Each year, the Supreme Inca of Tawantinsuyo was the first to pant quinoa, using a golden hoe. Thus began the festival lasting several days throughout the entire Incan Empire.
The Incas, reigning over more than 100 million people at the peak of their civilization, had gained control less by military force than because of food security they offered to those agreeing to worship Inti, the sun god.
Centuries before the Spaniards, under the leader Francisco Pizzaro, arrived in the Inca Empire. Their agriculturists (they were very advanced in domesticating wild plants) had recognized and celebrated the super food qualities of quinoa.
Inca warriors always carried small balls of cooked quinoa and animal fat into battle for stamina, energy and strength.
The plant is native to the Andean mountains of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, but it was the Incas who cultivated it and sued quinoa to feed the population of their widespread empire. They called quinoa “ la chisiya mama” (the mother grain). To this day, it is the staple food of the Quechua and Aymara, who are the descendants of the Incas.
To the Incas, quinoa was sacred food.
Incas ate quinoa as porridge, in soups and stews, ground it into flour for quick-baking flat breads, and fermented into a mildly alcoholic drink (cicha).
When Pizarro and his men arrived in 1532 the landscape was covered with untold hectares of quinoa, but the conquistadors deemed it a threat to Christianity and denouncing the religion.
They destroyed much oft eh quinoa, and replanted the area with wheat, barley, carrots, and broad beans.
For centuries, quinoa was marginalized, but thanks to two American scientists, it has started to gain some acceptance in North America and Europe.
It’s nutritional value has been recognized and now it is grown not only in South America, but also in Colorado, California, Canada, China, in some European countries, and India.
Technically quinoa, is a seed, but is considered to be a “pseudocereal”. The plant can grow up to two metres and the seeds are of a range of colours. Once harvested, the seed’s head is dried ad coated with saponin for preservation.
Quinoa is naturally gluten free, and recommended to people who are allergic to gluten.
It is delicious, easy to prepare and very versatile.
Quinoa can be cooked like rice, or porridge, or even boiled, or the “thermos method: as explained in detail in a recent book titled 500 Best Quinoa Recipes (Robert Rose Publishing, Toronto) on page 12 or baked.
Quinoa is now available in health food stores, large grocery chain stores, and no doubt soon will be in major city independent store as more and more people are diagnosed with allergies related to gluten.