Although new to North Americans, Quinoa (pronounced â€˜keenwaâ€™) has been cultivated in the highest continuously farmed region of the earth, the South American Andes, since at least 3,000 B.C. The ancient Incas called it â€˜the mother grain' and revered it as sacred. Compared to other grains and vegetables, it is high in protein, calcium, and iron. One researcher has said that "while no single food can supply all of the essential life sustaining nutrients, it comes as close as any other in the vegetable or animal kingdoms." This amazing ancient food is now in the process of being rediscovered by modern peoples. In South America, a renewed respect for indigenous crops and traditional foods has reversed a 400-year decline in quinoa production that began with the Spanish conquest. And within the past three years quinoa has begun to be grown for the first time outside South America... Quinoa is a small seed that in size, shape, and color looks like a cross between sesame seed and millet. It is disk shaped with a flattened or depressed equatorial band around itâ€™s periphery. It is usually a pale yellow color but some species may vary from almost white through pink, orange, or red to purple and black. Quinoa is not a true cereal grain but is technically a fruit of the Chenopodium family. Chenopodium plants have characteristic leaves shaped like a goose foot. The genus also includes our common weed, lambâ€™s quarters. Quinoa is an annual herb that grows from three to six feet high, and like millet its seeds are in large clusters at the end of the stalk. The seeds are covered with saponin, a resin-like substance that is extremely bitter and forms a soapy solution in water. To be edible, the saponin must be removed. Traditionally, saponin has been removed by laboriously hand scrubbing the quinoa in alkaline water. The edible seed of the quinoa plant has been called both a pseudo-cereal and a pseudo-oilseed because of itâ€™s unique nutritional profile. It is high in protein compared to other grains, although it is also high in oil and fat. Some wheats come close to matching quinoaâ€™s protein content, but cereals such as barley, corn, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa. Also, quinoa has a good balance of the amino acids that make up the protein. Quinoa, like soybeans, is exceptionally high in lysine, an amino acid not overly abundant in the vegetable kingdom. Quinoa is also a good complement for legumes, which are often low in Methionine and Cystine. In addition, quinoa is a relatively good source of phosphorous, calcium, iron, vitamin E, and several of the B vitamins.