Robin Fitzgibbon, our commodities buyer, recently visited Bolivia to meet one of our Quinoa suppliers, a co-operative of farmers called ANAPQUI (National Association of Quinoa Producers) who represent over 2000 small family farms.
Robin met up with Miguel Choque their export manager & traveled by bus out of La Paz heading South for 4 hours to the town of Oruro & then by mini bus for 3 more hours to the small town of Challapata where Anapqui has its quinoa cleaning plant. At this point Robin realized just how big Bolivia is – 'as large as France & Spain put together, but with only 10 million people so at least the roads were empty. Looking out the windows it reminded me of the remotest Scottish Highlands'.
The Altiplano, where members of ANAPQUI live and farm is a hard place to earn a living and Quinoa is one of the few crops that will grow at the altitude of nearly 4000metres. In winter, temperatures can reach -30°C and there is little rainfall. Production of quinoa represents up to 90% of the farmers’ income, the remaining coming from farming llama and sheep, potatoes & beans.
The main variety of quinoa sold by Anapqui is called Quinoa Real. It is cultivated near the Uyuni salt lake – the largest salt lake in the world & beside an old cone volcano, which influences the conditions of the soil in the region. These soil properties, together with the altitude & sunshine, give the quinoa a high nutritional value.
Why is Fairtrade so important? Finding markets for the goods the farmers produce is vital & Fairtrade guarantees that the farmers sell at a profit. Fairtrade gives the farmers more income but also economic stability because prices are fixed and so are contracts from buyers like Infinity. Aanpqui helps with training on organic production & quality control, which is only possible because of Fairtrade.
Quinoa is healthy and nutritious & can be substituted for almost any grain in almost any recipe.
It is a complete protein source , containing all the essential amino acids beneficial to health.
To cook, use two parts water to one part quinoa. Combine the liquid and quinoa in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the grains are translucent and the germ has spiraled out from each grain, about 15 minutes.
Quinoa Pine Nut Pilaf (Serves 8)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes. Set aside. In a saucepan, saute onions and garlic in oil for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add pepper, cumin and coriander; continue to saute for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Sauté quinoa in oil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and then add water to saucepan and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add quinoa to other ingredients stir in basil and corn, season with salt & pepper and top with toasted pine nuts.