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Worldwide Demand for Quinoa Up Threefold

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), the mother grain of the Incas, has become the darling of the foodie and health-nut world.

quinoa farmer
Farmer Geronimo Blanco shows his quinoa plants in Patamanta, Bolivia. (Juan Karita, The Associated Press)

Deliciously nutty, quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein, perhaps because it’s more of a seed than an actual grain, even though we use it like a grain. Naturally gluten-free, quinoa flour offers an alternative to wheat in baking, and quinoa products like pasta can be found on supermarket shelves.

I love quinoa and often cook it for dinner in place of rice. You can basically add water to dry quinoa and cook it as if it were rice, or put it in a Glorious One-Pot Meal for an easy and healthy repast. Quinoa flakes can be eaten as a quick hot cereal, but I like to use them in place of bread crumbs in recipes like these gluten-free salmon burgers.

One unfortunate side effect of quinoa’s rising popularity is the stress it is putting on traditional farmers in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia to abandon ancient land management technique in hopes of harvesting more and more quinoa for the booming market. Quinoa has become a cash crop in the fragile ecosystem of the Andean highlands.

I hope they find a solution to meet demand without destroying part of our world and making quinoa and the Andean highlands a casualty of modern commerce.

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