What's the key ingredient to a successful cookbook? Quinoa, evidently.
Two sisters with a love of the ancient grain, have taken the Canadian cookbook industryby storm. Patricia Green of Cochrane, Alta., and Carolyn Hemming of Mississauga, Ont., publishedthe family-friendly recipe book Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood in March 2010. A surprise hit, Quinoa 365 has become a national bestseller, with around 100,000 copies sold in North America - and that's not counting the French-language edition. Book stores are having a hard time keeping it in stock, and publishers in the U.K. and Australia have now picked it up.
The cookbook includes recipes, from hot cereals to salads, sushi to soufflés, providing ideas for how to eat nutrient-packed quinoa seeds every day of the year.
"You can eat [quinoa]breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday," Ms. Hemming says. She tells The Globe why we should.
Quinoa has been around for ages. Why is it so popular now?
It's just one of those things we were never socialized to eat. It really has trickled in through naturopaths and vegetarian communities. More and more people are thinking, 'Am I getting good nutrition for my dollar?'
When were you first introduced to quinoa?
I guess it might have been seven or eight years ago. My sister poked and prodded me until I reluctantly took the plunge. I was eating convenience things like oatmeal and yogurt and leading a busy life and training for marathons, and she finally kicked me enough, saying, 'You've got to try this quinoa stuff. You're going to love it.'
Why were you so reluctant to try it?
I thought, oh, it's cooking. It's going to take too long. I don't have time for it. When I realized how easy it was to cook, I was shocked.
In your book, you mention quinoa can help everything from weight loss to muscle building. Why is it so good for you?
It's called a superfood, but really it's a super-superfood because all of the properties it has. It's a combination of everything, from the low glycemic index to the complex carbohydrates, the high fibre, the high protein, the vitamins, the minerals, the antioxidants. It's gluten-free. All of these properties are in one food that is extremely versatile.
How much quinoa do you normally eat?
I just had a bowl about 10 minutes ago, which sounds corny, but I really did. I also had it for lunch. I eat it at least once a day in something.
How much do people need to get the health benefits?
You don't need to eat tons of it. I think if you incorporate any of it into your diet, you'll benefit, for sure. Even a cup a day can really help digestion, for example.
You have a whole section on quinoa recipes for babies.
Yes, it's great for babies. The ancient Incas used to wean their children on quinoa. They knew it made their babies very strong and very healthy. Now, we know that histadine is an essential amino acid for human development, and it's very high in quinoa. Usually in North America, we feed infants rice cereal, which is easily digestible, but the nutrition is very inferior to something like quinoa cereal.
What's the difference between red, black and white quinoa?
I wouldn't say there's a difference in the taste, but maybe a little bit in the texture. White quinoa cooks up a little fluffier, where as the coloured quinoa might be a little more al dente. When you see a quinoa crop, it's like a rainbow crop. You can grow a black quinoa patch, or a red quinoa patch, but quite often, even when you buy black or red quinoa, you see little white quinoas in there. It does grow so multi-coloured. It's a very beautiful crop.
How did you come up with all the recipes?
Well, the book came out of all the years of incorporating quinoa into the things that we were eating ourselves. So we had amassed a bunch of recipes, trying to see if we could eat quinoa this way or that way, like could we put it in a casserole and get rid of all the simple carbs?
Were there any dishes that didn't work?
We haven't discovered anything that you can't use quinoa in yet. Sometimes the recipes didn't turn out the first one or two shots, but there was nothing that glaringly didn't work. Actually, it was kind of the opposite, like we were making waffles with quinoa flour and going, 'Wow, this is how a waffle always should have tasted.'
Quinoa seems pretty expensive. What do you tell people who balk at the price?
Rice is really inexpensive and so people tend to compare it with that, which is bad. Really, you're getting way more bang for your buck. Quinoa cooks up to more than three times its original volume, while rice only doubles. As well, the nutrition is exponential. You could spend less money and eat cardboard, or you could spend a little more and your body goes, 'Wow. What are you giving me? This is great.'
The New York Times recently reported the price of quinoa has risen because of its popularity - to the point where in Bolivia, where its grown, there are concerns many aren't able to afford it any more.
Patricia and I are both in touch with growers and distributors in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and we all have been looking for evidence of this and haven't seen it. Patricia was in Bolivia a few weeks ago, and when we ask about it, they say the growers are benefiting so much now from the fact that quinoa is doing so well. They are, for the first time in their lives, able to afford foods that they weren't able to afford before. They don't have to eat quinoa for every forkful they put in their mouths; they can afford something else.
Since you've been consuming quinoa, have you seen any increase in price?
Actually, I haven't. It's the same price as I was eating it years ago, and now, it's even more readily available. I don't have to go to Whole Foods and look on a special shelf any more. I can get it at Loblaws, I can get it at Bulk Barn.
This interview has been condensed and edited.