Welcome to the homepage of the Designation of Origin (DO) of the Royal Quinoa de Altiplano Sur of Bolivia. Here you will find all information about our beautiful product – Royal Quinoa – the real and only, from the shores of the southern salt lakes at an altitude of over 5000 meter above sea level in Bolivia.
We are proud to present our people who carry on the tradition of growing, harvesting and processing our quinoa from generation to generation and that for over 6000 years using their traditional methods.
Our new Designation of Origin (DO) will guarantee that what you buy is the real premium product: Royal Quinoa with its outstanding characteristics including gluten free and 100% organic, thanks to the world class traceability system which is now being tested.
Existing historical evidence indicates that the domestication of quinoa by the peoples of America may have occurred between 3,000 and 5,000 years BCE.
There is early evidence of its morphology on pottery from the Tiahuanaco culture (Bolivia) depicting a quinoa plant with several panicles along its stem, which would suggest one of the more primitive strains of the plant.
During domestication the Andean populations no doubt selected genotypes according to use and tolerance to adverse biotic and abiotic factors, resulting in today’s plants and ecotypes with their different characteristics.
The farmers of the salt lakes region of Bolivia are the proud growers of the most valuable of this strands, known as Royal Quinoa.
The Incas considered Royal Quinoa a sacred food, a gift from the Gods. They called it “La Chisiya Mama”: the mother of grains.
In Bolivia royal quinoa is still part of the mysticism and culture of the native population.
Until a few years ago, quinoa was sown by hand and exclusively by women as they were believed to pass on their fertility to the land. The tools they used were small rustic instruments such as the Taquiza, Liukána or Tank´ana that were used to poke holes and cover the seeds so as not to create grooves that would lead to unnecessary evaporation of the scares humidity in the ground.
Quinoa was first cultivated for its seeds and leaves 5,000 years ago in the Andes Mountains of modern day Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
Its genetic variability indicates quinoa as an oligocentric species with widely distributed centre of origin and multiple diversification. The Andean region present the greatest genetic diversity and variation.
Quinoa has undergone a wide range of morphological changes during its domestication and as a result of human activity. These include a more compact inflorescence at the tip of the plant, an increase in size of stem and seed, loss of seed dispersal mechanisms and high levels of pigmentation.
The greatest variety of quinoa can be found in Potosí (Bolivia). Only in Bolivia there are 3 thousand ecotypes. There are large grains of quinoa and small grains of quinoa, some are better suited for making flour and some for cooking as grain.
Quinoa is not a grain but a seed, it is a broadleaf plant species (chenopodium quinoa) genetically close to sugar beet 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 high altitude, resisting drought and frost to provide the unrivaled goodness of Royal Quinoa.
Royal quinoa only grows in southern flat plains of Bolivia in proximity to the largest salt lake in the world. The salt lake of Uyuni has a total area of 10,582 km2 (4,086 sq mi) and Coipasa, has 806 km² (311 sq mi). The solar radiation in the surrounding area is 1.800 mcm/m2, that’s almost twice what is considered normal. All this at over 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above sea level.
Thousands of years ago, the area where royal quinoa grows was a lake and that has changed the quality of the soil to a greater salinity and acidity equilibrium that are thought to be one of the contributing factors to the quality of the royal quinoa grain.
Royal Quinoa adapted to these conditions more than 6000 years ago. This feature is very important because, contamination with any other grains (eg. Grains with gluten) is virtually impossible, and there is also no possibility of having cross-contamination with other crops that require high levels of agricultural intensity (eg. use of agrochemicals). Other crops simply could not survive the conditions of the territory.
Scientists suggest that billions of years ago there were seas on the land of the Andean Altiplano. That Titicaca Lake was part of an ocean. That when mountains emerged, the sea dried and left behind the historic salt lakes.
That is how the Andean Mountain Chain came to existence, the most wonderful mountain chain in the Americas that stretches from the cold of Patagonia to the Caribbean.
"Royal Quinoa from Thunupa: the beginning of Life"
Germán “Thunupa” Nina of Jirira
According to Aymara legend, it was Thunupa who gave the Andean people quinoa. Long ago, when a drought caused hunger throughout the region, the god sent to earth a beautiful emissary named Nustra Juira. She traveled the Altiplano by foot, from Lake Titicaca to the salt pans in the south. When at last she reached Thunupa and ascended back into the sky, along the path she had walked grew a nutritious new crop that could withstand drought and cold.
Sitting here, framed by the volcano, Nina tells us his name is not really Germán—it is Thunupa. He explains that although his Aymara parents didn’t believe in la religión, they brought him to church for baptism. When the priest asked what name the child would have, they said Thunupa. “Out with your scary Indian names,” the priest replied, and ejected them from the church. They tried repeatedly to persuade him, but in the end they told the priest to use whatever name he wanted—the boy could change it when he was grown.
Nina is sufficiently self-assured that I suspect he wouldn’t object to my drawing a parallel between him and his divine namesake. Like Thunupa, he has helped make quinoa flourish on the Altiplano. Beginning in the 1980s, after drought devastated Jirira and other rural communities, he devoted himself to creating an international market for the crop. To keep that market working in favor of farmers rather than exporters, he joined in founding the first and still most influential quinoa-growers’ co-op in the country, Asociación Nacional de Productores de Quinua (ANAPQUI).
Because of efforts like these, quinoa could become the Altiplano’s first significant cash crop ever. The region’s rural villages had long been emptying out, for all the familiar reasons: lack of opportunity, meager incomes, and, increasingly, environmental challenges. Quinoa now allows farmers to remain in those villages; it has even enabled some emigrants to return.