QUINOA – From the INCA’s to NASA

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a name derived from the Spanish “quinua” or Quechua, and pronounced “Keenwa” is a species of goosefoot a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.

It is a pseudo-cereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Quinoa is an Ancient Grain that grows high in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia as well as the high altitude regions of Colorado, USA well above the tree line in the purest of environments. This “Noble Grain” was a very important food to the Ancient Incas, and is highly regarded and consumed by health-conscious consumers to this day.

Up until now, the harvesting of Quinoa has mainly been done by hand and only rarely by machine. This is because of the extremely variable periods of maturity of native Quinoas, which increases difficulty of mechanization. Therefore, an exact timing of harvest is important in order to avoid high losses of grain due to shattering. However, the exact harvesting time is difficult to determine because seed heads of the same plant mature at different times.

The grain yield reaches comparable dimensions (often between 3 – 5 tons per hectare) to Wheat yields in the Andean areas. Handling involves threshing the seed heads and winnowing the seed to remove the husk. Before storage, the seeds need to be dried in order to avoid germination.

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, second only to the Potato, and was followed in importance by Maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), and like oats, Quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it a complete protein source, unusual among plant foods.

It is a good source of dietary fibre and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Edelweiss – Leontopodium alpinum

Everybody knows the famous song from the Sound of Music – Edeleweiss

Edelweiss or Leontopodium alpinum is an herbaceous plant of the family Asteraceae which grows spontaneously on mountain ranges from the Pyrenees and the Alps to the Himalayas.
It is a rare and strictly protected plant and with its characteristic appearance, it has become the symbol of Alpine flora.
In order to survive the extreme conditions and low temperatures where it grows, the Edelweiss plant has had to develop many defensive mechanisms to protect itself from high level exposure to solar radiation.
Scientific studies have demonstrated the presence in the plant of powerful antioxidants and other substances with both anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective properties.

These include the natural actives – Leontopodic acids A and B, Chlorogenic acid, and 3, 5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, which have anti-hyaluronidasic and anti-collagenasic activity. Also present are Phytosterols, Amino acids, polysaccharides – with moisturizing properties and which act as plant nutrients.

Our partners in France – NAOLYS has developed a novel glycerinic extract of whole pure plant cells of Leontopodium Alpinum, with skin care benefits which exhibits strong anti-oxidant, anti-hyaluronidasic and anti-collagenasic activity.

Korean Bamboo Grass Extract

Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the family.

Bamboos are some of the fastest growing plants in the world, and certain species have been recorded as growing up to 100 cm (39 in) within a 24 hour period due to a unique rhizome-dependent system.

Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product.

One member of the family found on Jeju Island – the largest island located in the southernmost part of Korea where there is a very diverse plant community, is known as Sasa quelpaertensis and locally as “Jeju Jolitdae”. [Read more…]

Mulberries the latest ‘superfruit’

Mulberries are the latest in a fairly long line of fruit berries to be given ‘superfood’ status.

The famous subject of a children’s nursery rhyme and the favoured diet of the silkworm – mulberries are not very well known as a domestic fruit.

In appearance they most resemble loganberries or raspberries but mulberry fruit rival and even outperform cranberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries when it comes to phytoactive ingredients. [Read more…]

The legend of the dragon fruit

When you look at a dragon fruit the origins of its common name may appear obvious.But despite the fact that they are now grown in suitable climates all over the world – dragon fruit are actually native to Central and South America.

Not necessarily the land of dragons you may think. Pitaya or Pitahaya, as they were always known in their native land, are one of the most widely distributed members of the cactaceae family.

Genus Hylocereus has three species of dragon fruit and there is one additional species in the genus Selenicereus. [Read more…]

Tomatoes reduce skin ageing

Most women – and increasing numbers of men – worry about skin ageing and nothing worries women more than the damage caused by the sun.  Age spots, premature wrinkles, sagging skin – we love the sun we just hate what it does to us.

Look at any women’s magazine or visit any skin care forum online and questions about reversing or preventing sun damage take up a lot of copy space.

Increasingly women are demanding natural solutions to skin aging and a familiar and much loved kitchen ingredient could be the answer – the tomato.Or to be more precise – tomato paste. [Read more…]

Exotic fruit with anti ageing properties

The pitaya – or dragon fruit as it is commonly known – is a stunningly beautiful fruit with an intense colour, intriguing shape and delicious taste.

As if that weren’t enough dragon fruit also have gorgeous flowers which waft heady perfume into the night air.

But for cosmetic scientists it is the anti ageing and skin firming properties of this exotic wonder fruit that offer such interesting possibilities. [Read more…]