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NewsBites May 2018 Issue

Good News for Quinoa Fans

quinoa

Image FotografiaBasica | Getty Images

Food scientists are developing more appealing varieties of quinoa, a seed that is equivalent nutritionally to a whole grain.

Latin Americans have cultivated quinoa, a nutritious seed, for thousands of years. However, newer consumers of the “golden grain” may detect subtle bitter notes in cooked quinoa—mainly because of substances in the outer husk or bran of the seed called saponins.

As explained in a review of quinoa flavor research in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, grain processors reduce saponins or mask their flavor in various ways. These include washing; gentle grinding to remove part of the bran; and fermentation or germination to boost sugar content.

In another development, reported in Nature, researchers have mapped the entire quinoa genome, including a gene that regulates production of saponins. That could help plant breeders to create new and “sweeter” varieties of the seed.

If you detect bitterness in the quinoa you purchase, vigorously rinsing the seeds before you cook them may help.

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