Do you know where your quinoa comes from?quinoa

We talk about quinoa a lot on this blog. Not only is it tasty – it’s nutritious as well (amino acids, protein, fiber, some vital minerals, you know the score). And gluten-free, natch.

But, as a recent article in The Washington Post points out, quinoa isn’t just changing the lives of the gluten-free. It’s also changing the lives of the Bolivians and Pervians who have grown it for years.

The wholesale price of quinoa today is seven times the price in 2000, and that kind of money talks: prices are so compelling that many quinoa farmers now sell all their quinoa and feed their children the comparably less-nutritious rice and wheat. Unsurprisingly, the children are showing signs of malnutrition.

The gluten-free community arguably benefits from quinoa more than the rest of the population: flip through the pages of your gluten-free grocery guide looking for pasta and your fingers will run straight into plenty of quinoa flour.

Accordingly, we’ve got an extra incentive to make sure that the quinoa we purchase is coming to us without any added baggage.

Approximately 97% of the world’s quinoa comes from Bolivia and Peru. In part, this is thanks to ANAPQUI, the fair-trade collective whose acronym translates to National Association of Quinoa Growers. They’ve so far been able to fend off attempts by US interests to develop a strain that can grow in other climates.

Now, however, Bolivia is extremely focused on its quinoa farmers and has declared the grain a “strategic” foodstuff. The government is focused on facilitating large-scale production, which is music to the ears of quinoa exporters but potentially at odds with the many small farms currently responsible for the crop.

By most standards, these small farms are benefiting significantly from the increased global audience for their crop; they remain impoverished but are making steps in a promising direction.

So how can we help ensure plenty of happy quinoa for our future? If it’s important to you that smaller quinoa farmers remain in control of the crop, look to purchase quinoa that’s been certified as Fair Trade or bears the seal ANAPQUI. If you purchase quinoa from a bulk bin, ask your grocer who the supplier is. As with almost every issue, most effective way to vote is with dollars.

And once you have a bag or bushel of quinoa, what to do with it? I’ve been eating it for breakfast lately, with this general recipe:

Breakfast Quinoa

  • 1 cup milk (whole, skim, soy…doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup water (increase the ratio of milk to water if you want a richer porridge)
  • 1 cup quinoa (I like red quinoa but use whichever you prefer)
  • 3 tbsp of something sweet: brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch(es) of your favorites: cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
  • handful(s) of your favorites: raisins, bananas, slivered almonds, crumbled pecans, marmalade, flax seeds, whatever

Combine milk, water, salt and quinoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; stir then cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Turn heat off, add in your choice of sweeteners, spices and others and stir. Enjoy!

You can also make a bigger batch of quinoa in advance, and add the extras in when you reheat it.