Why Ellesmere farmer is keen on quinoa
Maybe it's down to our ever expanding waistlines, but it seems that over the past few years, Britain has become obsessed with so-called superfoods.
Whether it's blueberries and their fat-burning qualities, or kale and its cholesterol-lowering powers, Britain is hooked on them.
But not quite as famous amongst foodies is a grain crop that has made its way into our supermarkets from South America – quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") .
The crop is packed full of protein and has all the amino acids you could ever want. In fact it's so super, one Shropshire farmer has decided to grow the ancient grain here.
Stephen Jones, a 27-year-old Harper Adams graduate from Ellesmere, became hooked on the idea that there could be a growing appetite for quinoa within the UK.
"I'm a vegetarian, and I began looking for something to give me more protein in my diet," he said.
"I was reading a news article on quinoa and thought I'd give it a try, and when I enjoyed it I wondered if I would be able to grow it."
In 2006, Mr Jones decided to have a go at becoming the first person to grow the stuff on a small plot on his family farm.
"There's been a growing demand for it across the world, and South America hasn't been able to cope, so it's been grown in lots of different countries," he said.
"I think numbers have sky-rocketed over the past couple of years mainly down to people being interested in healthy eating."
While he didn't strike gold to begin with – in fact it's taken eight years to perfect – he's even honed in on the new craze of buying British.
Mr Jones owns the exclusive commercial rights to growing four UK strains of the grain which could be selling in supermarkets across the country before long.
He said: "It's a good situation to be in, to be able to offer something with great health benefits that is also British."
Remembering his eight-year journey to perfecting his crop, Mr Jones explained: "The main difficulty was finding the right kind of quinoa to grow. Some of them didn't mature properly and it was hard finding the right ones.
"We started off on a very small plot of land hand sowing the seeds and growing them that way. Then I was able to get my hands on some strains that could develop in the UK, and we've been going from there."
The grain comes in more than 3,000 varieties and some that have been grown most successfully in this country appear to come from the Netherlands.
Mr Jones thinks he's now got the secret just right and is set to grow 100 tonnes in this year alone, harvesting 120 acres in September. His family business, The British Quinoa Company, has been working with farmers across the country who are trying to grow the crops.
He said: "We want to come up with a range of branded quinoa products, such as quinoa flour and things similar to that."
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