Inca Organics and Quinoa—The Mother Grain

Quinoa is surely a candidate for a feature cover of Time magazine. The UN already recognise it as the only vegetable source to be a complete protein. It is a seed grain, or super grain, that has the same nutritional profile as milk. It contains all the essential amino acids required for human health. No wonder NASA have it on their list as a crop of choice for self-sustaining ecosystems in long duration, manned spaceflight. Back on Earth, we’ve been eating it for an estimated 6,000 years. Well, those of us with Andean lineage have. It grows best above 11,000 ft (3,350m), in the mountains of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. The seeds are coated with a protective waxy covering, known as saponin, that in unpalatable, and deters birds and animals from munching. A natural, inbuilt, non-harmful pest control. This can be washed off for human consumption. Quinoa has a nutty sort of texture (I personally much prefer it to cous cous), and is said have a subtle 'crunch', resembling that of caviar. But far from that extravagant delicacy, this wonder grain is ... ... grown by poor peasant farmers, struggling to make ends meet. Inca Organics is company trying to change that. Founded by ex-Peace Corps workers, it aims to broaden the market for Quinoa, so that farm families might realise a gentler way of life. Already, with small markets established in the UK, US and Australia, they believe they’ve raised the household income from $250 to $500 USD per annum. (Ecuador set their poverty level at $360.) Inca Organics believe their organic Quinoa to be superior to most others, because of the fair trade manner, with which they deal with their farmers, and particularly due to the method they use for removal and disposal of the saponin. Read their story in this News Target interview. It’s more like a soft FAQ, than a hard hitting interview. But you do learn about the product, which is a fascinating crop. ::Inca Organics.

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