Did you know that we can now grow Quinoa in France? And it’s a super healthy, delicious, wholegrain variety. Read on to see how Jason Abbott managed this feat, and why it should interest you.
The whole adventure started eleven years ago, when Jason Abbot embarked on the challenge of growing Peru’s ancient mothergrain in his family’s country: La France. No, he isn’t mad. But when he found out his daughter, Lula Jane, was gluten intolerant and he moved to France, the path was clear. Who doesn’t like a challenge?
It’s been a long process, Jason tested, observed and analysed 40 types of quinoa in his first year alone. The next year involved further testing with 30 volunteer farmers from the cooperative in the Loire Valley, but the results were disappointing. Several years of trials, cross breeding and testing ensued, but eventually with help from experts at the ESA (Ecole superieure d’agricultures) Jason finally cracked it. He finally developed some quinoa varieties that managed to brave the colder, wetter climates of the Loire Valley to grow successfully.
Not only were these varieties suitable for the French climate, they were also saponin free varieties, which means the grains can be eaten as wholegrains. In the quinoa world, quinoa with saponin and quinoa without are very different. South American quinoa, the birth place of the tomato, corn and the potato amongst other staple crops, has a natural pesticide called saponin. This is a bitter tasting element found in the ‘husk’ of the grain. In order for us to eat and enjoy this quinoa, this outer epidermis has to be removed.
The Reality of Farming Quinoa
Because farming quinoa in France is such a new concept, much remains unexplained and there aren’t always clear solutions to problems that may arise with the crops. Often, there is a huge variety in the size yields, but that’s only because growing quinoa isn’t that common yet. The more we grow, the easier it will be. It makes agricultural sense to keep growing quinoa in the Loire Valley too. It allows for a break from growing wheat or corn, and preserves soil fertility as quinoa exchanges different minerals with the soil. Plus, the fact quinoa is a new crop means that it isn’t limited to an industrial style set of established processes and chemicals. This allows for a more individual, natural style of farming, which in encourages the quinoa farmers to indulge in healthy competition and take pride in their farming, ultimately resulting in a more unique and artisanal crop.
The Economic Side
So agriculturally growing quinoa makes sense. How about economically?
Quinoa has a much better revenue than other crops, such as wheat, corn and barley, and as its especially rare to be grown In France, the farmers can ask for a higher price. And we’re not talking a few pennies extra, quinoa can sell for up to ten times more per kilo when compared to wheat. This is especially important considering farmers in France are often at or below the poverty line, a recent study by the Paris school of economics states that 22% of farmers are in relative poverty, when their income was compared to just 60% of the national median.
Thinking about the planet
Environmentally, Jason’s Loire Valley quinoa is almost perfect. When we say ‘almost’, its slightly unfair because it would be nigh on impossible for the quinoa to actually grow enough to be harvested without one round of treatment with pesticide. Essentially, aphids who would eat the crop, are around before their predators, the ladybirds do, which means without using pesticides to keep them off, there simply wouldn’t be any quinoa crop left. Quinoa d’anjou is treated with just one round of pesticide, compared to conventional use which is 7 or 8 rounds. It’s a necessary evil for now, in the words of Jason: “We minimize interventions, to ensure that there is no pesticide residue in our grains”.
Quinoa, Scallop, Mango and Prawn Tabbouleh
Serves 2 Ingredients 200g uncooked pearl Quinola 100g mango 200g scallop ½ avocado Olive oil for cooking Walnut oil for seasoning Lemon juice Coriander To taste: Paprika, Espelettepepper, salt and pepper Preparation: Cook 200g quinoa in boiling water for 12 minutes and drain. Rinse the cooked quinoa under cold water and let cool completely.…Read more
Three Bean, Avocado and Kale Salad with Lime and Tahini Dressing
Serves 2 Ingredients 30g fresh kale, steamed 100g mixed beans (peas, broad beans, edamame beans) 1 avocado peeled and sliced pea shoots salad to garnish sesame seeds to sprinkle 50g white cooked quinoa 50g red cooked quinoa dressing: 80g natural or greek yoghurt 1 heaped tsp tahini 20ml water …Read more
Andy Mcfadden’s Protein Punch Salad
Ingredients Serves 4 100g black quinola 100g red quinola 100g pearl quinola 50g pine nuts 1 cucumber 150g cherry tomatoes(red, yellow, tiger skin etc.), halved 50g raisins 1 red chilli, finely chopped 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped 4 soft boiled eggs ½ bunch of parsley, tarragon, chervil, leaves only Juice and zest of…Read more
Andy Mcfadden’s Blackened Chicken Quinoa Salad
Ingredients Serves 4 100g black quinola 100g red quinola 100g white quinola 1 red chilli, finely chopped 100g baby spinach, picked 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped 1 bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only 1 bunch of fresh mint, leaves only juice and zest of 2 limes 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil …Read more
Caribbean Buddha Bowl
(serves 1) Ingredients : 100g cooked prawns half a fresh mango (half diced, half sliced) 100g cooked pearl quinoa half a tin of red kidney beans 1 tbsp coconut oil half an avocado sliced 1 lime 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce 1 spring onion Method : Place the prawns in a bowl, add the…Read more
Roasted chicken with cranberry, bacon and chestnut quinoa and vegetables
(serves 4) Ingredients : 1 medium chicken knob of butter 2 tbsp olive oil 4 or 5 bay leaves 2 garlic cloves 200g smoked bacon chopped 100g cooked chestnuts, quartered 2 tbsp cranberry sauce 300g cooked quinoa 2 onions salt and pepper to taste Method : Preheat an oven to 180˚C. Butter the chicken…Read more