Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Quinoa is a native of northern South America, was domesticated near Lake Titicaca in the Andes around 5000 BCE, and was a staple food of the Incas, second in importance only to the potato. Chenopodium quinoa is in the same family as beets and spinach. The grains are small yellow spheres between 1 and 3 mm across. The outer pericarp of many quinoa varieties contains bitter defensive compounds called saponins, which can be removed by brief washing and rubbing in cold water (prolonged soaking deposits saponins within the seed). Quinoa can be cooked like rice or added to soups and other liquid dishes; it’s also popped, and is ground and made into a variety of flatbreads.