Quinoa: The Darling of Passover?

Quinoa, the South American grain that has become a staple among professional chefs, healthy home cooks and Passover cookbooks, may be in for a little controversy.  As the NY Times reported today, this gluten-free, protein-rich whole grain has garnered debate as to whether or not it’s actually kosher (to read the article in its entirety, click here). This could come as quite a surprise and quite a letdown to the thousands of families preparing Passover dinner this evening.

The debate has come to light among rabbinical experts as to quinoa’s legitimacy as a kosher alternative to leavened-grain products like bread.  There are two sides to the kosher quinoa debate.  Some rabbis feel it’s fine, and some regard it as suspect.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, director of the kosher department of the New York-based Orthodox Union, is concerned that “inspectors have found traces of wheat, and other grains susceptible to leavening in the cooking process, mixed in with quinoa shipped by some farmers.”

Rabbi Fishbane of the Chicago Rabbinical Council voiced an opposite and pro-quinoa opinion, posted on the council’s Web site.  He feels “quinoa is proper for Passover if imported from Bolivia by companies that handle the crop exclusively.”  (The Web site suggests certain brands, including Ancient Harvest and Trader Joe’s .)

Both sides do however agree that its suitability for Passover depends on how the crop is harvested and shipped.  Looks like Bolivia may soon be getting a few visitors….



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