February 15 2012

5 Great Reasons to Try Kaniwa


Photo by Cathy Wong

Kañiwa (pronounced kan-yee-wah) is a seed that grows high in the Andes mountains of South America, in southern Peru and Bolivia. This ancient seed was a staple food for the Incas because of its ability to grow in tough climates.

Although it looks like a grain, kañiwa is the seed of the leafy goosefoot plant and a close relative to quinoa. I tried it for the first time this week and think it’s a great grain-alternative to add to your diet. Here’s why:

1. Kañiwa is a nutritional powerhouse like quinoa. Packed with protein, 1/2 cup of cooked kaniwa has 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and is only 160 calories. It is also a source of antioxidants, fiber, zinc, iron, and calcium.

2. Like quinoa, kañiwa is gluten-free.

3. Making kañiwa is easy and similar to cooking quinoa. One cup of dry kañiwa requires two cups of water. Bring it to a gentle boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Like quinoa, the outside germ will separate into a curly tail when it’s done.

4. Kañiwa seeds don’t have the bitter saponin coating that quinoa has, so thorough rinsing before cooking isn’t necessary. Note that quinoa that has been processed to remove the bitter coating is available in North America. Depending on the brand, however, additional rinsing may be necessary to fully remove the bitter, soapy taste from quinoa.

5. Kañiwa has a crunchy texture and rich, nutty flavor. It’s a refreshing change to soft, fluffy rice and quinoa (two staples in my diet). The dark reddish seeds are about 1 mm in diameter. I made a breakfast porridge with kañiwa, almond milk, ground cinnamon, and chopped almonds and raisins. I had gently toasted the seeds prior to cooking and found the crunch and the rich, hearty flavor to be a good alternative to toast in the morning. You might like it even if you don’t normally like breakfast porridge. The seeds can also be used in salads or other dishes.

Look for kañiwa online or in some health food stores. The three brands I know of are Laurel Hill, Zocalo Gourmet, and Roland Foods.

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