We grew quinoa (keen-wah) at the City Farmer garden for awhile. It was extremely difficult to harvest, all those tiny little seeds. We decided to stick with amaranth which is slightly less labour intensive. I buy quinoa regularly, even though it is expensive (I just paid over $16 for .8 kg of bulk organic red quinoa at Whole Foods). I’m a vegetarian and I value its high protein content. I also like the texture.
The grain, a staple of South American countries and grown in the Andean region, has been gaining popularity in recent years. Due to its high nutrition content it has been labeled a superfood. It has also surfaced in the news. According to some reports, its popularity was pricing locals out of the market and they were now eating less nutritious wheat products.
I was at a dinner not too long ago where the host served quinoa and a discussion ensued. The host insisted that this ugly truth had been proven wrong. I doubt that very much. This is an old story. Whenever “the west” becomes enamoured with a food, farmers start growing more of it, selling more of it to foreign markets and less of it at home. When I was in Belize one year, I remember a local telling me that they only drank orange juice there, because all the good oranges were sent to foreign markets.
As with the recent disaster at the garment factories in Bangladesh, the story is complicated. If the companies just pull out in response, the lives of those workers will be devastated too. So, it doesn’t mean we should stop buying quinoa, it just means we should think and learn more about where our food comes from, and what effect we are having as consumers.
For a more in depth account of this complicated story, read this article from the Guardian. To learn more about food and the myths surrounding our food supply, visit the Small Planet Institute. They have a recipe for coconut infused quinoa on their site!