If you own a parrot, you might have seen this ingredient when searching for new recipes for your birds. Perhaps you’ve never heard of quinoa before. If you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a delightful surprise because it not only tastes good, it’s viciously nutritious.
Quinoa is pronounced: Keen-Wah. It originated in the Andes Mountain region of South America and has been eaten by the indigenous people of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile for thousands of years.
It is a broad-leaf plant called a “pseudo-cereal” that produces an abundance of grain-like seed. These seeds are what is harvested and eaten. The plants, similar in appearance to millet will survive in even the harshest of conditions: poor soil, high altitude and little rainfall. It can grow in rocky soil and needs little care to flourish. I’ve always found when doing my research that some of the plants growing in the harshest of conditions always seem to be very nutritious.
Quinoa is amazing from a nutritional standpoint. High in complete proteins and fiber, and low in sodium, quinoa packs a dietary wallop when consumed. Containing higher levels of iron than many other grains, as well as high levels of potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, it has an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids. An essential amino acid is one that needs to come from food. Some amino acids can be manufactured by the body.
This isn’t the case with an essential amino acid. You must ingest them so they can be absorbed. There simply aren’t that many foods out there that have all of the essential amino acids all in one source, but quinoa is a great source of them all.
Quinoa is gluten-free and contains almost double the amount of calcium as many other grains.
One cup of cooked quinoa has the approximate calcium content of a quart of milk. For bird families with parrots such as African Greys who need a higher daily calcium requirement than other birds, quinoa is a wonderful way of providing this much needed mineral to your Greys.
Quinoa has an outer coating called saponin,a bitter, soapy-tasting outer coating believed to protect the grain from being eaten by birds and insects. Like many other plant life such as cacti with their thorns and poison ivy that will make your life miserable should your skin be exposed to it, this plant has developed a defense mechanism in the taste. If the quinoa isn’t washed and rinsed thoroughly with clean, fresh water, it is like biting into a bar of granulated soap.
Most commercially available quinoa has been processed to remove the saponin before packaging, but a thorough rinse with cold water in a strainer will remove any traces of remaining saponin. I have used quinoa in Chop and Grain Bake for years now and stopped rinsing it when I took it out of the package quite a while ago with no problems whatsoever. If you use a good commercial source such as Bob’s Red Mill quinoa, there should be no need to rinse it at home.
Just follow the directions right out of the package to cook it and it will turn out fluffy and tasty. It cooks very quickly, in about 15 minutes and it is quite the versatile grain. Simply add two cups of water to one cups of quinoa and bring it to a boil in a pa on the stove. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to simmer and let it absorb the water over the low heat, stirring occasionally. Once all of the water has been absorbed you can let it cool and serve it to your birds as is, or use it in other dishes you make for your flock. You can serve it alongside or mixed into chopped vegetables.
Most of the quinoa consumed in the United States is used as a whole grain, such as rice or barley and is served separately or in casseroles or pilaf. I have also seen it sprinkled into salads.
You can use it in Grain Bake every time you make this delicious casserole for your flock.
Grain Bake is dish that is simply perfect for using quinoa.
Occasionally you can make eggs for your birds and this recipe might just have even the finickiest of eaters sitting up and taking notice:
Quinoa Breakfast Scramble
This warm and comforting meal is easy to prepare and you can vary it to suit your birds by adding fresh seasonal vegetables. The eggshell boosts calcium intake and adds a crunchy texture.
¼ Cup Quinoa cooked quinoa (follow preparation directions on the package.)
¼ Cup broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage or purchased pre-cut at the grocery store) However, fresh is preferred.
¼ Cup cooked yams or sweet potatoes, diced small
2 eggs with one of the eggshells or use Hatched!™ Eggshell
1 Heaping teaspoon flaxseed
1 Heaping teaspoon hempseed
1 Small diced jalapeño pepper
(Use appropriate amounts of ingredients to feed the number of birds in your flock. This recipe will feed four African Grey Parrots a healthy and generous breakfast with enough for second helpings.)
Break eggs and beat until well mixed. Place 1 eggshell in a measuring cup and fill with water. Place in microwave on high until the water has boiled for a minute or two. (This ensures that no dirt or residue is on the eggshell.) Remove shell from water and allow the shell to cool. Crumble finely with your fingers or crumble using the back of a spoon or a rolling pin. Add to beaten eggs.
If you aren’t keen on boiling the egg shells, consider trying “Hatched Eggshell” by Twin Beaks Aviary. It’s a nice product that is convenient and cane used in all kinds of applications
Thoroughly mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate container, add to the egg and eggshell mixture making sure all of the ingredients are combined and coated with the egg. This mixture should be very thick and lumpy. Spray skillet with cooking spray. Scramble eggs over medium heat, lightly tossing and turning to cook evenly until mixture is rather dry. Remove from skillet and allow eggs to cool until lukewarm. Portion the eggs into food bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of a nutritional supplement or a topping of your bird’s favorite healthy seed, nuts or sprouts.
(Remove the dishes from your flock’s reach after about an hour as this is a fresh preparation.)
Quinoa is more widely available than ever before and can be found in most health food stores, ordered over the Internet and in specialty groceries stores. For a healthy diet option for your birds, consider trying quinoa.