Quinoa is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal, similar in some respects to buckwheat, rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. As a member of the Amaranthaceae family, it is related to and resembles amaranth, which is also a pseudocereal. After harvest, the seeds must be processed to remove the coating containing the bitter-tasting saponins. The seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. The leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but commercial availability of quinoa greens is limited.
The nutrient composition is favorable compared with common cereals. Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and acceptable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It is high in protein, and is tolerant of dry soil. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) declared 2013 to be the International Year of Quinoa. Chenopodium formosanum is a Taiwanese variant of Red quinoa that is endemic to Taiwan, and is widely grown in Eastern and Southern Taiwanese Aboriginal cultures.
Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Chile, and was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption in the Lake Titicaca basin, though archaeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding some 5,200 to 7,000 years ago.
Similar Chenopodium species, such as pit seed goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri) and fat hen (Chenopodium album), were grown and domesticated in North America as part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex before maize agriculture became popular. Fat hen, which has a widespread distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, produces edible seeds and greens much like quinoa, but in smaller quantities.
Now, quinoa crop to be cultivated in Rajasthan
Rajasthan will start cultivation of quinoa – the crop popular in South America. On the experimental basis, the government has identified Bhilwara and Chittorgarh for its cultivation. If it remains successful, it will be cultivated in other parts of the state.
Agriculture minister Prabhu Lal Saini said that quinoa belongs to species Chenopodium album, which is commonly known as ‘bathua’ in the country. It is a rabi crop. Its botanical name is Chenopodium Quinoa.
The seed of quinoa is used in preparing various kinds of dishes, soups and chapati.
Saini said that due to abundance of nutrition in it, it is called super food and mother grain. He said that it can be grown in barren land and also in the areas which do not have much water. The crop of quinoa has the potential to survive in the event of drought. Besides, it is resistant to insecticides.
He said that the environment and condition here in Rajasthan is conducive to its growth, which is why the government is trying to make it popular among the farmers.
In one hectare of land, around 5 to 18 quintals of quinoa can be produced. For its cultivation, there is no requirement of special training and also no special technique is required for it. Just like any ordinary cultivation of any crop, it can also be cultivated easily.
He said that farmers can earn 20% more from quinoa crops as compared to the traditional crops. The cost of quinoa ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 per kilogram in the market.
He said that the government will also plan to start a buyback guarantee scheme for quinoa in cooperation with export companies. With this aim, the government is making efforts to make quinoa more popular among the farmers to produce aplenty.