The bare bones of the plants we eat

Tag Archive: jasper H Stembridge

Quinoa – Inca gold

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Lake Titicaca, for me even the name has a ring to it. The first time I read about this lake was when we covered all the Great Lakes of the world in our geography class in School. We had a good teacher in Sr Hazel and a great textbook in Jasper Stembridges’s -The world, A general regional geography. I managed to salvage this textbook from my school days, all 532 pages and well sellotaped covers, with its emphasis on the human side of geography. I still enjoy reading how man is conditioned by his environment and how, he in turn, responds to this environment.

12,500 feet above sea level and high up in the Andes mountains, Lake Titicaca straddles both Peru and Bolivia. This is believed to be the place or the area around where quinoa, pronounced Keen-wah, was first domesticated. Since Tania has been blogging a lot about these little protein rich seeds, I thought I would share some bare bones of this plant. Although considered a cereal it is not a true cereal like rice, wheat or corn to name just a few as it does not belong to the grass family. Quinoa is really a false cereal like amaranth and buckwheat, and unlike the true cereals are far superior in proteins and also gluten-free.

Quinoa plants near Cachora, Apurímac, Peru. Altitude: 3800m
Quinoa plants near Cachora, Apurímac, Peru. Altitude: 3800m

A beautiful plant to look at, you can imagine a whole field of this growing at this high altitude and arid conditions. This ancient staple plant of the Incas, with archaeological evidence of its use dating back to 5000 BC, the plant has evolved and adapted to protect itself from the intense UV radiation and arid conditions. Bitter tasting saponins also deter the birds. The seeds can range from white, yellow, grey, light brown, pink, black or red but what we get most commonly on the market are the white or red quinoa and sometimes the black.