Red Quinoa - Stock Image

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A tablespoon of uncooked red quinoa on a bamboo cutting board with selective focus.

Quinoa, a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Derived from the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name, kinwa, or occasionally "Qin-wah", Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America, where it was successfuly domesticated 3000 to 4000 years ago for human consumption, though archeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding some 5200 to 7000 years ago. Quinoa is generally undemanding and altitude-hardy, so it can be easily cultivated over 13,120 ft (4,000 m). Depending on the variety, quinoa's optimal growing conditions are in cool climates with temperatures that range from 25°F/-3°C, during the night, to below 95°F/35°C, during the day, with an annual precipitation of 10–15 inches (26–38 cm). Quinoa does best in sandy, well-drained soils with a low nutrient content and a soil condition of 4.8 pH (high acidity) to 8.0 pH (alkaline). Yields are maximized when 150 to 180 lbs N/acre are available. The addition of phosphorus does not improve yield. A typical growing season lasts 90 to 125 days from germination to full maturity. In eastern North America, it is susceptible to a leaf miner that may reduce crop success; this leaf miner also affects the common weed and close relative Chenopodium album, but C. album is much more resistant.
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