Chenopodium quinoa
Common Name: quinoa
Type: Annual
Family: Amaranthaceae
Native Range: South America
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 2.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Bloom Description: Greenish
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable

Culture

Best grown in cool, dry, upland conditions in dry to medium well-drained soils in full sun. May not produce seed if temperatures are too hot. In its native territory in the Andes Mountains, this plant is most commonly found growing at elevations of 8,000’ to 13,000’. Generally thrives in dry, sandy, well-drained soils in cool summer climates. Tolerant of marginal soils. This plant is generally lacking in ornamental interest.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Chenopodium quinoa, commonly known as quinoa, is an herbaceous annual of the goosefoot family that is native to the Andes Mountains in South America (Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina). It is a somewhat weedy plant that typically matures in the wild to 3-6’ tall. Although its spinach-like leaves are sometimes eaten as a raw or cooked leaf vegetable or added to various food dishes as an herb flavoring, this plant is primarily grown today as a grain crop for harvest in fall of its tiny edible seeds which are often cooked (boiled) in somewhat the same manner as rice or ground up as flour. Quinoa is classified as a pseudocereal rather than a cereal because it is not a true grass. As a grain, it has a somewhat dull to nutty flavor.

Quinoa leaves are medium green, alternate, broad, generally pubescent, smooth to lobed, and lanceolate to triangular. Young leaves may be steamed or sautéed. Tiny, greenish, apetalous flowers bloom in summer in terminal and axillary racemes. Quinoa seeds mature in fall in indehiscent fruits (achenes). Fruits, depending on the cultivar or variety, often develop interesting colors ranging from white to red to black.

Quinona is a nutrient-rich food. Seeds have respectable nutritional values, and have been an important part of the diet of Andean residents for at least the past 4,000 years. Seeds are a plant source for complete protein. Seeds also have respectable amounts of iron, calcium and phosphorus. Leaves are a rich source of potassium, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Popularity of this species is on the rise. It is now grown in a number of countries around the world, including the U.S., Canada, Italy, Sweden and India, but continues to be most commonly found in the Andean Mountain areas of Peru and Bolivia. In North America, it is currently cultivated as a seed crop in western Canada, Pacific northwestern states and other northern mountain states. It was introduced into the dry alpine desert conditions (average elevation of 7,500’) of southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley (home of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and origin of the Rio Grande River) in 1982.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the International year of Quinoa in recognitions of the historical practices of the Andean people who have preserved this plant as a human food.

Genus name comes from the Greek chen meaning a goose and podion meaning a little foot in reference to the goosefoot shape of some plant leaves.

Specific epithet comes from the Incan word quinua meaning “mother grain” or the Spanish spelling of the name Kinwa.

Problems

No known serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to leaf miner when grown in the eastern U.S.

Garden Uses

Annual for herb gardens, vegetable gardens or containers. Borders.