History of Quinoa

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Chile and was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption in the Lake Titicaca basin, though archaeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding some 5,200 to 7,000 years ago.

This grain-like seed served as a staple food in the Incan diet, leading the Incas to call it the “mother grain”. The Incan emperor would break ground with a golden implement at the first planting of the season to show respect for what the plant provided. It is similar in some respects to buckwheat, rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds.

A superb source of complete protein and treasure- trove of additional nutrients, quinoa is indeed a “Food of the Gods”, and one that may well prove an enormous boon to mankind in these times of burgeoning populations and diminishing food resources. You will also find that quinoa will make a delicious and healthy addition to any meal!

At the time of Spanish arrival, quinoa was well developed technologically and was widely distributed within and beyond Inca territory. The first Spaniard to note the cultivation of quinoa was Pedro de Valdivia who, on noticing the planted crops around Concepción, recorded that, for food, the native Indians also sowed quinoa among other plants.

In his royal commentaries, Garcilaso de la Vega, describes quinoa as one of the second grains cultivated on the face of the earth, somewhat resembling millet or short-grain rice. He shipped a cargo of seeds to Europe. Unfortunately the consignment arrived dead, possibly as a result of the high air humidity during the journey by sea.

During domestication the Andean populations no doubt selected genotypes according to use and tolerance to adverse biotic and abiotic factors, resulting in today’s plants and ecotypes with their different characteristics, such as “Chullpi” for soups, “Pasankalla” for toasting, “Coytos” for flour, “Reales” for “pissara” or grains, “Utusaya” to resist salinity, “Witullas” and “Achachinos” to resist cold, “Kcancollas” to resist drought, “Quellus” or yellow seed for high yield, “Chewecas” to resist excessive humidity, “Ayaras” for nutritional value (high balance of essential amino acids and proteins), and “Ratuquis” for early growth.

The geographic distribution of world quinoa production takes place in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, extending. The ability of different varieties of quinoa to be grown at different altitudes and climate zones are what gives quinoa great potential to improve food security.

The ability of different quinoa varieties to adapt to different zones has led to experimental trials in different potential quinoa producing countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. It has been successfully grown to date in the United States, Morocco, Kenya, and India, to name a few, with hopes of eventual large-scale commercial production.