We may just be learning about this incredible food, but canihua (or kaniwa) is actually a precious ancient “super grain”, closely related to the highly sought after quinoa. It shares a common history and similar nutrition profile.
Prized by the people of South America for millennia, canihua was a staple food for the Inca and Aztec cultures. The ancient Incas held it in such high esteem that it was exclusively a “royal food”, served only to the Inca emperor and his court. And it’s no wonder when you consider the conditions in which it thrives.
Canihua is grown at altitudes of over 3800 metres in the Andean highlands of Peru and Bolivia, the Altiplanos, where it faces extreme weather conditions, including regular drought and frost. It takes something really special to survive in this harsh environment, and this is where canihua thrives. This resilient plant is one of the toughest crops around, withstanding severe conditions and at altitudes where even quinoa cannot reliably yield. Add a remarkable nutritional profile and it’s clear this “new” ancient super grain has loads to offer.
Today, canihua is taking its place amid the growing family of globally recognised “superfoods”, prized for their nutritional density and versatility. Like quinoa, canihua is actually a seed which functions like a grain, and is a member of the goosefoot family of broad leaved plants. Both contain a huge nutritional payload. They share an equally impressive protein content, containing an excellent balance of all the essential amino acids, including lysine, isoleucine and tryptophan. Adding this nutritional gem to your diet will also boost your intake of calcium and zinc, as well as antioxidants and omegas (3, 6 and 9). And because, like quinoa, canihua is naturally gluten-free, it makes a great choice for those with gluten sensitivities.
While canihua shares many similarities with its well-known cousin, it has its own distinct features that make it quite unique. At less than half the size of quinoa (hence the nick-name “baby quinoa”), the tiny reddish-brown canihua seeds are essentially all bran, making them a superb source of dietary fibre. What’s more, a single serving of canihua will give you a whopping 60 per cent of your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of iron –four times that of quinoa! These incredible seeds also have the added advantage of having no saponins – the naturally occurring protective coating found in most plants that gives a soapy, bitter flavour unless washed thoroughly. Hence, there’s no need to rinse or soak canihua before cooking.
Preparation is easy, and you won’t need to learn new kitchen skills – canihua is cooked just like quinoa and can be used in much the same way. With its nutty flavour, that is slightly milder and sweeter than quinoa, and its texture with a little more crunch, canihua pairs wonderfully with both savoury and sweet dishes. It’s great added to salads, stir-fries, soups and stews, or simply served as a delicious side-dish. Its smaller size makes it ideal for creating a protein-rich morning porridge. Canihua is truly one versatile ancient grain!
Ceres Organics Canihua
When it comes to the latest health food trends, Ceres Organics is at the forefront in the Kiwi market. So when a nutritional gem like canihua is rediscovered, they are quick to source it out. Thanks to Ceres Organics, we can now enjoy the wonders of this “new” ancient super grain, just as the ancient Aztecs and Incas did. Ceres Organics Canihua is sourced from organic farms in Peru, where they continue to grow the crop in the traditional ways of their great ancestors. It’s untouched by modern processing and free of “nasties” like chemical sprays (insecticides, herbicides and fertilisers). What’s more, it’s certified organic.
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