An exotic seed almost unheard of in this country until around 5 years ago, quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is now growing in Suffolk and
A member of the amaranth plant family, quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America. Until recently, varieties suitable for human consumption were all imported. However, two local companies, Home Farm and Fairking, have been supporting crop development and are now growing edible, wholesome varieties in Nacton, Suffolk, and Marks Tey, Essex and respectively.
Quinoa may not be familiar in all British households, but awareness is increasing rapidly. The seed can be found in a wide range of foods - anything from breads, muffins and protein bars to soups, salads, ready meals, pastas and rice-mixes. Wholegrain ingredient firm EDME supplies many of the bakers and manufacturers who produce these foods.
“There are good reasons to use quinoa in baked, fresh, chilled and frozen products,” says Mike Carr of EDME. “Some manufacturers include it to boost nutritional value; others are more focussed on the fact it’s gluten-free. Either way, it’s fantastic ingredient!”
He explains the company’s role in the supply chain, which involves creating quinoa and seed blends - and also milling quinoa seeds into highly nutritious flour. This can be used by the food industry to create bread, tortillas, nachos, pastry, cakes, biscuits, protein bars, sauces, batters and soups. EDME also mills quinoa flour for award-winning Hodmedod, who sell it direct to the public through independent retailers and online.
“Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich plant-based foods there is,” says Carr. “It’s a complete source of protein that contains all nine of the essential amino acids. It is also high in nutrients such as vitamins E and B. One portion of quinoa contains nearly 60% of the recommended intake of manganese, 30% of magnesium and 19% of folate.”
The grains of South American varieties need ‘polishing’: a process that significantly reduces fibre content. The variety grown by Fairking and Home Farm is unrefined wholegrain, and therefore delivers better health benefits. With Britons consuming less than two thirds the recommended intake of fibre, this is clearly the more desirable option.
Scott Pattinson of EDME joined William Hudson of Hodmedod for the quinoa harvest at Home Farm in September.
“We use crops as possible in the creation of our flours, flakes, blends and sprouted ingredients,” says Pattinson, “and most of our quinoa is produced in Essex by Fairking and supplied to us by Hodmedod.
“The reason EDME was founded in the East Anglian region in the 1880s was down to the plentiful supply of top quality grain,” says Pattison. “We now import a few raw materials, but are delighted to see agricultural pioneers introducing crop varieties from overseas to the area. It reduces HGV food miles, which is good for the environment - and adds to the country’s food resilience.”