What Is Organic Quinoa?

C. K. Lanz
C. K. Lanz
Bowl of cooked quinoa.
Bowl of cooked quinoa.

Organic quinoa is quinoa that has been grown and processed in accordance with the standards for organic foods established by the certifying body. Governments, state agencies, and private organizations can certify a product as organic but have distinct criteria. In general, a food is organic if it has been cultivated without synthetic fertilizers and processed without artificial preservatives or ingredients. Quinoa is an edible seed that has been cultivated in the Andean region of South America for thousands of years. A species of goosefoot, quinoa is a Quechua word that has been borrowed by Spanish to describe this edible seed.

Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad.
Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad.

Quinoa is an edible seed related to spinach that originated in the Andean region of South America, where it has been cultivated for millennia. As it is a complete protein source that contains all eight amino acids, quinoa is frequently embraced by vegetarians, vegans, and others who want to reduce their meat consumption. It is also easy to digest.

The term organic describes how an agricultural product is grown and processed. An organically grown product is cultivated without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. No artificial preservatives, ingredients, or irradiation is used during processing. Organic products can be certified by state agencies, governments, or private organizations. As a result, the precise criteria for certification vary.

Certified organic quinoa has been grown and processed in accordance with the standards established by the certifying body. In the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture developed national standards for the organic label and relies on private and state agencies to inspect farms. Companies risk heavy fines if they falsely label their products as organic.

One cup of cooked organic quinoa has 222 calories total, including 32 from fat. A good source of dietary fiber, this food is low in cholesterol and sodium. Quinoa contains iron, vitamin B6, and folate. It is also an excellent source of manganese.

Organic quinoa can usually be substituted for rice or couscous in most recipes. This gluten-free whole grain has a mild but slightly nutty flavor when cooked. It is also frequently served with mixed vegetables and seasoning, in chili, or as a burrito or taco filling. Organic quinoa can also be used as a breakfast cereal or in soups and salads.

The seed can be cooked by adding one cup of uncooked organic quinoa to two cups of water or broth, bringing to a boil, and then reducing heat while covering the pan and simmering for approximately 15 minutes. For a stronger flavor, the uncooked organic quinoa can be toasted prior to boiling. Cooked organic quinoa is tender but chewy, with white, spiral-like threads around each grain. Cooked organic quinoa can be stored in the refrigerator for about one week.

Although organic foods can be more expensive than conventionally produced products, the market for organic products is growing. In the United States, sales of organic products grew from $1 billion US Dollars (USD) in 1990 to approximately $20 billion USD in 2007. This demand is primarily driven by consumers’ concern for their own health and the environment. As organic products are not grown using synthetic insecticides and fertilizers, they are believed to be healthier and safer to eat, although scientific data is not yet conclusive.

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    • Bowl of cooked quinoa.
      Bowl of cooked quinoa.
    • Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad.
      By: James Cohen
      Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad.