Quinoa – What is quinoa and how do you grow it?

Being an ancient food, Quinoa is in the Goosefoot family, which means it is grouped with plants such as spinach and sugar beets. Quinoa is a native of South America, and it is said to have been first cultivated way before 300 B.C. The Incas, who are revered for being sacred, called it the mother grain. Growing quinoa production, mostly in the United States of America as well as Europe, is due to its distinction as a health food because of its high protein content. Because of its benefits and versatility, more people are interested in Quinoa growing for personal consumption. Many refer to it as a grain, but it is a seed, which is often ground into flour and used as its replacement. It is used as a substitute for various grains, especially by people who have a sensitivity towards gluten.


Just like buckwheat and Amaranth, quinoa is a broadleaf plant; it can be likened to Lamb’s Quarter rather than grass. As a plant, it grows to up to seven feet and produces small, circular shaped seeds. In comparison to other grains, it has been termed as one the most perfect foods in the world because it has a high level of protein coupled with a nutritionally attractive balance of amino acids. Moreover, the seed is highly rich in lysine, cysteine, and methionine. This makes it complementary to both legumes as well as other grains, which have these nutrients in rather small amounts.


Where does Quinoa grow?


Quinoa usually grows in the mountainous regions that have cool weather; this is because temperatures above 90 to 95 degrees cause the pollen to become sterile. Quinoa plants have been cultivated for commercial use since the 1980s in San Luis Valley. There have been various attempts to cultivate them elsewhere in California, Oregon, New Mexico as well as Washington, but in some areas, it did not grow successfully the biggest hindrance being climatic condition.


What equipment is needed to grow it, process it and harvest it?


At maturity, Quinoa is ready for harvest. Quinoa production is a tedious job because it is so delicate that it could be dented with one’s fingernail. To harvest it with minimal loss, the cylinder speed of the harvester as well as the air flow is reduced greatly. After harvesting, a fanning mill as well as a gravity separator will come in handy when removing trash from the seed; after this, the seeds need to be dried before being stored to prevent them from sprouting.

Written by Staff Writer

March 2013