Pronounced ‘keen-wah’ (and not quin-o-a), quinoa is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets and spinach. Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein – containing all eight of the essential amino acids. It has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits: packed with dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free and easy to digest.
The Merchant Gourmet range includes a Ready to Eat Red and White Quinoa, a Wholewheat Giant Couscous, and an intriguing one called ‘Wholesome grains’ which is a mix of wholewheat, red quinoa, toasted soya flakes and lentils.
Colin Hopkins, who works to develop products at Merchant Gourmet, says: “Quinoa is a grain-like product native to South America. Its fluffy texture means it is an extremely good alternative to rice, pasta or couscous and also very healthy due to it’s high protein and fibre content, low fat and importantly, it is gluten-free with a low GI value. Quinoa is perfect in cold salads, served hot with mixed vegetables and cheese or with spicy grilled chicken.”