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.
The hardy plants grow from tiny seeds to as much as six feet tall in about a hundred days, and it protects itself from pests with an outer coating of bitter-tasting saponin as it matures in shades of green, gold and red.
Because Royal quinoa is still grown in the region were the original strands of quinoa first sprouted, the plant is very much part of the ecosystem which includes wild shrubs that protect it from the wind and also llamas.
Llamas provide natural fertilizer, and half a pound of planted seeds can yield up to 2,000 pounds royal quinoa.
Between 90 and 120 days after sowing, Royal Quinoa reaches maturity. The leaves fall from the plants and the sun-dried, golden seed-heads are ready for harvesting.
In some regions there are ceremonies for asking the plant whether it is ready to give its seeds. When the plants become a reddish yellow, one of them is shaken and if some grains come of it means that it is time for harvesting.
Most royal quinoa is harvested by hand, although mechanization is increasing. After each farmer has and thresh their own royal quinoa by hand it is traded in local markets, trucked to processing facilities, where it is cleaned to remove the saponin and then shipped to global customers including major food companies and individual consumers.
Royal quinoa seeds come in a variety of colors, three of which today are widely available in retail outlets around the world. White (golden) royal 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 royal quinoa is favored for its earthy sweet-ness and crunchy texture. Royal quinoa is versatile: it is ground into flour for use in flat-breads, pasta and many more baking applications, and it can be found in alcoholic beverages, shampoo and cosmetics. Royal quinoa leaves can be eaten and taste much like spin-ach, although typically they are not exported.
There’s no single magic component in royal quinoa what sets it apart is a super food is how well it meets so many of the body’s nutritional needs, specially measured against wheat, barley, maize or most other grains and food crops.
Research continues to reveal new benefits and potential Health-related applications for royal quinoa in the prevention and dietary treatment of conditions ranging from diabetes and obesity to hypertension.
There are no known allergies to royal quinoa, and it is naturally gluten-free. Considered a “whole grain,” it is a good source of fiber. Royal quinoa’s high fiber content (the highest among grains) can help improve digestive function, reduce blood cholesterol and may lower the risk of heart disease.
As the study of royal quinoa becomes more extensive, the list of nutritional benefits will only continue to expand.