Have you ever tried
growing quinoa? I have. My
first experiment was so abysmally unsuccessful that I never took another
stab at it.
Apparently, I'm not the only one. Despite a worldwide interest in the high-protein grain over the last decade, the vast majority of the crop is still grown in the Andes. Quinoa is simply a finicky species that can't handle high humidity, high temperatures, or even very mild frosts. So that box of seeds you see in the grocery store has an 80% chance of having traveled all the way from South America.
Enter Paul Patton,
professor of arhaeobotany at Ohio University. Dr. Patton got interested
in one of the
so-called Lost Crops that Native Americans grew in our area before corn
traveled from Mexico and took over local diets. It turns out that Chenopodium
berlandieri is in
the same genus as quinoa and would likely be easy to grow in our
region...if any cultivated seeds still existed.
Appalachian quinoa (as
I've decided to dub Chenopodium
even more nutritious than its South American counterpart. And the
species can still be found as a weed throughout our area...although the
plants along riverbanks and in farmer's fields have reverted back to
their thick-hulled, small-seeded wild type.
Luckily, Dr. Patton isn't daunted. He's started a breeding program using the local wild type plus a bit of cross-breeding with a Mesoamerican variety in the search for a more edible variety suitable to cultivation. So far, he's three generations in and is seeing some success. So maybe within a decade Appalachian quinoa will once again grace Ohio fields?