Greenwich girl wins Michelle Obama’s “healthy food” contest for school children and as the result, has to dine at the White House. I applaud the kid’s initiative, but why do I have a sneaking suspicion that the winners of this contest were selected on the basis of political correctness? I don’t know the identity of the kiddie-chefs from the other 56 states but the GT story tells us the salient facts about Greenwich’s.
1. The girl is Hispanic
2. Her recipe adds “quinoa” to an otherwise – ordinary sandwich. I’d never heard of Quinoa either, so I looked it up. Turns out, it was a main crop of the Incas, who went mostly extinct a couple of hundred years ago, probably voluntarily and probably because, in their poverty, they were forced to subsist on this stuff.
Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and thus requires minimal protection. There have been attempts to lower the saponin content of quinoa through selective breeding to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties that have proven difficult due to cross pollination contamination.
The toxicity category rating of quinoa saponins are classified as a mild eye and respiratory irritant and a low gastrointestinal irritant.The saponin is a toxic glycoside, a main contributor to its hemolytic effects when combined directly with blood cells. In South America, Quinoa saponin has many uses outside of consumption, which includes detergent for clothing and washing, and as an antiseptic for skin injuries. High levels of oxalic acidin the leaves and stems are found in all species of the Chenopodium genus, but are also present in the related plant families of Polygonaceae and Amaranthaceae. The risks associated with quinoa are minimal, provided it is properly prepared and leaves are not eaten to excess.
So birds won’t eat the stuff and it’s suitable for use as a detergent. Sounds exactly like every other “all-natural” product sold at Whole Foods. Since it also causes gastrointestinal distress, may I express my hope that the President will join his wife for lunch?