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Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) is generally considered to be a single species within the Chenopodiaceae. Quinoa is used much as a cereal crop, yet it is not a grass and has been classified as a pseudocereal.

Quinoa has a long and distinguished history in South America. Quinoa has been cultivated in the Andean highlands since 3,000 BC (Tapia 1982). In the Quechua language of the Incas, quinoa is the chisiya mama or "mother grain;" in Spanish, it is quinoa, trigo inca, or arroz del Peru (National Research Council 1989). Its adaptation to cold, dry climates, seed processing similarity to rice, and excellent nutritional qualities make quinoa a crop of considerable value to highland areas around the world which are currently limited as far as crop diversity and nutritional value.

In the time of the Incas, quinoa sustained armies which frequently marched for days and could eat a mixture of quinoa and fat known as "war balls" (D. Cusack pers. commun.). Nutrition, from its almost perfect amino acid composition to its high content of calcium, phosphorus, and iron to its low sodium content, still is the major contributor to quinoa's popularity.

  Content (ppm)
Crop Calcium Phosphorus Iron Potassium Sodium Zinc
Quinoa 1274 3869 20 6967 115 48
Barley 880 4200 50 5600 200 15
Beans 1191 3674 86 10982 103 32
Wheat 550 4700 50 8700 115 14

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This page last updated: 03/01/2018