Red quinoa. The photo is from Wikipedia, though it could be from anywhere.

At Sydney’s rather hip and alternative Marrickville Markets, somebody offered me some quinoa chocolate. It was good dark chocolate, which completely masked any flavour of the little red seedy things dotted through it.

These little red seeds have become very popular here during the months we’ve been out of the country. I don’t know why. It’s not like quinoa is a new product.

Someone in the Andes first domesticated quinoa 3000-4000 years ago, and they were eating it in Peru, Ecuador and Columbia for a few thousand years before that. Archaeologists have dug up really old evidence of really old native quinoa.

We missed its introduction to Australia. So someone had to tell us, rather scornfully, that it’s not pronounced ‘kwin-ower’ but ‘keen-waa’. It’s Spanish, they said.

Maybe those Andean kids whine at dinner time, ‘Aw mum, we’re not having quinoa again!’ Maybe Ecuadorean supermarket products proudly boast,’97% Quinoa Free’. Here across the Pacific Ocean it’s still such an exotic delicacy that people are prepared to pay $11.50 for a little plastic container of quinoa salad.

According to Wikipedia, it’s an excellent source of protein, dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. NASA is considering quinoa as a crop for ecologically-sustainable long haul manned space flights. Put quinoa in anything and it sounds healthier. Okay, so there’s quinoa chocolate. I’m looking forward to trying quinoa beer, quinoa wine and quinoa-flavoured coffee.

Is this quinoa fad a world-wide phenomenon? Will it last?


Filed under Travel-Australia


  1. Our health shops are also big on quinoa – as well as couscous, millet, sorghum and barley. I’m sure I’ve eaten quinoa in something, probably salad, but I cannot remember what it tastes like… I would’ve remembered quinoa *chocolate* though! So, if we somehow manage to blend quinoa into Lindt’s Dark Chocolate balls, would that make it healthy, Richard?

  2. Quinoa is relatively new to me. I now have it each day as it is supposed to be a better choice of “grain” rather than the traditional grains that so many people have ailments from.

  3. Caroline

    You got off lightly, Richard. We bought black truffle from the Marrickville market. On the basis of that experiment, I’ve decided I don’t like it much.

  4. Never heard of it, think I’ll stick to Toblerone!

  5. Karen McDowell

    We’ve embraced quinoa in Singapore as well. I was gifted a cookbook this summer called, “365 Days of Quinoa.” It’s brilliant actually. 🙂 I have been able to eat quinoa for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even (as you pointed out with your quinoa chocolate) DESSERT! Yes, quinoa chocolate chip cookies, quinoa carrot cake, quinoa smoothies. I’ve had to take a bit of a quinoa sabbatical, in fact! 🙂

  6. Haha you’re sooo right! Here too, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, totally hip since about a year. I have to admit I also did not hear about it until then. I love quinoa like I love barley, it’s the same story (though not yet hip here); eaten for years and then forgotten. Noone my age here knows what barley is, until I say it’s in (some) beer too. Recently made a (traditional Slovenian) barley stew which I shared with a bunch of my international friends and they loved it but had no idea what they were eating…

    • Yes, we’re enjoying quinoa too. And we recently discovered where to buy farro, an ancient Italian grain rather like pearl barley. I cook it as I would risotto, with lemon, onion, leeks, parmesan and ham. It’s probably boring old comfort food in Tuscan villages, but our friends find it wonderfully exotic.

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