Quinoa: A Well-Travelled Andean Superfood

Quinoa Peruvian superfood slogan written on grey t-shirt and sweater

They say travel broadens your horizons, but it also broadens your palate. Though I’m a fairly fussy eater at home, as soon as I’m away I find there’s something irresistible about tasting local delicacies – stoemp in Belgium, a shot of throat-burning Brennivin in Iceland, Butlers chocolate in Ireland, you name it.

But trying quinoa in Peru was a revelation because it was already making waves around the world. So what was the fuss about, and why are superfoods like this making such an impact?

Peruvian soup using Andean super grain, quinoa, with traditional woven fabric tablecloth
Sopa de quinoa with vegetables = yum. Eaten after a steep hill climb, to be followed by a trip to a male knitting community. Just your average day out…

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is the little South American grain that made it big: it’s a high fibre, high protein ‘pseudocereal’ with edible seeds, mainly grown in Peru and Bolivia. The ultimate question – how do you pronounce quinoa? Keen-wah. You’re welcome.

According to BBC Good Food, the UN dubbed 2013 ‘International Quinoa Year’, by which point the Guardian reported that prices had tripled since 2006. Three years on from those headlines, there’s no sign of this trend dying out, and you can find the grain in most major supermarkets.

Like couscous or rice, it expands when it cooks, and can be worked into plenty of different dishes. Quinoa is the bread and butter of Peru, albeit more expensive than it used to be, and it doesn’t need to be paired with elaborately named ingredients. I tried it as a thickener in soup, which helped when I lost my appetite as a side-effect of altitude sickness.

Food trends on British clothing with different typography and colour palette of grey, black, white and blue
Coconut, moringa and flax, oh my! Just some of the designs available from the superfood fashion label. And here’s me in my t-shirt.

Superfoods in Your Travel Wardrobe

House of Violet’s ‘Quinoa’ t-shirt caught my eye.  The Nottingham-based brand celebrates super foods and makes them a fashion statement, with coconut jumpers and spirulina tees amongst the offerings. Because everything is in a simple colour palette (mainly black, white and grey, with doses of powder pink and blue), it’s easy to wear and great for pairing with neutral basics like midi skirts or leggings when travelling.

House of Violet co-founders Lisa and Jane are super healthy and they definitely know their stuff, whereas I had to frantically Google what moringa was before I determined if I’d ever eaten it before. Considering one half of Hemsley + Hemsley (food gurus du jour) has just been spotted wearing a House of Violet ‘Miso’ tee, I’d say the brand is on the brink of making it big.

I’d love to see maca as the next super food added to their clothing range. The maca root, grown in Peru, is reputedly good for a whole host of health complaints, from menopausal symptoms to PMT, low energy levels and acne. I thoroughly enjoyed maca toffees (finally, an excuse to eat toffee on health grounds!), but you can buy it as a supplement in most health food shops.

Iced green coconuts chopped open in Havana market
Fresh coconut water is considerably cheaper abroad, and the perfect way to hydrate in the heat.

Find Your Superfoods on Holiday

  • Geography time: cacao trees, and therefore cacao beans, grow in countries close to the equator, in hot and humid conditions. That means Ecuador, Costa Rica, Ghana and the Côte d’Ivoire. Raw cacao nibs are in big demand, so grab some ASAP.
  • Coconut water/milk/oil/anything is big news. On an exotic holiday, drink fresh water from a green coconut that’s been casually chopped open with a machete; it’ll cost you 1CUC, or 69p, in Cuba. You’ll find coconuts in most tropical places – Oceania, Hawaii, the Maldives, the Philippines, etc.
  • Flax (a.k.a. linseed) doesn’t just confine itself to hot countries: it’s grown in Russia, the UK and Ukraine. Apparently it’s highly rated in Belarus. The seeds are harvested to eat, either in natural form or pressed to extract oil, and the fibres are used to make linen. Basically it’s a multi-tasking plant.
  • The Moringa Oleifera tree, a.k.a. the ‘drumstick’ tree, is mainly found in hot and dry climates. Though it came from India, you’ll also find it in Ghana, Niger and Thailand, to name but a few. Its powdered leaves and seeds are the next big trend, packed with nutrients and great for everything from high blood pressure to diabetes. Non-profits like Kuli Kuli are bringing it to a wider audience.

Have you ever tried  and loved a superfood on holiday, and would you show your appreciation through a t-shirt? Tweet me – @misspallen.