Quinoa is a mosaic of shapes and colors cultivated over thousands of years to nurture human life in the extreme climates of the Andes. In Peru there are over 3,000 registered native quinoa varieties, many of which are uniquely adapted to local environments and climate conditions. Native quinoa can survive haistorms, droughts, and plagues without the need for synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. So much diversity creates endless possibilities for health, cuisine, industry, and food security.
Quinoa Diversity is fast disappearing. Less than 0.1% of known varieties are commercialized while the other 99.9% are in a process of disappearing as smallholder farmers plant for the global quinoa economy. Export quinoa is selected in part based on appearance, which means largest possible grain size as well as uniform shape and color. However, this does not mean that commercial quinoa healthier or better tasting than native quinoa. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change are putting genetically standardized commercial quinoa varieties at greater risk. In the high plateaus of Peru 13,000 feet above sea level, farmers are dealing with more unpredictable weather from unexpected hailstorms to new kinds of diseases. Strong and resilient native quinoa has the potential to help vulnerable Andean communities, as well as and future generations around the world, adapt to climate change- unless local varieties go extinct forever.
At Kai Pacha Foods, we believe it is possible to change this by finding niche markets for native quinoa. By supporting diversity, we can build a more prosperous and healthy future.
QUINOA FACT: Native quinoa can grow in extreme climates. For example, it can grow
at nearly 16,500 feet above sea level using ancient Andean farming technology called
canchas, which are built to trap solar heat.
This name means “bursting quinoa” in the indigenous Aymara language because this quinoa expands like popcorn when toasted.
Because it grows with two distinct colors in the same stalk, this quinoa represents sacred duality and is commonly used in Andean rituals.
This variety has been grown since time immemorial in Quechua communities of Azangaro and is particularly resistant to cold temperatures.
This variety is known for having a natural color spectrum from red to white. It is traditionally used to make quinoa drinks and crispy. biscuits.
This quinoa, closely related to ayara, is good for relieving stress and is particularly high in protein. It is traditionally used to make black bread for funerals, taking advantage of its lithium content to mitigate the effects of sadness.
Closely related to Quchiwila, this quinoa is a bit redder and lighter in color. Once washed, it takes on a rich amber brown color.
The intense purple of this quinoa not only makes it an excellent natural dye traditionally used to make purple drinks known as chicha, it also gives the quinoa special antioxidant properties.
These seeds are easy to recognize due to their flatter shape and almost transparent middle, which is filled with proteins. They are farmer favorite for their rich oatmeal-y texture which makes them perfect for a thick hearty soup.
This is the ancestor of all other types of quinoa known today. It is extremely tough and only grows wild. With a crunchy texture like poppy seeds and a rich but subtle flavor, ayara is known for being one of the healthiest quinoa varieties but is very hard to clean and cook.