I can’t believe that nobody ever told me about Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah). Not my health foodie mother, who gives me an annual stipend to buy organic milk. Not my Northern California-living, organic food-loving sister-in-law. Not even my in-the-know short, little NYC Italian friend.

I had to learn about it on my own. Well, with a little help from my husband. And now I want to share the knowledge. Because the facts about Quinoa are really mind boggling and just might significantly benefit both me and my family. And maybe you.

Quinoa is a grain-like seed from the Goosefoot plant. A seed, not a grain, of a plant called chenopodium quinoa that is native to Peru and related to beets, chard and spinach. The United Nations has even designated Quinoa as a super crop because of its high nutritional value.

But here is what really blew me away when I researched it on the Internet:

It has a very high protein content (12-18%)
It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids
It contains the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair
It is high in magnesium and iron
It is gluten free
A ½ cup can provide a child with a single day’s protein needs

I could go on and on touting all of its benefits but if you want to learn more, check out what’s on Wikipedia or in this NPR article.

And the taste? Well, I guess that I could compare it to bulgur wheat or some nutty grain. It can be used in place of rice or even pasta. It definitely takes on the flavor of whatever you mix it with. The first time I had it was last week at a South American-themed dinner at my house. The recipe called for grilled eggplant and asparagus, Queso Blanco, and Kalamata olives. But my husband had consumed a little too much tequila and forgot to put in the cheese and the olives. And everyone still wolfed it down.

We had the leftovers the next day, with the missing ingredients added. And it was even better. Fantastic. Nutty, a little crunchy, and a perfect melding of olives, silky grilled eggplant and Queso Blanco. My daughter, who is not a great eater because she prefers sweets, went nuts for it, begging for more. I had a little bit left in my bowl and it was one of those moments you want to do what’s best for your child but you want to finish the Quinoa yourself. I buckled under the pressure and gave it to her. I guess that’s what it means to be a parent. The ultimate sacrifice.

I went to my local Publix today to buy a few bags. They didn’t have it so I drove down to the Publix Greenwise. (Publix’s answer to Whole Foods, complete with a cozy upstairs sitting area with Wi-Fi and plenty of space to eat what you’ve bought from the deli and salad bar. Love it.) The Greenwise had it, in both pre-packaged and bulk, and I bought both to taste test. I had found a recipe on the Internet for a Quinoa Tabbouleh that looked good, and I love Tabbouleh. Whipped up a batch of that and was very impressed with how it turned out.

So I’m sold on Quinoa. My husband and kids are too. Try it. I’m not going to hold out on you like I did with K-Y Intense. I’m telling you, go out and buy your own bag of Quinoa, look up some recipes on the Internet, and get cooking. You’ll thank me.