The Incas considered quinoa “the mother grain,” because of its high nutritional value. If you own a parrot, you might have seen this ingredient when searching for new recipes for your pet birds. Perhaps you’re never heard of it before.
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is amazing from a nutritional standpoint. High in complete proteins and fiber, and low in salt, 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. It 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.
Many pet birds find its light, fluffy texture when cooked as appealing as its nutty taste. Quinoa has an outer coating called saponin, a bitter, soapy-tasting outer coating believed to protect the grain from being eaten by pet birds and insects. 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.
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. Quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes, and can be served to you or your parrots in a variety of ways. Try cooking quinoa and serving it alongside your bird’s regular meal, or add it to chopped vegetables for an enriching and interesting variation on their usual offering. 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 pet birds, consider trying quinoa.
Quinoa 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. The plants, similar in appearance to millet, survive in even the harshest of conditions.
- Quinoa it is a broadleaf non-legume that is grown for grain unlike most cereal grains, which are grassy plants.
- Quinoa is high in protein content (12 to 18 percent).
- Quinoa is commonly cooked like rice; bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, simmered on a low flame for 14 to 18 minutes.
- In its raw state, quinoa has a bitter-tasting coating of saponins, which makes it a crop that is virtually untouched by wild birds. Commercially sold quinoa typically has this coating removed.
- Quinoa can be sprouted to boost its nutritional value. It has a relatively short germation period: about 2 to 4 hours in a glass of water.
Bird Recipe: Quinoa Couscous
Quinoa couscous is a warm, light and nutritionally packed recipe that you can easily adjust to suit your flock’s taste preferences. Add other healthful ingredients to vary the recipe for a change of pace.
- 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa; cooled.
- 1/2 cup assorted mixed, frozen vegetables thawed and heated in microwave or on stovetop
- 2 tablespoons assorted healthy, unsalted nuts, (almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts) chopped.
- 1/4 cup chopped zucchini or other squash
- Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
Place cooked quinoa into a mixing bowl. Chop or cut the mixed vegetables depending on your pet bird’s preferences and add to quinoa. Lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Add nuts and chopped zucchini. Mix and serve when lukewarm. A sprinkle of a vitamin supplement or a drizzle of flaxseed oil can be added before serving to boost the nutritional value of the dish. This recipe can be safely stored, covered and refrigerated for two days. Since this is a recipe containing fresh ingredients, remove any uneaten leftovers from the pet birds after about an hour.
Bird Recipe: Quinoa Breakfast Scramble
This warm and comforting meal is easy to prepare and you can vary it to suit your pet birds by adding fresh seasonal vegetables. The eggshell boosts calcium intake and adds a crunchy texture.
- 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
- 1/4 cup broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage or purchased pre-cut at the grocery store)
- 1/4 cup cooked yams or sweet potatoes, diced small
- Two eggs with one of the eggshells
- One heaping teaspoon of flaxseed
- One heaping teaspoon of hempseed
- One diced jalapeno pepper (optional)
Use appropriate amounts of ingredients to feed the number of pet birds in your flock. This recipe will feed four African grey parrots with enough for second helpings. Break eggs and beat until well mixed. Place one eggshell in a measuring cup and fill with water. Place in microwave on high until the water has boiled for a minute or so. (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. 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. 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. Remove after about an hour, as this is a fresh preparation.
By: Patricia Sund
Featured Image: Via Iryna Melnyk/iStock/Thinkstock