The year is slowly drawing to a close, and I’ve only just noticed that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has declared 2013 “The International Year of Quinoa.” Quinoa is easy to grow, nutrient-dense, and filling, but most importantly, it could help fight world hunger. That’s reason enough to write a few words on this pseudograin – but 2013 also happened to be the year that I grew to know and love quinoa myself!



Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wa” and not “ki-NO-uh,” by the way) is cultivated in South America, where it originated, and is believed to have been one of the staple foods of the Aztecs and Incas for over 4,000 years. Though it’s made up of starchy grain-like seeds, quinoa is actually an herb (more specifically, it’s the seed of the foxtail plant).

During the 16th-century Spanish conquests and the associated wars against the Aztecs and Incas, quinoa was considered “unchristian.” It was forbidden – and punishable by death – to cultivate quinoa (and also amaranth). This severely weakened the indigenous South American civilizations, which speaks to how vital quinoa was to their diets.  

Quinoa did not become popular in Europe until the 20th century, and in the past decade or so, its popularity has absolutely exploded (with both positive and negative consequences for the farmers). This gluten-free pseudograin is rich in protein and iron, as well as many minerals, which is why it’s beloved by vegetarians and vegans as well as those with celiac disease.


One of my favorite things about quinoa is its versatility: it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, including desserts and fruit salads! Check out some of my sweet and savory quinoa recipes below:

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