Quinoa Plant

Quinoa plants are the species of "goosefoot", or Chenopodium family. As a part of the Chenopodium family, quinoa is very closely linked to other chenopods like beets, spinach, or tumbleweeds. The quinoa plant was first populated in the Andes of South America where it played an important role as an everyday food crop. In some South American cultures it is even referred to as the "mother grain" due to its value and multi-purpose use.
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Quinoa plant
The Incas held quinoa very high, and each year during the first planting, an Incan leader would actually plant the seeds himself using a golden shovel.

Chenopodium quinua (Goosefoots)

Chenopodium is a genus consisting of about 150 species of flowering plants that are often referred to as "goosefoots". Today, goosefoot seeds have seen a steady increase in use due to their nutritious nature and value to everyday food preparation. These seeds can be a very prevalant part of a gluten-free diet and provide many valuable nutrients for a healthy lifestyle. For example, the oil of quinoa can be extracted from its seeds and used for cooking. The quinoa oil has almost completely similar properties as those of corn oil, but the quinoa is actually superior in quality which is why its use continues to increase.

Plant composition

Quinoa leaves are very broad, and range from about 3 to 6 feet tall. Quinoa seeds are very high in protein, consisting of anywhere from 12% to 18%. This is much higher than most other cereal grains. The quality of the protein found in quinoa plants is also very high, which partially accounts for its high nutrtional value. Specificallly, it is rich in the amino acids lysine and methionine, which can be deficient in many other similar cereals. Quinoa plants also have very high carbohydrate content at approximately 58% to 68%. Additionally, quinoa tends to have a higher mineral content of calcium and phosphorus than most other grains.


Location

The quinoa plant has been widely cultivated in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia and used mostly for its nutritious seeds, which can sometimes be referred to as "little rice". These seeds can be used to make things like soup, bread, and even beer-like drinks. Quinoa was mostly contained within South America for a long stretch of time, but has recently expanded and is now being grown in Canada and the United States.


World Quinoa Production - 2005 (thousand metric ton)

external image 22px-Flag_of_Peru.svg.png Peru

32.6
external image 22px-Flag_of_Bolivia.svg.png Bolivia
25.2
external image 22px-Flag_of_Ecuador.svg.png Ecuador
0.7

World Total
58.4

Domestic Use

Because quinoa's protein is so high in lysine and methionine, many people combine the quinoa with other grains to help boost their protein value. Once integrated with other foods and grains, it is light and easy to digest. Unlike most other grains, quinoa is not overly heavy or sticky, and it contains a very unique and savory taste. It is also very easy for humans to integrate it into other foods because it provides many useful starches, sugars, oils, fibers, minerals and vitamins. Quinoa can essentially be substituted for practically any grain in almost any recipe.

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A homegrown quinoa
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Quinoa spring salad
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Quinoa nutrition facts

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Refererances:
1. Quinoa image 1: http://www.quinoa-recipes.com/Quinoa_Images/QuinoaPlant_web.jpg
2. Quinoa image 2: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2008/04/spring-green-quinoa.html
3. Quinoa image 3: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3397/3427036377_f464601b72.jpg
4. Erdos, Jordan. "Quinoa: Moterh Grain." 7 December 2009. http://www.planeta.com/planeta/99/1199quinoa.html
5. Railey, Karen. "Whoe Grains: Quinoa from the Andes." 6 December 2009. http://chetday.com/quinoa.html
6. "Quinoa: Soul Food of the Andes." 7 December 2009. http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch36.html