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Page 148 ~ enlarge ~
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Page 149 Quinoa To the Incas, quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) was a food so vital that it was considered sacred. In their language, Quechua, it is referred to as chisiya mama or “mother grain.” Each year, the Inca emperor broke the soil with a golden spade and planted the first seed. 1 In the altiplano especially, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa or kee-noo-ah) is still a staple. For millions it is a major source of protein, and its protein is of such high quality that, nutritionally speaking, it often takes the place of meat in the diet. Outside the highlands of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, however, the cultivation of quinoa 2 is virtually unknown. Quinoa's large seedheads and broad leaves make it look something like a cross between sorghum and spinach. Its grain is rich in protein and contains a better amino acid balance than the protein in most of the true cereals. In earlier times this grain helped sustain the awesome Inca armies as they marched throughout the empire on new conquests. Today, it is made into flour for baked goods, breakfast cereals, beer, soups, desserts, and even livestock feed. When cooked in water, it swells and becomes almost transparent. It has a mild taste and a firm texture like that of wild rice, a popular gourmet grain of North America. Traditionally, quinoa is prepared like common rice or is used to thicken soups, but some varieties are also popped like popcorn. The seeds of most varieties contain bitter-tasting constituents (chiefly water-soluble saponins) located in the outer layers of the seed coat. Because of this, they need to be washed—a tedious, time-consuming process—or milled to remove the seed coat. Practical, commercial methods for both processes have been developed in recent years. Quinoa is beginning to attract scientific attention. In South America, governments and international agencies are extending research support. Moreover, in recent years, seeds have been distributed to more than 1 Today, the cultivation of quinoa almost exactly coincides with the limits of the Inca Empire, although in Chile quinoa extends into the territories of the Araucanians, an extremely creative culture never conquered by the Incas. 2 To conform with the most common English usage, we have chosen to use the spelling “quinoa” rather than “quinua,” which is more usual in Spanish.
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Page 150 50 countries beyond the Andes. As a result, the cloud of uncertainty that has enveloped this grain for more than four centuries is beginning to disappear. Indeed, quinoa seems like a grain of the future. Already demand is rising in the United States. Boxes of grain, flour, or pasta can now be bought in health food stores and supermarkets from Los Angeles to Boston. More than 750 tons of quinoa grain were sold in 1988, most of it imported from South America. Quinoa has been widely featured in newspaper and magazine accounts of promising new foods for the American dinner table. It is generating similar enthusiasm among consumers in Switzerland, and seems likely to do so in many more countries. PROSPECTS Andean Region. With recent advances in commercial methods for removing the bitter ingredients, a major impediment to expanding quinoa utilization is being overcome. The plant is well adapted to many parts of the Andes where the need for more food and a better nutritional balance is great. It seems likely that quinoa will become ever more important in diets of both the highland villagers and urban settlers. Because it is now primarily a food of campesinos and poorer classes, increasing its production is a good way to improve the diets of the most needy sector of society. Quinoa also shows export potential. The most desirable varieties are currently best adapted to cultivation in the Andean region itself, and the long-term prospects for quinoa exports, although uncertain, seem promising. Increased foreign demand for quinoa has not always meant increased production within the Andes. (Reportedly, supply has remained static while prices increased.) Decision makers throughout the region should ensure that production increases to fill overseas demand, and that poor people get the maximum benefit from quinoa as both a food crop and a cash crop. Other Developing Areas. Quinoa seems particularly promising for improving life and health in marginal upland areas. It probably could be cultivated in highland tropical regions, such as elevated parts of Ethiopia, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. The malted grains and flour hold promise as a weaning food for infants, and it is noteworthy that child malnutrition is common in many of these areas. Also, quinoa is one of the best leaf-protein-concentrate sources. 3 3 Information from R. Carlsson.
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Page 151 ~ enlarge ~ Ilave, Peru. Harvesting quinoa grain. Traveling through Colombia in the early 1800s, Alexander von Humboldt observed that quinoa was to the region what ‘'wine was to the Greeks, wheat to the Romans, cotton to the Arabs.” He was excited by the crop because at that time starvation was rampant all over the world, and he had gone to South America looking for new foods to combat it. Because of its high nutritive value, Thor Heyerdahl took quinoa grain on the raft Kon Tiki. (IAF/M. Sayago) Industrialized Regions. In the United States, quinoa has found a market in restaurants, health food stores, and supermarkets. It sells at “gourmet prices” and in some stores is outselling wild rice. It should soon find similar demand in Europe, Japan, Australia, and other areas. The plant's daylength requirements (for flowering) are, for now, likely to limit its successful cultivation in North America, Europe, Japan and other such industrialized areas to types that come from equivalent latitudes in the Andes (for example, from Chile). At present, these are not readily available. 4 On the other hand, tall, late-maturing, daylength-sensitive types could prove productive for forages, a use for which flowering is unnecessary. Despite this limitation, the plant has already shown some promise in tests of farm-scale cultivation in high altitudes of Colorado and at near sea level in Washington and Oregon states as well as in England and Scandinavia. 4 Most seed exported for food has been desaponized and is nonviable.
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Page 152 ~ enlarge ~ Before the Spanish Conquest, quinoa was apparently grown from southern Chile to northern Colombia (widely spaced dot pattern). Today, it is mainly restricted to Bolivia and Peru (dense dot pattern), where it is grown mainly in backyards, field margins, and as an intercrop. In a few areas (crosshatching) it is cultivated as a sole crop. (Map courtesy J. Risi C. and N.W. Galwey)
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Page 153 USES Quinoa grains are traditionally toasted or ground into flour. They can also be boiled, added to soups, made into breakfast foods or pastas, and even fermented into beer. 5 When cooked, they have a nutlike flavor, and they remain separate, fluffy, and chewy. Quinoa flours, flakes, tortillas, pancakes, and puffed grains are produced commercially in Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa has demonstrated value as a partial wheat-flour substitute for enriching unleavened bread, cakes, and cookies. 6 Blends of wheat flour containing up to 30 percent quinoa flour produce fully acceptable loaf breads. Mixing quinoa with corn, wheat, barley, or potatoes produces foods that are both filling and nutritious. Malnourished children in Peru and Bolivia are now being fed such quinoa-fortified foods with good results. The plant is sometimes grown as a green vegetable, and its leaves are eaten fresh or cooked. It is also used as an animal feed. The leaves and stalks are fed to llamas, alpacas, cattle, donkeys, sheep, and guinea pigs; the grain and leaves are excellent feeds for swine and poultry. NUTRITION Quinoa has an exceptionally nutritious balance of protein, fat, oil, and starch. The embryo takes up a greater proportion of the seeds than in normal cereals, so the protein content is high. Grains average 16 percent protein, but can contain up to 23 percent 7 —more than twice the level in common cereal grains. Moreover, the protein is of unusually high quality, and is extremely close to the FAO standard for human nutrition. Quinoa's protein is high in the essential amino acids lysine, methionine, and cystine, making it complementary both to other grains (which are notably deficient in lysine), and to legumes such as beans (which are deficient in methionine and cystine). As for carbohydrates, the seed contains 58–68 percent starch and 5 percent sugar. The starch granules are extremely small. They contain about 20 percent amylose, and gelatinize in the 55–65°C range. The 5 A lightly fermented quinoa drink, one of the many types of chicha, was considered the “drink of the Incas.” 6 High-protein cookies and biscuits can be produced by mixing up to 60 percent quinoa flour with wheat flour. The nutritive value of wheat-flour noodles can also be considerably increased by using up to 40 percent quinoa flour, without affecting appearance or other characteristics of the end product. Information from E.J. Weber. 7 Information from D. Cusack.
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Page 154 New Homes for Quinoa Canada ~ enlarge ~ Rossburn, Manitoba. In the western Canadian grain belt, quinoa has now been successfully tested on over 300 farms, some as far north as the 51st parallel. Farmers report yields of 1,300 kg per hectare and a good profit, even on small plots. They harvest the grain with haying equipment, allow it to dry, and then thresh it using small-grain machinery. The seed is processed using locally produced equipment. Much of the grain is consumed at home, but some finds its way into the local markets as well as into Canada's health-food trade. Although quinoa requires more labor than traditional grains, and is vulnerable to early weeds and late rains, the farmers expect—because of both their success and the widespread consumer acceptance—that it will become a viable crop for Canada. (G.A. Clarke)
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Page 155 United Kingdom ~ enlarge ~ Near Cambridge, England, a Chilean variety, Foro, has thrived in trials conducted by N. Galwey (shown) during the past five years. As a result, in 1989 quinoa was grown commercially for the first time in Britain. (E. Long) United States ~ enlarge ~ Since the early 1980s quinoa has been cultivated on a trial basis at high altitudes in the Colorado Rockies, especially in the San Luis Valley. Conventional crops produce poorly here, but the trials have produced quinoa varieties that thrive. Commercial production began in the mid-1980s and has been rising steadily ever since. Quinoa is now an established crop for this challenging alpine environment. (J. McCamant)
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Page 156 fat content is 4–9 percent, of which about half is linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for the human diet. Calcium and phosphorus—and iron in most varieties—also occur in higher amounts than in other grains. In nutritional content, quinoa leaves compare favorably to other leafy vegetables—spinach, for example. When the fields are thinned, the offtake is used as edible greens. Leaf nutrient concentrates of quinoa have very low values of nitrate and oxalate, which are both antinutritive factors. 8 AGRONOMY In the Andes, quinoa is normally propagated by broadcasting seed over the land and raking it into the soil. Sometimes it is sown in narrow, shallow rows. The seedbed must be well prepared and well drained, for the seeds are easily killed by waterlogging. Seedling growth is extraordinarily fast. The growth period from planting to harvest ranges from 90 to 220 days, depending on variety and temperatures. 9 Mechanized production has been successful in South America. Machinery used for grains or oilseeds (particularly rapeseed) can be used for quinoa with little or no modification. HARVESTING AND HANDLING Native quinoas have extremely variable periods of maturity, which increases the difficulty of mechanization. Thus, up to the present, harvesting has been done largely by hand and only rarely by machine. The grain yield often reaches 3,000 kg per hectare and sometimes goes as high as 5,000 kg per hectare, which is comparable to wheat yields in the Andean area. 10 Handling involves threshing the seedheads, winnowing the seed to remove the husk, and drying the seed. (Seed must be especially dry when stored because it germinates so quickly.) As noted, the seed of most quinoa varieties must be processed before use to remove the bitter saponins. In the normal household, 8 Information from R. Carlsson. 9 In southern Sweden (Scania), one adapted type (BP183) matures in 120–150 days. Information from R. Carlsson. Some varieties used in the U.S. Pacific Northwest mature in 90–100 days. This means that they can be grown without irrigation in cool, moist spring (sow in early April, harvest before July 4) before the onset of summer drought. Information from R. Valley. 10 Reported for the variety Sajama under ideal conditions in Bolivia, and extrapolated for type Baer from small-plot trials in Cambridge, England. Information from J. Risi.
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Page 157 this is done by soaking, washing, and rubbing. On a commercial scale, mechanical milling, or a mixed washing and milling procedure, are the most common methods. 11 The green leaves and stems are a nutritious feed, and the prospect of using them as forage is attractive. Apart from the grain, quinoa has been reported to produce 4 tons per hectare of dry matter containing 18 percent protein. 12 In test plots in southern Sweden, leaves have produced up to 1,000 kg per hectare of extractable protein after 70 days of growth. 13 LIMITATIONS Quinoa's agronomic limitations include problems with weeds, lodging, and the difficulty of harvest. If the harvest is not properly timed, shattering occurs with large loss of seed. Moreover, deciding on an exact harvesting time is difficult because panicles from the same plant mature at different times. Increasing the seeding rate encourages the plant to produce only a main panicle, which ripens more uniformly. Losses to pests and diseases are generally low, but as quinoa becomes more intensively and widely planted, more serious problems are likely to emerge. 14 RESEARCH NEEDS The possibilities of improving quinoa genetically are most promising, especially within the Andean region. Various races contain many desirable characteristics, and as the genetics of quinoa become better understood, it seems likely that types will emerge that can compete on an equal or favorable footing with other grains, both in traditional farming and large-scale commercial production. Germplasm collection should continue in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, especially in remote areas where quinoa 11 Combinations of milling and heat, as well as alternative traditional and modern methods, are also being explored in South America and the United States. Small-scale dehulling equipment has been developed and shows potential for village requirements. Information from IDRC. 12 M.E. Tapia and J.N. Castro. 1968. Digestibilidad de la broza de quinua y cañihua por ovinos mejorados y ovinos no mejorados (chuscos), in Primera Convención de Quenopodiàceas, pp. 101–107. Universidad Nacional Técnica del Altiplano, Puno, Peru. Even higher amounts may be possible. Information from S. von Rütte. 13 Information from R. Carlsson. 14 More complete discussions of quinoa pests and diseases are contained in Consejo Internacional de Resursos Fitogenéticos (IBPGR), 1981; Tapia et al., 1979; and Risi and Galwey, 1984.
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Page 158 is a staple crop and where many relict cultivars are threatened with imminent extinction. Particular attention should be paid to harsh sites, such as the salt flats (salares), where quinoa's strengths are likely to be most obvious. Further research is needed in the areas of adaptation, culture, and varietal improvement. Some varieties with distinctive flavors that may be preferred for certain uses, such as snacks and cereals, deserve additional consideration. The adaptability of different cultivars to salt stress merits special note. Standard agronomic research should include investigations of weed control, plant density, crop-rotation sequences, and planting dates. The potential yield of quinoa is possibly even higher than it is for the true cereals, and the plant has an extraordinary response to fertilizer. 15 For use in mechanized agriculture (notably outside the Andes), types might be developed that are short, unbranched, high in seed-to-stem ratio, and that carry their seedheads above the foliage so the two can be easily separated. Already some types are known that produce a single seedhead on top, and when grown at high density they are relatively branchless. Processing The toxicity of saponins should be further defined, and their role in pest control and nutrition assessed. Large-seeded, high-saponin types might be the more pest-resistant and the most cost-effective to process. Methods of removing (and utilizing) saponins merit further study. 16 Agronomy Advanced agricultural equipment used for other crops should be further adapted to quinoa. Agronomic and biological controls of pests (including traditional approaches) should be further evaluated, in conjunction with chemical practices. In particular, resistance to downy mildew needs to be bred into commercial cultivars. Nutritional Improvement A protein fractionation study has shown that the proportions of albumin, globulin, prolamine, and glutelin vary for different species, and within the fractions, the amino-acid composition varies a lot. 17 Thus, it may be possible to select or breed a super-quality-protein quinoa, as has been done with corn. 18 15 Information from J. McCamant. 16 Alcohol extraction is efficient but currently too costly to be practical. If its cost-effectiveness could be improved (for example, if saponins become commercially more valuable), the economic future of quinoa would be assured. 17 Information from R. Carlsson. 18 See companion report, Quality-Protein Maize. National Research Council. 1988. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
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Page 159 SPECIES INFORMATION Botanical Name Chenopodium quinoa Willdenow Family Chenopodiaceae Common Names Quechua: kiuna, quinua, parca Aymara: supha, jopa, jupha, juira, aara, ccallapi, vocali Chibcha: suba, pasca Mapuche: quinhua Spanish: quínua, quínoa, quinqua, kinoa, trigrillo, trigo inca, arrocillo, arroz del Peru Portuguese: arroz miúdo do Perú, espinafre do Perú, quinoa English: quinoa, quinua, kinoa, sweet quinoa, white quinoa, Peruvian rice, Inca rice French: ansérine quinoa, riz de Pérou, petit riz de Pérou, quinoa Italian: quinua, chinua German: Reisspinat, peruanischer Reisspinat, Reismelde, Reis-Gerwacks Origin. Quinoa was probably domesticated in several locations—perhaps in the Bolivian, Ecuadorian, and Peruvian Andes between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. Quinoa and potatoes apparently were the staple foods of many ancient highland societies. Description. Quinoa is an annual, broad-leaved, dicotyledonous herb usually standing about 1–2 m high. The woody central stem carries alternate leaves, generally pubescent, powdery, smooth (rarely) to lobed; it may be either branched or unbranched, depending on variety and sowing density, and may be green, red, or purple. The branching taproot, normally 20-25 cm long, forms a dense web of rootlets that penetrate to about the same depth as the height of the plant. The leafy flower clusters (panicles) arise predominantly from the top of the plant and also from leaf junctions (axils) on the stem. The panicles have a central axis from which a secondary axis emerges—either with flowers (amaranthiform), or bearing a tertiary axis carrying the flowers (glomeruliform). The small, clustered flowers have no petals. They are generally bisexual and self-fertilizing. 19 The dry, seedlike fruit is an achene about 2 mm in diameter (250–500 seeds per g), enclosed in the dryish, persistent calyx (perigonium) that is the same color as the plant. A hard, shiny, four-layered fruit 19 Separate male and female flowers occur in a few cases. Information from J. Rea.
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Page 160wall (pericarp) encloses each “seed,” and contains 0–6 percent bitter saponins. The seed is usually somewhat flat, and is normally pale yellow, but may vary from almost white through pink, orange, or red to brown and black. The embryo can be up to 60 percent of the seed weight. It forms a ring around the endosperm that loosens when the seed is cooked. Horticultural Varieties. The cultivated plant shows great variability, and there is an enormous range of diversity. It has thus far defied classification into botanical varieties and, as with corn, the various forms are termed “races” or strains. A classification based on ecotype recognizes five basic categories: 20 Valley type. Grown in Andean valleys from 2,000–3,600 m, these are tall, branched, and have long growth periods. Altiplano type. Found around Lake Titicaca, these are frost hardy, short, unbranched, and have short growth periods and compact seedheads. Salar type. Native to the salt flats in the Bolivian altiplano, these are hardy, adapted to salty, alkaline soil, and have bitter, high-protein seeds. Sea level type. Found in southern Chile (mid-height), these are mostly unbranched, long-day plants with yellow, bitter seeds. Subtropical type. Located in inter-Andean valleys of Bolivia, these are intense green plants that turn orange at maturity and have small, white or yellow-orange seeds. The research of the past decades has produced several cultivars, selected and bred for their tolerance to heat and cold, resistance to disease, and for other desirable characteristics. Perhaps the oldest and most widespread of the new varieties are Kancolla and Blanca de Junín (selected in 1950 in Peru) and Sajama (selected in Bolivia in the 1960s). Sajama is particularly interesting as it has large, white seeds, no saponins, and under good conditions will yield 3,000 kg per hectare. In the early 1980s, a new sweet variety was obtained at Cuzco (from Colombian material) and named “Nariño.” Peru and Bolivia have the most extensive collections of these different races, each having over 2,000 ecotype samples. Other collections exist in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, the United States, England, and the Soviet Union. 20 This is based largely on Tapia et al., 1979, and emphasizes agronomic differences. Gandarillas, emphasizing botanical differences, has recognized at least 17 races (based on inflorescence, plant form, leaf, and seed) whose names have become standard terminology. Other systems have been based on seed color, taste, or other end-product differences.
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Page 161 Environmental Requirements. This plant is highly variable. There is no one quinoa, and this rustic crop is more or less a complex of subspecies, varieties, and landraces. However, the following are its general environmental tolerances. Daylength. Quinoa shows various photoperiod responses, from short-day requirements (for flowering) near the equator to no response in Chile. 21 Rainfall. 300–1,000 mm. 22 Rainfall conditions vary greatly with variety and country of origin. Southern Chilean varieties get much rain, altiplano varieties get little. As with any grain crop, quinoa grows best with well-distributed rainfall during early growth and dry conditions during maturation and harvest. It can withstand excessive amounts of rainfall during early growth and development; on the other hand, it is notable for its drought tolerance, especially during late growth and seed maturation. 23 Altitude. Quinoa ranges from sea level in Chile (36°S) and coastal Peru to over 4,000 m in the Andes near the equator. It is grown mainly, however, between 2,500 and 4,000 m. Low Temperature. Quinoa tolerates a wide range of temperatures. The plant is normally unaffected by light frost (−1°C) at any stage of development, except during flowering. Quinoa flowers are sensitive to frost (the pollen is sterilized), so mid-summer frosts (which do happen in the high Andes) can destroy the crop. Although temperatures below − 1°C damage most types, some hardy types withstand even lower temperatures. High Temperature. The plant tolerates but does not thrive in temperatures above 35°C. Soil Type. Quinoa can grow in a wide range of soil cidities, from pH 6 to pH 8.5. It tolerates infertility, moderate salinity, and low base-saturation levels. 21 Information from H. Wilson. 22 Traditional Andean agricultural practices, such as microcatchments for water, sometimes allow worthwhile production in areas with as little as 100 mm of rain during the growing season. Information from D. Cusack. 23 During the severe 1983 drought in Puno, Peru, quinoa was essentially the only grain crop that produced useful yields.
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