When I (Chef Ronnie) was growing up in the farmland of southeast Kentucky on the poor side of middle-class, we lived on what came out of the ground or what my stepdad would raise for slaughter or hunt. I love rabbit but wild tastes so much different (better) than the farm raised sort we get from the purveyors.

We would trade certain foods with the neighbors that we had in abundance and vice versa. There was a sense of community to the whole thing.

I looked forward every year to government cheese. A big block of Wisconsin cheddar for grilled cheese with some of my mama’s pickles was a real treat. My taste for fine things was already developing. I didn’t find out until a few years ago that the government got first pick of the Wisconsin cheddar each year for the program, and supposedly, picked the “cream of the crop”.

Our meals were rich, wholesome and simple, “normal “, what we ate (squirrel, turtle or chitlins) was anything but exotic. I was twenty years old when I was first introduced to quinoa. It was an odd little bead that tasted nutty and had an incredible mouth feel. I would eat this fare several times a week knowing nothing more about it than its name. Now, I have cooked it several hundred, if not thousands of times and the geeky part of me wanted to know the story behind it.

It has been traced back over 5000 year to the Incas and the name translates to “mother grain”. They would be as surprised, as I am, to find it’s a strain of goosefoot (chenopodium), part of the spinach and beet family, and not a grain at all. And though I have yet to have them, the quinoa greens are put in a place between the two aforementioned.

Upon searching, I found that the quinoa greens are consumed locally and are rarely for sale outside the regions they are grown. It’s an Andes indigene and grows best around 5000-7000 feet and can suffer the cold well. There is a good supply today coming to us via Colorado which has a near mirror like climate in the mountains to that of Chile and Peru.

Quinoa is a good source of superior quality protein, minerals, fiber and rich in carbohydrates and these are but a few attributes of quinoa that make it a dietary desire. It has monounsaturated fat to help keep cholesterol down and is also plentiful in many essential aminos, most notably lysine. This leads one to believe that it may have natural anti-inflammatory properties as well.

Check back with us next week for more geeky facts on quinoa and its preparation.