U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

The Worldwide Potential for Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoaWilld.)

Jacobsen, Sven-Erik
Food reviews international 2003 v.19 no.1-2 pp. 167-177
Chenopodium, Food and Agriculture Organization, altitude, baking, breakfast cereals, cold, cookies, crop production, cultivars, developing countries, early development, feeds, food crops, food security, forage, genetic variation, gluten, hulls, latitude, minerals, mountains, pasta, pellets, people, saponins, sea level, starch, subtropics, vitamins, Africa, Andes region, Asia, Canada, Europe, South America, United States
Quinoa is a highly nutritious food product, being cultivated for several thousands years in South America, with an outstanding protein quality and a high content of a range of vitamins and minerals. Other positive aspects of quinoa are the saponins found in the seed hull and the lack of gluten. Quinoa is one of the main food crops in the Andean mountains, but during recent times there has been increased interest for the product in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Quinoa has been selected by FAO as one of the crops destined to offer food security in the next century. The genetic variability of quinoa is huge, with cultivars of quinoa being adapted to growth from sea level to 4000 meters above sea level (masl), from 40°S to 2°N latitude, and from cold, highland climate to subtropical conditions. This makes it possible to select, adapt, and breed cultivars for a wide range of environmental conditions. A major constraint for growth in northern parts of Europe, Canada, and in high altitude regions is the short growth season, because quinoa requires a maximal developmental time of 150 days in order to secure seed harvest. Hence, early maturity is one of the most important characteristics if quinoa is grown under these conditions. In southern Europe, the United States in certain parts of Africa and Asia there is good potential for increased production of quinoa. Quinoa has a significant, worldwide potential as a new cultivated crop species and as an imported commodity from South America. The main uses of quinoa are for cooking, baking, etc.; various products for people allergic to gluten; animal feed, green fodder, and pellets; modified food products such as breakfast cereals, pasta, and cookies; industrial use of starch, protein, and saponin; and as a game-cover crop. In developing countries of Africa and Asia, quinoa may be a crop able to provide highly nutritious food under dry conditions.