be wiped out.

The UN hopes that local governments and organizations will work with farmers to plant and harvest more quinoa, helping to support the environment and combat food shortages.

And NASA already has plans for quinoa in space. It is considering adding quinoa as a crop for long duration manned space flights.

So it turns out, this tiny ancient seed just might have some huge modern day potential.

Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.


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