History Present Biological Charakteristics Attributes Grain Quality and Use
Soil, Climate and Temperature Requirements Cultivation and Manuring Crop Management Harvest Postharvest Processing and Storage


(Chenopodium quinoa Willd.)

Quinoa Quinoa


Quinoa is a crop with very famous history. On the Peruvian-Bolivian alpine plain it has been grown for ages together with corn and beans as a staple food of ancient Incans. Quinoa, in language of Incans, means 'mother of cereals'. Quinoa was domesticated probably in area of Altiplano surrounding lake Titicaca. Incans had highly developed agriculture but Spanish conquerors pushed their traditions into the background and actually destroyed their clever agricultural system. New higher yielding European cereals, such as wheat and barley, subsequently replaced quinoa. There are some 150 years old records about quinoa in the Czech Republic concerning cultivation of this plant for ornamental purposes in botanical gardens. High nutritional value of quinoa, known from the beginning of the 20th century, caused a big boom during 1st World War in whole Europe including Czech Lands. Nevertheless after some short time the lack of growing experience left the crop behind again.



In late 70s Chenopodium quinoa became an interesting crop thanks to starting certain demand for healthy nutritious food. First more important trials were performed in England, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Finland. There are experiments for different uses of quinoa under miscellaneous conditions in process all over the West Europe.


Biological Characteristics

Quinoa is a plant species that has not been improved by plant breeding, thus shows significant variability. It is an annual dicotyledonous plant and grows to 0,5-3,0 m (1,0-1,5 m in average). Primary colours of quinoa are green, purple and red that change in different colour shades during maturation. Quinoa is cultivated under various conditions of alpine regions in Andes. It can be successfully grown in the latitude from 0 to 4000 m above sea. For European conditions the most suitable genotypes are those originating in Chile (0-500 m above sea). These are short-season quinoas (90-100 days) with unramified habitus, long and compact inflorescence and big white or yellow seeds with low content of saponins. Food industry requires white or yellow seeds.



Quinoa has high nutritional value and almost ideal protein similar to the protein of milk. Quinoa seed is a tasty foodstuff suitable for children and individuals on various diets and does not contain gluten (gluten-free diets).


Grain quality and Use

Quinoa seeds are very nutritious and contents of single components vary. Seed, in comparison with other cereals, is higher in protein content (approx. 14,6 %). Its protein fraction is well balanced and comes close to the ideal protein, qualitatively corresponding to casein. It has more favourable amino acid composition also - higher content of lysine, methionine and treonin and high content of arginine and histidine, which are important in infant nutrition. The starch content is approximately 60 % represented by small granules (0,6-2,0 m) exploitable in food industry as an ingredient in cream substitute. Quinoa starch shows better viscosity than other cereals. Low content of amylose and the size of starch granules are significant factors affecting usage of quinoa flour. Products are much elastic and nutritive by 10 % addition of quinoa in common flour. If higher amounts of quinoa flour is added then the volume and porosity of paste is lower and consistency is tough. Amount of lipids in quinoa is about 8 % of dry mass. The oil is very stable thanks to relatively high natural antioxidant content. Total oil contains 54 % of linoleic acid and 20 % of oleic acid. Quinoa is a good source of thiamine, folic acid and vitamin C but has lower content of niacin (B3) in comparison with other cereals. Seeds contain more Ca, P, Mg, Fe, Zn, Na and Cu than cereals. It is very important to realise distribution of every single mineral in fractions of the seed. The most significant losses caused by abrading are on Na, Fe and Mn. Seeds contain some anti-nutritious compounds such as saponins, phytates, tannins, and protease inhibitors. Of all these compounds the amount of saponins causing bitter taste is the least desirable. Therefore quinoas are sorted out in three ecotypes - bitter, medium and sweet. Sweet types have usually white and bigger seeds.


In South America quinoa is traditionally used as substitute of rice. Cooked quinoa can be dried and this way can last several weeks. Furthermore different soups, pancakes with brown sugar ('panela') or alcoholic beverage called 'chicha de quinoa' with positive impact on digestive system can be prepared. In Chile roasted and then ground seeds are mixed with sugar, warm water or milk or fruit punch and served to all, kids and adults. Whole grain flour is basic raw material for bread called 'kispina'. From mixture with other flours various bakery products, biscuits or pasta can be made. Quinoa together with amaranth is used in diets and children's nutrition. Stems and leaves can be prepared and consumed in salads, side dish, soups or the same way as spinach.


Quinoa has high potential for feeding or so called 'green manuring'.


The market offers a wide range of cosmetics containing quinoa extract (shampoo, soap, body milk, etc.)


Soil, Climate and Temperature Requirements

The most suitable soils for quinoa cultivation are sandy to sandy-loam. Heavy clay soils are not desirable. It can be successfully grown in poor soils also. Quinoa is quite hardy plant, however, frost causes certain damage of plant during flowering stage and yield reduction.


Cultivation and Manuring

Conventional systems of cultivation require following fertilisation: 120 kg N, 50 kg P and 50 K per hectare.


Crop Management


Quinoa can be sown from the end of April when soil temperature reaches 5-7 C. Earlier sowing can slow germination and cause bad competitive ability against weed. Number of plants in range from 100 to 500 plants per square meter is the most appropriate and does not affect significantly the yield. Row spacing differs and depends on various factors. The most common are 50 cm, 25 cm or 12,5 cm and the recommended depth of sowing ranges from 1 to 3 cm.


Treatment during growing season

If the crop is grown in wide row spacing then plants branch easily and their development is hastened as well as the growth of weeds, therefore inter-row cultivation is necessary. Generally weeds have to be removed mechanically (no efficient herbicides on dicotyledonous plants in quinoa crop are known).



Harvesting by common combine-harvesters is recommended in dry conditions at full maturity otherwise losses of the crop increase.


Postharvest Processing and Storage

Quinoa grain containing appropriate grain moist has to be separated from impurities and plant particles and stored in a dry and cool place.