The mother of all grains to the Incas, today a superfood that can help feed the world. Quinoa — “keenwah” — is a broadleaf plant species (chenopodium quinoa) genetically close to sugarbeet and spinach, functionally raised as a grain crop and so sometimes termed a pseudo-cereal. There are thousands of varieties of quinoa, most of them wild. Most valuable are the heirloom strains nurtured by Bolivian farmers to thrive in saline soils at at high altitude, resisting drought and frost to provide the unrivaled goodness of Royal Quinoa.
Quinoa has been growing naturally amid the severe landscape of Bolivia’s altiplano for thousands of years. The plants grow from tiny seeds to as much as six feet in about a hundred days, protected from pests by an outer coating of bitter-tasting saponin and maturing in shades of green, gold and red. Llamas provide natural fertilizer, and half a pound of planted seeds can yield up to 2,000 pounds of new seed per acre at harvest.
The farmers sow, reap and thresh their quinoa by hand before it is traded in local markets, trucked to processing facilities, cleaned to remove the saponin and field debris then shipped to global customers including major food companies and individual consumers.
Harvested quinoa seeds come in a variety of colors, of which three are widely available in retail outlets. White (golden) quinoa, the most commonly found, offers the mildest taste, smoothest texture and shortest cooking time. Red seeds add vibrant color and nutty taste to cold dishes and salads. Black quinoa is favored for its earthy sweetness and crunchy texture. Quinoa is versatile: it is ground into flour for use in flatbreads, pasta and many more baking applications, and it can be found in alcoholic beverages, shampoo and cosmetics. Quinoa leaves can be eaten and taste much like spinach, although typically they are not exported.
Quinoa is nutritionally richer than wheat, barley and other “true grains.” It is a rare, plant-based source of complete protein, boasting all nine essential amino acids. It’s high in fiber, rich in important minerals, totally gluten-free. Nothing is better for consumers, farmers and the living world than genetically pure, organically grown and fairly traded quinoa from Bolivia.