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Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a seed (not a grain) originating in South America. The seed heads are naturally pest resistant as the seeds are coated with saponins which must be washed off before eating. The resulting saponin-laden water is useful for cleaning.

Quinoa is very nutritious, with a high protein content (12%-18%) and has a well balanced profile of essential amino acids. It is naturally gluten-free, and is a good replacement for people who are avoiding wheat in their diets.

Quinoa can be cooked like grains; the taste is mild and slightly nutty. It is readily available from health food stores and many standard grocery stores.

Before use, quinoa must be soaked to remove the saponins; this step is not necessary for some packets of quinoa which have been pre-soaked for convenience.