Quinoa (pron.: // or //, Spanish: quinua, from Quechua: kinwa), a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach and tumbleweeds.
Quinoa (the name is derived from the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name kinwa or occasionally "Qin-wah") originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, where it was successfully domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption, though archeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding some 5,200 to 7,000 years ago.
Similar Chenopodium species, such as pitseed goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri) and fat hen (Chenopodium album), were grown and domesticated in North America as part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex before maize agriculture became popular. Fat hen, which has a widespread distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, produces edible seeds and greens much like quinoa, but in smaller quantities.
After harvest, the seeds need to be processed to remove the coating containing the bitter-tasting saponins. Quinoa seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. Quinoa leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is limited.
Quinoa is a dicotyledonous, annual plant usually about 1–2 m high. It has broad, generally pubescent, powdery, smooth (rarely) to lobed leaves normally arranged alternately. The woody central stem is either branched or unbranched depending on the variety and may be green, red or purple. The panicles arise either from the top of the plant or from 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 green hypogynous flowers have a simple perianth and are generally bisexual and self-fertilizing. The fruits are about 2 mm in diameter and of various colours — from white to red or black depending on the cultivar.
Natural distribution 
Chenopodium quinoa (and a related species from Mexico, Chenopodium nuttalliae) is believed to have been domesticated in the Peruvian Andes from wild populations of Chenopodium quinoa. There are non-cultivated quinoa plants (Chenopodium quinoa var. melanospermum) which grow in the same area where it is cultivated; it is presumed that those are related to quinoa's wild predecessors, but they could instead be descendants of cultivated plants.
Saponin content 
Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and therefore requires minimal protection. Attempts to lower the saponin content of quinoa through selective breeding to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties have proven difficult due to cross pollination contamination.
The toxicity category rating of quinoa saponins treats them as mild eye and respiratory irritants and as a low gastrointestinal irritant. The saponin is a toxic glycoside, a main contributor to its hemolytic effects when combined directly with blood cells. In South America, Quinoa saponin has many uses outside of consumption, which includes detergent for clothing and washing, and as an antiseptic for skin injuries. High levels of oxalic acid in the leaves and stems are found in all species of the Chenopodium genus, but are also present in the related plant families of Polygonaceae and Amaranthaceae. The risks associated with quinoa are minimal, provided it is properly prepared and leaves are not eaten to excess.
History and culture 
Early history 
Quinoa was first domesticated by the Andean peoples around 3000 years ago. Quinoa has been an important staple in the Andean cultures where the plant is indigenous but relatively obscure in the rest of the world. The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or "mother of all grains", and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using "golden implements". During the Spanish conquest of South America, the Spanish colonists scorned quinoa as "food for Indians", and even actively suppressed its cultivation, due to its status within indigenous religious ceremonies. In fact, the conquistadores forbade quinoa cultivation for a time and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.
Rising popularity and crop value 
|World Quinoa Production
(thousand metric tons)
|Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) |
Quinoa has become increasingly popular in the United States, Europe, China and Japan where the crop is not typically grown, increasing crop value. Between 2006 and early 2013 quinoa crop prices have tripled. In 2011, the average crop value was $3,115 USD per ton with some varieties selling as high as $8,000 per ton. This compares with wheat prices of $9 per bushel (about $340 per ton). Since the 1970s, producers’ associations and cooperatives have worked toward greater producer control of the market. The higher price fetched by quinoa does make it harder for people to purchase, but it also brings livable income for farmers, and is enabling many urban refugees to return to working the land.
The popularity of quinoa in non-indigenous regions has raised concerns over food security. Due to continued widespread poverty in regions where quinoa is produced, and because few other crops are compatible with the soil and climate in these regions, it is suggested that the inflated price of quinoa disrupts local access to food supplies. In 2013, The Guardian compared quinoa consumption to Peruvian asparagus, a popular Andean crop criticized for excessive water use, as "feeding our apparently insatiable 365-day-a-year hunger for this luxury vegetable[...]" It is also suggested that as people rise above subsistence level income, they choose higher status Western processed foods.
Kosher controversy 
Quinoa has become popular in the Jewish community as a substitute for the leavened grains that are forbidden during the Passover holiday. Several of the kosher certification organizations refuse to certify quinoa as being kosher for passover citing reasons including its resemblance to prohibited grains, or fear of cross-contamination of the product from nearby fields of the prohibited grain.
Nutritional value 
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,539 kJ (368 kcal)|
|- Starch||52 g|
|- Dietary fibre||7 g|
|- polyunsaturated||3.3 g|
|- Tryptophan||0.167 g|
|- Threonine||0.421 g|
|- Isoleucine||0.504 g|
|- Leucine||0.840 g|
|- Lysine||0.766 g|
|- Methionine||0.309 g|
|- Cystine||0.203 g|
|- Phenylalanine||0.593 g|
|- Tyrosine||0.267 g|
|- Valine||0.594 g|
|- Arginine||1.091 g|
|- Histidine||0.407 g|
|- Alanine||0.588 g|
|- Aspartic acid||1.134 g|
|- Glutamic acid||1.865 g|
|- Glycine||0.694 g|
|- Proline||0.773 g|
|- Serine||0.567 g|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||0.36 mg (31%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.32 mg (27%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.5 mg (38%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||184 μg (46%)|
|Calcium||36 mg (4%)|
|Iron||4.6 mg (35%)|
|Magnesium||197 mg (55%)|
|Phosphorus||457 mg (65%)|
|Potassium||563 mg (12%)|
|Zinc||3.1 mg (33%)|
|Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Quinoa was important to the diet of pre-Columbian Andean civilizations. Today, people appreciate quinoa for its nutritional value. Quinoa is considered a superfood. Protein content is very high (14% by mass), yet not as high as most beans and legumes. Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein.[not in citation given] Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights.
Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content. In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2–4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours with wheat. This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the seeds, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.
Climate requirements 
Quinoa is highly variable due to a high complexity of different subspecies, varieties and landraces (plants or animals adapted to the environment in which they originated). However, in general it is undemanding and altitude-hardy. It is grown from coastal regions (Chile) to over 4,000 m (13,120 ft) in the Andes near the equator. However, most of the cultivars are grown between 2,500 m and 4,000 m. Depending on the variety, Quinoa's optimal growing conditions are in cool climates with temperatures that range from 25°F/−3°C, during the night, to near 95°F/35°C, during the day. Some cultivars can also withstand lower temperatures without damage. Light frosts normally do not affect the plants at any stage of development, except during flowering. Mid-summer frosts often occurring in the Andes during flowering lead to sterilization of the pollen. Rainfall conditions are highly variable between the different cultivars, ranging from 300 to 1,000 mm during growing season. Optimal for Quinoa growth is well-distributed rainfall during early growth and development and dry conditions during seed maturation and harvesting.,
Quinoa does best in sandy, well-drained soils with a low nutrient content, moderate salinity, and a soil pH of 6 to 8.5.
The seedbed must be well prepared and drained to avoid waterlogging. Normally in the Andes, Quinoa seeds are broadcast over land and raked into the soil. Sometimes it is sown in narrow, shallow soils.
Cultivation management 
Yields are maximised when 150 to 180 lb N/acre is available. The addition of phosphorus does not improve yield. In eastern North America, it is susceptible to a leaf miner that may reduce crop success; this leaf miner also affects the common weed and close relative Chenopodium album, but C. album is much more resistant.
Harvesting and handling 
Quinoa is usually harvested by hand and rarely by machine, because the extremely variable maturity periods of native Quinoas complicates mechanization. Harvest needs to be precisely timed to avoid high seed losses from shattering, and different panicles on the same plant mature at different times. The seed yield (often around 3 t/ha up to 5 t/ha) is comparable to wheat yields in the Andean areas. Handling involves threshing the seedheads and winnowing the seed to remove the husk. Before storage, the seeds need to be dried in order to avoid germination.
International Year of Quinoa 
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the "International Year of Quinoa"  in recognition of ancestral practices of the Andean people, who have preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations, through knowledge and practices of living in harmony with nature. The objective is to draw the world’s attention on the role that quinoa plays in providing food security, nutrition and poverty eradication, in support of achieving Millennium Development Goals.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations serves as the Secretariat of the international year. Bolivia has the presidency of the Coordination Committee, while Ecuador, Peru and Chile share the vice presidency, with the rapporteurship in the hands of Argentina and France.
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- Masterbroek, H.D.; Limburg, H., Gilles, T. and Marvin, H. J. (2000). Occurrence of sapogenins in leaves and seeds of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd). New York, NY.: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. pp. 152–156. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0010(20000101)80:1<152::AID-JSFA503>3.0.CO;2-P.
- "Biopesticides Registration Action Document: Saponins of Chenopodium quinoa". EPA. 2009.
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Further reading 
- Pulvento C., M. Riccardi, A. Lavini, R. d’Andria, & R. Ragab (2013). "SALTMED Model to Simulate Yield and Dry Matter for Quinoa Crop and Soil Moisture Content Under Different Irrigation Strategies in South Italy.". Irrigation and drainage. doi:10.1002/ird.1727.
- Cocozza C., C. Pulvento, A. Lavini, M.Riccardi, R. d’Andria & R. Tognetti (2012). "Effects of increasing salinity stress and decreasing water availability on ecophysiological traits of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.).". Journal of agronomy and crop science. doi:10.1111/jac.12012.
- Pulvento C, Riccardi M, Lavini A, d'Andria R, Iafelice G, Marconi E (2010). "Field Trial Evaluation of Two Chenopodium quinoa Genotypes Grown Under Rain-Fed Conditions in a Typical Mediterranean Environment in South Italy". Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 196 (6): 407–411. doi:10.1111/j.1439-037X.2010.00431.x.
- Pulvento, C., Riccardi, M., Lavini, A., Iafelice, G., Marconi, E. and d’Andria, R. (2012). "Yield and Quality Characteristics of Quinoa Grown in Open Field Under Different Saline and Non-Saline Irrigation Regimes". Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 198 (4): 254–263. doi:10.1111/j.1439-037X.2012.00509.x.
- Gómez-Caravaca, G. Iafelice, A. Lavini, C. Pulvento, M.Caboni, E.Marconi (2012). "Phenolic Compounds and Saponins in Quinoa Samples (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) Grown under Different Saline and Non saline Irrigation Regimens". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 60 (18): 4620–4627. doi:10.1021/jf3002125. PMID 22512450.
- Romero, Simon; Shahriari, Sara (March 19, 2011). "Quinoa’s Global Success Creates Quandary at Home". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
- Geerts S, Raes D, Garcia M, Vacher J, Mamani R, Mendoza J, Huanca R, Morales B, Miranda R, Cusicanqui J, Taboada C (2008). "Introducing deficit irrigation to stablize yields of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.)". Eur. J. Agron. 28 (3): 427–436. doi:10.1016/j.eja.2007.11.008.
- Geerts S, Raes D, Garcia M, Mendoza J, Huanca R (2008). "Indicators to quantify the flexible phenology of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) in response to drought stress". Field Crop. Res. 108 (2): 150–6. doi:10.1016/j.fcr.2008.04.008.
- Geerts S, Raes D, Garcia M, Condori O, Mamani J, Miranda R, Cusicanqui J, Taboada C, Vacher J (2008). "Could deficit irrigation be a sustainable practice for quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) in the Southern Bolivian Altiplano?". Agric. Water Manage 95 (8): 909–917. doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2008.02.012.
- Geerts S, Raes D, Garcia M, Taboada C, Miranda R, Cusicanqui J, Mhizha T, Vacher J (2009). "Modeling the potential for closing quinoa yield gaps under varying water availability in the Bolivian Altiplano". Agric. Water Manage 96 (11): 1652–1658. doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2009.06.020.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Chenopodium quinoa|
|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Cookbook:Quinoa|
Data related to Chenopodium quinoa at Wikispecies
- Quinoa at the Open Directory Project
- Quinoa nutrition facts and analysis
- International Year of Quinoa (2013)