Benefits Of: QUINOA

Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot family) Description: Erect, sparsely branched herb, 1-2 m (3-6 ft) tall. Lobed leaves alternate, ovate, with long petioles and a pointed apex. Tiny flowers are produced in apical, spikelike, strikingly purple, yellow, or reddish inflorescences. Fruits are drupes 1.5- 2.5 mm (0.06-0.1 in) across. Seeds are harvested after a four-month growing season. Origin and Distribution: Native to the Andes of South America from Colombia south to Argentina and Chile. Grown mainly in mountains between 2,500 and 3,800 m (8,000-12,500 ft) altitude. The plant has been cultivated in its native habitat for at least 6,000 years and is still of major importance as a staple food crop in the region, although at lower altitudes it has been largely replaced by barley and wheat.

Food uses: The boiled or roasted seeds have a mild flavor and firm texture similar to that of brown rice and are a traditional, ubiquitous ingredient in soups and stews throughout the Andes. Flour made from quinoa is used to make bread, cookies, tortillas, and desserts. The seeds are fermented to produce a beerlike alcoholic beverage called chicha. The baked ash (called llipta in Quechua) made from burned stalks and dry leaves is chewed together with coca leaves to enhance the stimulating effect of the drug. Today quinoa is gaining inportance as an ingredient in cereals and granola bars. Untreated quinoa contains toxic saponins, which are removed by processing and washing before consumption.

Comments: The Incas considered quinoa a sacred food and called it the “mother of seeds” The seeds are very rich in high-quality protein containing all nine essential amino acids. They are also high in minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron as well as vitamins and fatty acids like omegas 3, 6, and 9. During Spanish colonial rule, the cultivation of quinoa was prohibited and punished by death sentence. The intent of the ruling was to eradicate local customs, weaken the indigenous tribes, and establish wheat and barley as new crops. Because of its high nutritional value, quinoa is now quickly gaining importance in Andean countries like Bolivia and Peru as an export crop.

Description. Low growing, sprawling, evergreen shrub that usually does not grow taller than 1.5 m (5 ft), although it occasionally grows into a small tree reaching a maximum height of 5 m (16 ft). Leaves alternate, leathery, broad-oval to round, 4-10 cm (1.6-4 in) long and 3-6 cm (1.2-2.4 in) wide. Young leaves have a coppery color. Flowers small and white, in axillary racemes. Fruits globular to ovoid, 3-5 cm (1.2-2 in) long, with pale yellow, pink, or dark purple skin and one single, ridged seed.

Origin and Distribution. Native to coastal regions of tropical America. The plant may also be indigenous to the coasts of western Africa. It grows naturally in coastal swamps and along beaches. The coco plum has been introduced and naturalized in coastal areas of many tropical countries. On some islands like Fiji and French Polynesia the plant has become invasive and poses a threat to native ecosystems.

Food uses. The sweet fresh fruits, although somewhat insipid, are eaten out of hand. They do sometimes cause an astringent taste in the mouth. The fruits are commonly stewed with sugar or made into jam. They were one of the most important fruits used by early European settlers in coastal areas of Florida. In Cuba the boiled fruits are made into a sweet preserve and eaten as dessert. The seeds can be roasted as nuts.

Comments. This salt-tolerant shrub is frequently grown as an ornamental or trimmed to a hedge. It is also planted along beaches to prevent soil erosion.

Description. Evergreen tree with a dense, rounded crown, 20-30 m (65-100 ft) tall. All parts of the tree contain a sticky white latex. Leaves alternate, leathery, elliptic, 8-16 cm (3-6 in) long, upper surface glossy with yellowish-golden pubescent hairs on the lower surface. Branchlets are densely pubescent. Small, sweetly fragrant, yellowish-white to purplish-white flowers are borne in small clusters in the axils of leaves. Fruits round, 8-10 cm (3-4 in) in diameter, with purple, reddish, or purplish-green skin. Pulp soft, gelatinous, purple, or transparent, with multiple seed cells. Fruit, when cut in half, resembles a multipointed star; contains up to 10 flattened, dark brown seeds.

Origin and Distribution. The tree is native to the West Indies but has been naturalized in Central and South America. It was recorded by Spanish historian Cieza de Leon growing in Peru as early as 1550. The tree was introduced to Asia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Today the star apple is grown to some extent for its fruits and for its ornamental value in Africa and Asia, especially in India and the Philippines.

Food uses. The fruit is eaten fresh by cutting it in half and scooping out the pulp. The bitter rind contains latex and is inedible. In Jamaica, the flesh is mixed with orange juice, sugar, nutmeg, and sherry. The pulp is also blended with condensed milk and sour orange juice to form a dessert called “matrimony” In the Philippines, the star apple flesh is used in a popular dessert called halo-halo, containing shaved ice, milk, beans, coconut and various other fruits.

Comments. The genus Chrysophyllum consists of 7080 species distributed mainly in tropical America. The tree plays an important role in folk medicine. Because of its high tannin content, a decoction of the bark is used as a stimulant and to treat diarrhea and dysentry. The valuable, reddish wood is used to make furniture.

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