Quinoa – the revenge of the saponins

My plant-based diet experiments have led me to try a number of different grains, including the wonder-seed quinoa. Last night I made myself a HUGE bowl of quinoa with vegetables and spices, and made a bit of a pig of myself.

Unfortunately it all came out again in the early hours of the morning. My body definitely wasn’t having any of it, and I was wracked with stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting until every little bit was gone. As I fell into a troubled sleep at about 4.0 am, I could almost hear my body saying ‘..and don’t do that AGAIN!’

A quick session with Google this morning showed that this isn’t an unknown problem with quinoa. Apparently the seeds are naturally coated with bitter ‘saponins’ that have to be washed off. Very THOROUGHLY washed off, too; putting the seeds in a sieve and vaguely waving them about under some running water definitely wasn’t thorough enough. I even read that they should be soaked for 7 hours in acidified water.

So, I’m never eating it again. It might be worth a try if I ever find myself wandering around the Andes in a state of extreme malnourishment, but apart from that I’m sticking to rice and pearl barley.

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2 responses to “Quinoa – the revenge of the saponins

  1. Wow! Ok….of course it’s regarded as quite POSH! Only so many people can pronounce it correctly even though it is a billion year old peasant food in Vietnam I believe. Do correct me if Im wrong!

  2. Any posting that links quinoa and revenge had to be a good read and it was! I have never cooked this grain and the idea of the gastric distress you described suggests I never will. I once made rice and beans without thoroughly soaking the beans. Eating the dish was like the exercise people use to slow down their dog’s eating–placing ping pong balls in the bowl makes the dog slow down to avoid eating them. I think we lost weight picking out the beans from the rice. Thanks for visiting my blog. I have now learned a valuable lesson.

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