Quinoa Latest Wonder Crop In Research Labs

Western Ag Vignettes

Grain promises new niche for western growers.

Published on: January 22, 2013

It is a coincidence how a story falls together sometimes.

Take my recent endeavor to write about quinoa, a grain like seed crop that is nutritious and adds lots of nice things to diets, according to researchers at Oregon State University which is looking at the rice-like commodity.

I interviewed OSU researcher Steve Petrie, Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center director, over the phone at some length about this potentially new crop for the Pacific Northwest.  At the end of the phone call, he promised to send me some additional material via e-mail to background my article.

No sooner had he hung up the phone when he received an e-mail from fellow OSU researcher Stephen Machado  bringing to Petrie's attention the fact that the UN's General Assembly had proclaimed 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.

That made an interesting sidebar to my story, but there's more, albeit on my personal side.

My daughter had purchased this bag of strange-looking grain at the store a few days earlier, promising to cook  up a new dish for us, which she served on the same day I conducted the interview that introduced me  to quinoa.

You guessed right if you think the dish was quinoa, leading to quips at the dinner table from me about having a sidebar and a side dish all related to my latest article.

For those who haven't tried it, the dish was tasty enough for seconds, and I urge others to give it a try. Mixing it with a few vegies like onions, pine nuts and fresh parsley made it into a very earthy-tasting, refreshingly different choice.

So I had the "Day of the Quinoa," and was able to write the story the day after with the a real taste for the subject. Not every story works out that way for me, but I have munched on hazelnuts while writing about filbert disease, or chewed on some beef jerky when crafting a cattle yarn.

But the quinoa event remains singularly special in terms of coincidence.

Which brings me to say it is delightful to have a profession that is about food from seeding to feeding.  How many other professional people spend a career choice on what almost everyone likes so much: eating and drinking? There're features on cows for my steak dinner, and fine wines to drink alongside. Every time I sit down to eat, everything is something I have written about, and know quite a lot about. Thanks to the angels I am not one whose knowledge of milk goes as far as Safeway.

Unfortunately, many guests across from me fall into the latter classification of culinary awareness, and too often I listen to table talk about how pesticides poison our foods and farmers taint our resources.

Once, I rose to the occasion and challenged these misguided spirits. Now that I am wise and respected, I let it go and avoid the caustic stress of arguments at dinner time.

Is that wrong? Probably.  But I can enjoy my quinoa much more if I don't challenge my guests thinking on the evils of agriculture.

They are, after all, talking with their mouths full.