Quinoa Continued

The folks at Golden Rule Garden, a project of Ecology Action contributed two gallons of recently grown and dried quinoa to the Ecology Action 40th Anniversary Celebration, last weekend. Ellen Bartholomew, garden manager, warned me that I needed to repeatedly wash the quinoa seeds (technically a pseudograin because it is not from the grass family, rather it is related to spinach, Swiss chard and the edible weed, lambsquaters). Well, I didn’t listen.

These were her instructions:

Place 1 to 2 cups quinoa in a blender. Fill with water almost to the top. Blend at low speed for a minute or two. Drain the sudsy water, add fresh water rinse twice and repeat. Repeat again. Do this however long it takes for the water to come out clear, not sudsy.

Now the problem is, as you probably know, quinoa is high in saponins, a chemical constituent that is not essential for basic metabolism, but worth it to the plant to produce for some reason. Saponins taste bitter. I love bitter food and I spit out quinoa that was not properly rinsed. The birds in the field don’t eat quinoa, so the saponins are protection against predation. Good strategy.

There is not a blender in this otherwise complete catering kitchen. So I used the high-pressure dish washing faucet to rinse and rinse. Well, after an hour and a half of trying to wash about 10 cups on the day of the event, I got frustrated.  This is not something you can do in advance because in less than 24 hours the moistened quinoa will sprout. Finally, when Fenanda and Luke, interns at Golden Rule, showed up at the Frey’s kitchen, I understood. Luke calmly placed some of the quinoa in a large mixing bowl and added water almost to the top.Voila! The colorful calyx of each tiny seed floated to the surface and Luke poured them off. I had not been adding enough water. Quinoa also has a hard shiny coat surrounding each seed. Fenanda and Luke washed away the bitter principle and we all ate the most delicious, nutritious home-grown quinoa!

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