One of the oldest existing crops
Quinoa is one of the oldest, existing crops, which was first detected by Europeans after Columbus discovered South America in 1492.
Quinoa seeds were, however, not brought to Europe, so the crop literally remained unknown outside the Andean countries until the late 1970s, first in the USA, then in England, Denmark and the Netherlands, where studies on the crop were initiated, followed by a further spread with trials in Europe and the rest of the world.
Even so, there is at present very little commercial production of quinoa outside the Andes, but it is increasing and the potential for further expansion of global production is significant.
Origin of quinoa
Historically, quinoa has continuously been selected for new environments in the Andean region, as it was spread gradually from its center of origin around the Titicaca lake between Peru and Bolivia.
The distribution from the lake went both to the north to Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, and to the south to Chile and Argentina, and down from the highland to valleys and coastal regions of the Andean countries.
The process, however, was slow due to the environmental variability and the irregular climatic conditions in the Andean region (Bertero et al. 2004).
Quinoa, a new world staple
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) is a new crop, presently being tested in Northern Europe, where its close relative fat hen (C. album) is already a well-known weed species. In the Iron Age, the European fathen had the status of a secondary crop, either collected or cultivated.
Therefore, the present-day introduction of quinoa to Northern Europe is based on the utilization of a closely related species in ancient times. Quinoa is one of the oldest, existing crops, which was first detected by Europeans when Columbus discovered South America in 1492.
According to the FAO, quinoa is regarded as a new world staple and predicted to spread fast across the globe (FAO 2013).
Quinoa Quality’s varieties have been tested and grown successfully in a wide range of countries and climate zones around the World.
Due to the increasing global demand for quinoa, both as an Andean export commodity and for agricultural development purposes, there is huge interest in testing quinoa for growing under a range of environmental and geographical conditions.
Among the environments most distanced from the crops’ natural conditions is Northern Europe. Research work performed in Europe, from south to north, has demonstrated the potential of quinoa also to be produced under European conditions, with varieties adapted to longer days, more humid environment, and intensive mechanization.
The Chenopodium genus includes around 250 species from all over the world. It is considered one of the most nutritious genus in existence, due to its protein and dietary fiber content, as well as healthy fat, ash, and minerals (Repo-Carrasco et al. 2003).
The oldest domesticated Chenopodium species, identified to date, is the South American quinoa developed in the Andes mountains about 7500 years ago (Pearsall 1992). It reached North America ca. 1200 AD.
Fathen - C. album
In Northern Europe fathen (Chenopodium album), which is a global weed species, was a secondary crop in Denmark during the Iron Age (1200 BC – 400 AD) (Stokes and Rowley-Conwy 2002), both the seeds and the leaves.
Chenopodium album was also used as a pasture for milking cows in Denmark under World War II (1940-1945), as farmers found out that it secured good milk production and quality with lack of protein import