The scientists, following the lead of the natives, dubbed it Chenopodium quinoa. It’s not exactly a cereal, but it has distinct nutritional advantages: quinoa contains ten essential amino acids, lots of protein and dietary fiber, and zero gluten. The people of the Andes who grow this stuff should be eating healthy, right? Not necessarily:
Some local children are showing signs of malnutrition because their parents have substituted rice and noodles for quinoa in the family diet, said Walter Severo, president of a quinoa producer’s group in southwest Bolivia.
“Only 10 percent of it stays in Bolivia. The other 90 percent gets exported,” says Rural Development Minister Nemecia Achacollo.
And where does it get exported? You guessed it:
“I’ve got high-performance athletes that swear by it,” said David Schnorr, president of Quinoa Corp., the largest U.S. importer. It’s also being embraced by the increasing number of Americans with food allergies or celiac disease, an immunological rejection of gluten, a wheat protein. NASA researchers consider it ideal for inclusion in possible future long-term space missions when crops would need to be grown on spacecraft.
Growing quinoa in the States may be problematic: high temperature (over 95°F) stunts its growth. It doesn’t seem to mind high altitudes — it’s grown in the Andes, fercryingoutloud — but so far, the only place we’ve been able to come up with a domestic supply of quinoa is in the San Luis Valley in Colorado, and only about 500 acres are actually planted with the stuff.
Still, the Whole Foods crowd loves it, so expect to see more quinoa around town, if maybe not so much on its home turf.
(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)