I was blown away the other day when, at my local Whole Foods in Manhattan, I saw a huge new contraption containing about two dozen grains and beans in bulk. These were not your usual bulk items of walnuts, dried apricots and split peas, but specialty items like kaniwa, black barley, freekeh and several varieties of heirloom beans.
I bought some freekeh (roasted green spelt berries), which I've purchased before in Middle Eastern specialty shops, but the true novelty was kaniwa (pronounced kan-yi-wa), which I had never seen or heard of before.
This from "Lost Crops of the Incas," a book by the National Research Council:
"Kaniwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule) is a remarkably nutritious grain [huge protein content] of the high Andes that . . . reigns in the extreme highland environment where wheat, rye, and corn grow unreliably or not at all because of the often intense cold. Even barley and quinoa cannot yield dependably at the altitudes where kaniwa grows.And at a Whole Foods in Manhattan!
"Although kaniwa produces a cereal-like seed, it is not a true cereal but a broad-leaved plant in the same botanical genus as quinoa. At the time of the [Spanish] Conquest, kaniwa grain was an important food in the high Andes. It is still widely grown, but only in the Peruvian and Bolivian altiplano—a lofty, semiarid plateau hemmed in by high ranges of the central Andes. Most kaniwa is consumed by the family that grows it, but some can be bought in Andean markets, especially near Puno."
(More about kaniwa next week.)