Remember when we puzzled over how to pronounce quinoa? Was that kwin-o-ah? Or kwee no-ah?
The ancient grain, or rather seed (pronounced keen-wa for anyone still wondering) had a year dedicated to it in 2013 by the United Nations. That piqued a lot of interest in its nutritional and eating qualities to say the least.
It’s an indigenous crop grown in all the countries of the Andes, from Colombia to the south of Chile and it has been a staple of the diets of Bolivia and Peru for centuries.
Vegetarians have always been big consumers of quinoa, including it in their meatless meals because it is a complete protein from the plant world.
Canadian farmers have also grown small quantities of it for years.
Quinoa’s biggest push in Western Canada came from Kamsack, Saskatchewan farmer and pharmacist Joe Dutcheshen, who back in 1992 took an interest in the non-traditional crop as a way to diversify the farm. He found quinoa highly adaptable to the growing conditions of the Prairies, and two years later founded the Northern Quinoa Corporation, or NorQuin, a group of local-area producers and businessmen from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Today growers across the three provinces, from Provost, Alberta to McCreary, Manitoba grow quinoa for NorQuin.
Interest in quinoa is increasing. For the 2014 crop year, just over 5,000 acres have been sown and while that’s small numbers compared to other commodities, it’s noteworthy considering that’s more than triple the 1,500 sown in 2013. Michael Dutcheshen, general manager at NorQuin, which has become the largest quinoa processor in North America, says they expect those acres to at least double again next year.
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If you’re looking for homegrown quinoa and quinoa value-added products to put on your dinner table, check out this company’s website www.quinoa.com. You’ll find a range of quinoa products including bags of golden and white quinoa, flour, flakes, and even lasagna noodles. NorQuin brand products will soon be on store shelves in Manitoba too.
I’m a relatively latecomer to quinoa. It was shortly after the UN declaration that I took my first bite of a quinoa burger. It was excellent. That led to buying white quinoa at Bulk Barn which I’ve since added to what has turned out to be some very tasty and filling soups.
If you’re looking to learn more about uses of quinoa and how to cook it, I recommend The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook a 2013 Canadian cookbook authored by home economist Mairlyn Smith with recipes developed and contributed by nearly 60 home economists and PHEc students. It explains everything you need to know about different types of quinoa as well as selecting and cooking them.
Quinoa Veggie Burgers
- 1 c. NorQuin cooked quinoa
- 1 onion grated (finely)
- 1 carrot grated
- 1/2 c. quinoa flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. beef soup mix or preferred seasonings
- Optional: 1/2 c. finely chopped mushrooms
Cook 1 cup NorQuin quinoa with 1-1/2 cup water for five minutes in microwave or stovetop. Mixture should be sticky rather than dry and flaky. Cool completely. Mix above ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste. Form burger or meatball with wet hands as mixture is sticky (patties are about four inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Lightly oil frying pan. Cook about five minutes each side. (Or bake in oven at 350 F for 20 minutes.) Serve with regular burger seasonings or try topping with yogurt or lemon juice.
Minestrone Quinoa Soup
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 c. green pepper
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 c. celery
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 c. carrot, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Pinch of thyme
- 2 tbsp. parsley
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 6 c. chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 oz. tomatoes
- 2 c. shredded cabbage
- 1 c. kidney beans (canned or cooked)
- 1/2 c. elbow macaroni/pasta
- 1/2 – 1 c. NorQuin quinoa (depending on desired thickness)
- Optional: 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top
Heat oil and butter, add onion, garlic and chopped vegetables. Cook until softened. Add spices, parsley and pinch of salt. Stir in stock and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add cabbage, beans, macaroni and quinoa. Cover and simmer 1/2 hour.
Norquin Quinoa Salad
- 2 c. NorQuin quinoa, cooked according to package directions
- 1 c. frozen peas, thawed
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, minced
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. grated orange peel
- 1/4 c. chopped parsley
- 6 tomatoes, hollowed
In bowl, combine all ingredients but tomatoes, toss to coat well. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff into tomatoes. Makes six servings.