[permaculture] processing quinoa ?

Graham grahamburnett at blueyonder.co.uk
Thu Oct 20 18:38:21 EDT 2005

Lisa in Oregon wrote:

>Not sure it's entirely appropriate for this list, but then I'm not
>sure if any other list would be better...
>I grew a few quinoa plants.  The harvested grains are brown.  Seeds 
>planted ranged in color from tan to brown (it's "Qunioa - Multihued").
>I've got them soaking, and have agitated, very little soapiness and 
>the seeds are still bitter.  After 24 hours of soaking they have a
>nice soaked grain texture, nice except for the terrible bitter 
>aftertaste.  Am I missing something? 

Yup you should change the soak water at least 2 or 3 times before 
consumption. The bitter  saponins (cause of soupiness) help to keep the 
birds at bay. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa

    4 Saponin content

In its natural state quinoa has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saponin>, making it essentially 
unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been 
processed to remove this coating. Some have speculated that this bitter 
coating may have caused the Europeans who first encountered quinoa to 
reject it as a food source, even as they adopted other indigenous 
products of the Americas like maize <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maize> 
and potatoes <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato>. However, this 
bitterness has beneficial effects in terms of cultivation, as it is a 
crop that is is relatively untouched by birds and thus requires minimal 
protection. There have been attempts made to lower the saponin content 
of quinoa through selective breeding in order to produce sweeter and 
more palatable varieties of the crop. However when these varieties were 
introduced by agronomists to native growers in the high plateaux, they 
were rejected after just one season. The growers returned to their 
traditional high saponin varieties, the reason being that despite the 
newer varieties giving 'magnificent' yields, birds had consumed the 
entire crop.

The saponin content in quinoa can be mildly toxic, as can be the oxalic 
acid <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalic_acid> content found in the 
leaves of all of the chenopodium family. However the risks associated 
with quinoa are minimal provided that it is properly prepared and leaves 
are not eaten to excess.

>Lisa in Ashland Oregon
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