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Menu Trends: Restaurants Are Introducing A South American Super Crop

Quinoa The South American Super CropThis is a story about how an Incan super crop is starting to take over health food stores and trendy restaurants in the U.S.  The rest of the world is already on board with this mysterious super plant; we’re just now catching up.

What’s so great about this plant?  Well, it doesn’t rot, doesn’t need refrigeration, is a complete protein but is dairy and gluten free, and is rich in important vitamins like iron, magnesium, and riboflavin.  It’s easy to cook and also very affordable.

So what’s the name of this super crop?  Quinoa is a grain from South America that was once cultivated by the Incas.  It’s been around in the U.S. for 20 years, but has only very recently started to gain momentum among professional chefs.

That momentum, however, has started to reach terminal velocity.  Quinoa is very versatile from a cook’s perspective, and its ability to absorb the spices with which it’s cooked means it can be prepared in an infinite number of ways.

Give a chef an opportunity to get creative with a new ingredient that’s hearty and healthy, and you won’t need a second explanation.  That’s precisely why quinoa has started popping up in restaurants across the country.

Quinoa is available in white, red, and black varieties and also comes in flour and cereal form.  I guess it’s not called a super crop for nothing.

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4 Responses to Menu Trends: Restaurants Are Introducing A South American Super Crop

  1. ANNE March 31, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    I’m currently living in Chile, and we eat a lot of quinoa here as well as in the US–what a great substitute for rice and spuds–much lower carbohydrate content from what friends on those no-carb diets tell me, and it seems more like a whole wheat rather than a polished or bleached white flour, or brown rather than polished white rice. Try it toasted in a bit of olive oil and then simmered in water or a chicken or vegetable broth…or, cook and mix half and half with rice; the result is a toasty pilaf that will please your palate and your wallet, and give you more protein and other dietary goodies than you might realize. I even add cooked quinoa to cookies, muffins and bread instead of or in addition to wheat germ or oatmeal. In all, it’s really delicious and kids like it a lot!

    • Greg McGuire March 31, 2010 at 8:15 am #

      Hi Anne,

      Thanks for the cooking suggestions for quinoa! It seems like this crop still has a ways to go before it takes off in the U.S., but at least there are some foodies out there who appreciate it!

  2. Paul March 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    After reading this article I did a little more digging on Quinoa.. I’m getting pretty excited about this. I could easily turn boring ole’ rice pilaf into something unique, delicious and healthy. Do you have any information on pricing through your local distributors?

    • Greg McGuire March 8, 2011 at 5:54 am #

      Hi Paul,

      Unfortunately I do not have any info on pricing as we deal with restaurant equipment and supplies rather than food distribution. Quinoa has become even more popular since I wrote this article so it’s good to hear people like you are getting excited. Good luck!

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