The History of Quinoa


Karen Torres


The History of Quinoa

6 September, 2016

History of Quinoa (Quinua)

There is little archaeological, linguistic or ethnographic evidence of the history of quinoa since we know of few religious rites associated with the use of this grain. Archaeological evidence in the Ayacucho region of Peru indicates that the domestication of quinoa began 5000 years before Christ. There are also archaeological finds consisting of quinoa seeds in ancient tombs in Tarapaca, Calama and Arica, and other regions of Peru.

When the Spanish arrived quinoa was already highly developed and widely distributed throughout the Inca territory and beyond. The first reports of quinoa came from Spaniard Pedro de Valdivia who was studying the Andean cultures. The famous chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega described the quinoa plant as the second most cultivated grain on Earth and that it resembled millet or rice. He also mentions the first time seeds were sent to Europe, which unfortunately arrived damaged and could not be germinated, possibly due to the high humidity during the journey by sea.

One evidence of the use of quinoa can be found in ceramics from the Tiahuanaco culture where it is represented with several panicles distributed along the stem. Quinoa has been cultivated in Peru since pre-Hispanic times (more than five thousand years). The area around Lake Titicaca is considered the principal origin of quinoa and where the greatest biological diversity of this species is still conserved, here there are ingenious agricultural methods for its production and it is part of the daily diet of the people of this area.

During the time of the Inca Empire, quinoa became one of their main crops and part of the basic diet of the people. Today, quinoa is cultivated in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, in the north of Argentina, and other countries. Peru and Bolivia are the main producers of this Andean grain which became very popular in the colonial period, called “wheat of the Incas” by the Spanish. Peru has a great genetic diversity of quinoa, both wild and cultivated, making it one of the biggest producers and exporters, representing a great opportunity for Peruvians in this business.

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