Trendy and sustainable: Quinoa and Chia research in SEKEM

Laura Mack, PhD candidate at SEKEMs partner university in Germany, the University of Hohenheim, is doing researches in SEKEM on how the multi-faced crops Quinoa and Chia can be cultivated in Egypt with a special focus to water management. If you didn’t try the taste of these two, at the moment very popular plants yet, you should give Laura’s favorite recipes a shot.

Chia and Quinoa are dry- and salt-tolerant crops. Both of them have a great potential to improve the food security in regions that do not have enough water resources. Hence, they seem to be predestined for Egypt. “In march 2015 I visited the SEKEM Farm for the first time and got aware about the huge challenges that the agriculture in this very dry desert region is facing”, Laura Mack remembers. The PhD student at the Institute of Crop Science at the University of Hohenheim did already studies and researches in regards to the,originally in South America growing plants. Inspired by her first visit to SEKEM, Laura decided to write her PhD thesis about the trendy crops and how they can be cultivated under the Egyptian climate conditions with special regards to ideal irrigation methods. Supported by the Anton & Petra Ehrmann Foundation (research training group: Water – People – Agriculture) she started her research in summer and is, since then, regularly spending time in SEKEM.

Superfoods with Small Water Requirenments

On SEKEMs farm Adleya, Laura started to set trial fields on which she is sowing Chia and Quinoa at different times and irrigating them by various ways. „Agriculture in Egypt uses up to 85% of the overall water demand. Hence, politicians are asking for more awareness in regards to irrigation and are promoting crops that doesn’t require too much water and gain in the same time high returns on international markets”, Laura Mack knows. Chia and Quinoa comprise both. They are able to enhance the food security in regions facing water scarcity and experience as „functional superfoods“  a really boom in Europe nowadays. The amazing crops contain an outstanding amount of proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and many more wholesome ingredients. Additionally, they are gluten-free and usable in various ways. Laura: „Chia and Quinoa may be very useful to Egypt’s agriculture and are also able to increase the income of the local farmers by exporting them to Europe where they are high requested at the moment.“

Laura Mack (right) with her SEKEM colleague during her research on the field.
Laura Mack (right) with her SEKEM colleague during her research on the field.

After starting her research on SEKEMs farm Adleya, Laura is planning to spread her activity soon to other SEKEM locations all over the country (Al-Minya, Al-Fayoum, Bahera, Banha and Aswan). In cooperation with SEKEM, Laura is targeting to collect information about the ideal sowing time, location and irrigation quantity as well as quality features by analyzing for instance the amount of proteins or oil. Hence, Laura Mack can contribute to find solutions for the huge challenge of water scarcity that Egypt is facing and in the same time she is supporting SEKEM in distributing the popular and healthy foods Quinoa and Chia to international markets.

Try one of Laura’s favorite recipes with Chia or Quinoa. They are absolutely delicious!

Laura’s favorite recipes with Chia

Chia Jam


1 kilo any  fruits, e.g. dates, manga, guava

2/3 Cup of Chia

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoon lemon juice

Mince and mash the fruits. Add the Chia, honey and lemon juice and mix it all together. Put all into a preserving jar and afterwards into the fridge for two hours. Take care, that the glass is not overloaded as the jam will spread through the Chia seeds.

Chia Pancakes


any fruits, e.g. dates, manga

2-3 tablespoons Chia

1 tablespoon honey and  some cinnamon

some lemon juice

2 bananas

4 eggs

Mash the bananas, whisk the eggs and mix them together. Add the chia seeds and spices. Afterwards the pancakes can be baked in the pan. Serve the pancakes with honey.

Laura’s favorite recipe with Quinoa:

Sweet Quinoa Cookies


1 cup of water

½ cup of Quinoa

1 cup chopped coconut

1 cup oat  flakes

1 cup flour

¾ cup brown sugar

2 bananas

½ cup applesauce or apple-puree

½ cup peanut-butter

1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon backing powder

1 teaspoon natron

chocolate chips to taste

Wash the Quinoa and bring with water to boil. Lower the heat and stir it from time to time until the Quinoa absorbed all the water (approx. 15-20 minutes). Preheat the oven to 175 degree. Meanwhile, grease two baking plates with butter. Mix the Quinoa with the rest of the ingredients but add the chocolate chips at last. Form small, walnut-sized balls and put them with enough space between on the baking plates (the cookies will rise in the oven). Bake each baking plate separated in the oven for approx. 20 minutes. If the cookies feel still soft if you touch them, it is the perfect time to take them out of the oven. The cookies will become harder when they cool down from the outside and keep the soft inside.

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