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Keywords: Chenopodium quinoa

What is quinoa, botanically? Is it a grain, or something else?


The botanical name for Quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa. According to information from the Alternative Crops Manual produced by University of Wisconsin Extension, it is an annual plant in the goosefoot or Amaranthaceae family, which also includes the familiar weed, lambs' quarters or Chenopodium album. This article states that "Quinoa is sometimes referred to as a 'pseudocereal' because it is a broadleaf non-legume that is grown for grain unlike most cereal grains which are grassy plants. It is similar in this respect to the pseudocereals buckwheat and amaranth." Edible: An illustrated guide to the world's food plants (National Geographic, 2008) states that true cereals are members of the Poaceae or grass family, but quinoa more closely resembles spinach. It was first used as a food plant around 5000 B.C.E. near Lake Titicaca in the Andes, where it is native. Its common name in that region is "the mother grain."

Incidentally, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, "recognizing the Andean indigenous peoples, who have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living well in harmony with mother earth and nature."

Date 2017-07-18
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May 31 2018 13:14:08