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South American Superfoods

I'm sure that you've all heard of quinoa by now, that tiny grain with an amazing macro nutrient profile (a complete non-animal protein, for the uninitiated) that is loved by hipsters worldwide. But what you might not know is the impact the recent obsession with this superfood is having on underprivileged South American families.     

I've spent the last two weeks in Peru, and quinoa has been a regular feature. On restaurant menus; in the pre meal soup I've been offered on homestays; and growing on terraces throughout the Andes. I've even helped a local family with their harvest!

Thrashing quinoa grains off dried stems - with my lovely homestay host, Señor Calixto.

Thrashing quinoa grains off dried stems - with my lovely homestay host, Señor Calixto.

Quinoa is a traditional food source in the Andes region of Peru (& Bolivia), where Sopa de Quinua (quinoa soup) is a standard part of life (its not uncommon to have soup for breakfast and as a starter at lunch and dinner).

Five years ago, before quinoa became popular in the western world, one kilo of quinoa cost around 5 soles (AU $1.90) in the local markets. Now, it's over three times that - 17 soles (AU $6.50) per kilo is considered to be a good price. In a country where 10% of the population survive on less than 3 soles per day, it's a significant increase.

Red and white uinoa stems drying

It is a similar situation for the other so called 'superfoods' - maca, chia, stevia, kiwicha (amaranth seeds), to name a few.

Not that I am dismissing these foods, chia and quiona especially, are great plant-based options  for your diet, but rather, I'd like you to think about where these foods are coming from, the impact that may have on communities on the other side of the world, and looks for locally grown options (with the bonus of reducing your food miles!)

Some great locally grown options for these traditionally South American foods are;

  • The Chia Co - an Australian owned company, growing chia in the Ord River region of northern West Australia.
  • Kindred Organics - an organic farm growing quinoa in Tasmania, amongst other things (grass fed beef, oats, spelt, linseeds)
  • Amaranth Australia - I am unsure if this is actually an Australian grown product or not ' I have been in contact, and will update this when I know.

Alternatively, you can grow your own. Once our garden is up and running, I'll definitely be giving it a go, especially now that I know how to harvest it!

What are your thoughts? Do you have a favourite quinoa recipe?