Amaranth, Quinoa and Cañihua: the seeds that can save the world

  • 2014

These three seeds, besides having exceptional nutritional qualities, being incredibly rich in proteins and providing almost all the amino acids that the body needs, are also wrapped in stories of an Inca past of venerations and a combative actuality that has put them as a banner in the struggles. against the agrogenocide that is underway.

AMARANTO, the "Brave Fighter"

The "Kiwicha" or Amaranth, scientifically called Amaranthus caudatus, (which in Greek means "What never dies" or "brave fighter") is the plant that challenges the multicriminal Monsanto and its transgenic seeds. In the United States, farmers have had to abandon five thousand hectares of GM soybeans and another fifty thousand are seriously threatened because this supposed 'weed', Amaranth (known in Peru as Kiwicha), is resistant to the powerful herbicide Roundup.

According to a group of British scientists from the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, there has been a gene transfer between the genetically modified plant and some herbs such as elamaranthus. This finding contradicts the claims of the defenders of genetically modified organisms (GMOs): that they argue that 'hybridization between a genetically modified plant and an unmodified plant is simply impossible. According to British geneticist Brian Johnson, a single crossing achieved between several million possibilities is enough. Once created, the new plant has a huge selective advantage and multiplies rapidly. The potent herbicide used here, Roundup, based on ammonium glyphosate, has put enormous pressure on the plants, which have further increased the speed of adaptation. Thus, it seems that a herbicide resistance gene has given birth to a hybrid plant that emerged from a jump between the grain that is supposed to protect and the humble Amaranth, which becomes impossible to eliminate. The only solution is to tear the weeds by hand, as was done before.

"The Queen of Calcium"

The Kiwicha or Amaranth was the food of the Inca Empire, it is a plant that surprises the world for its large number of beneficial properties. It can be considered as the "Queen of calcium", since 100 grams of Kiwicha contain twice as much calcium as the same volume of milk. The seeds contain between 13% and 18% protein and a high level of lysine (essential amino acid for nutrition). In addition to calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin E and vitamin B complex. Its fiber is fine and smooth.

The kiwicha adapts easily to different environments, has an efficient type of photosynthesis, grows rapidly and does not require much maintenance or fungicides or fertilizers. For children, including these cereals in their diet is ideal, because the phosphorus, potassium and magnesium components contained in these grains directly help in the formation of bones, tendons and muscles.

Seed of the Gods

The Aztecs of Mexico cultivated this plant that was highly prized for its nutritional qualities. It was so appreciated that they used it in religious ceremonies. It is believed that they made idols with their flour mixed with honey and sometimes with human blood and that they offered these idols to the

Gods as tribute. At the time of Emperor Moctezuma, it was along with the huauzontle, the fourth most important crop, after corn, beans and chia. When the Spanish conquerors of the 16th century managed to dominate the Aztec Empire, they banned these rituals and the cultivation of amaranth. At present the plant continues to be cultivated after a long period of abandonment and is highly prized for its nutritional properties, it also has the peculiarity of not containing gluten.

A fairly popular theory states that the origin of the word Caracas comes from the name of this plant, Amaranth, as the inhabitants of the area known by the same name pronounced it from pre-Hispanic times: the valley of Caracas. They called this plant "caraca."


Chenopodium quinoa is a pseudocereal of the Chenopodiaceae family, it does not belong to the family of grasses in which "traditional" cereals are, but due to its high starch content its use is that of a cereal.

It was cultivated mainly in the Bolivian Andes and also in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Andes for some 5, 000 years. This crop, like the potato was one of the main foods in many Andean villages of pre-Inca antiquity.

Complete nutrition

Quinoa is a rich food because it has the 10 essential amino acids for humans, this makes Quinoa a very complete and easily digestible food. Traditionally quinoa grains are roasted and flour is produced with them. They can also be cooked, added to soups, used as cereals, pasta and even fermented to obtain beer or chicha, traditional drink of the Andes. When cooked, it tastes like walnut.

A problem for the mass production of Quinoa is that it has saponin, which gives it a characteristic bitter taste, this is usually taken out by washing the seed abundantly.

Quinoa has an exceptional balance of protein, fat, oil, starch and a high degree of amino acids. Among the amino acids are lysine (important for brain development) and basic arginine and histidine for human development during childhood; It is also rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins, while it is low in fat.

The average protein in the grain is 16%, but it can contain up to 23%. This is more than twice as much as any other cereal. The fat contained is 4 to 9%, of which half contain linoleic acid, essential for the human diet. In nutritional content, Quinoa leaf is compared to spinach.

Prohibit the Seed

As a mother grain, Quinoa is part of various Andean ceremonies and rituals which were marginalized and banned by Europeans during the Spanish conquest, this was a reason for the cultivation of Quinoa like that of the Kiwicha were prohibited since I considered them associated with pagan rituals.

Quinoa is also considered as a medicinal plant by most of the traditional Andean peoples. Among its most frequent uses can be mentioned the treatment of abscesses, hemorrhages and dislocations.


From Quechua: Qa iwa, Chenopodium Pallidicaule, is a botanical species of Chenopodium (ash) similar in its composition to Quinoa, a related plant.

Its grain contains a high level of proteins (from 15 to 19%) and as the

Quinoa a high amount of amino acids.

The plant that refuses to use uniform

It has important beneficiary characteristics which include a high tolerance to high mountain conditions, its high protein content in its grains, and does not have saponins that is one of the cons of Quinoa. Even so, its domestication is not wide due to the lack of uniformity of the maturity of its grains, this limits its production for the market.

At least 380 accessions are preserved, in germplasm collections, in the INIA Experimental Stations of Camacani and Illpa (Puno), at the San Antonio Abad University in K ayra (Cusco) in Peru, and in that of Patacamaya (IBTA, Bolivia).

How to use the PITO

The most frequent preparation consists of cleaning, lightly roasting the Ca ahua grains and then grinding them, obtaining a type of flour commonly called PITO .

It is consumed mixed with cold or hot drinks, more than 15 different ways of preparing the whole grain and the PITO are known. In the same way in the bakery excellent results have been obtained incorporating to the mixtures 20% of PITO .

Pito de Ca ahua is an excellent additive for breads, cookies, energy bars, breakfast cereals and drinks.

The characteristic flavor is called the Malliard reaction known as the appetizing principle.

A grain never forgotten

The experts guess that the Ca ahua has its origin in Los Andes, and that its cultivation process is not complete yet, it is a suitable product for this ecological floor of the Altiplano between 3, 500 to 4, 500 meters above sea level, it is very resistant to frost, pests, diseases and droughts; Thanks to this multiple resistance, it is mainly used as a safe food for the rural families of the Bolivian Altiplano.

In Bolivia, there are segments of extremely poor populations, however they have alleviated themselves with a robust and adaptable plant to the harsh climatic conditions of the Altiplano. A good example is the Chipayas, a native ethnic group that lived two thousand years ago in lands near Lake Titicaca, other more aggressive cultures such as the Aymara displaced them to the South; a hostile and saline area where they are currently; Its population oscillates in 1800 inhabitants that survive in the vicinity of the Coipasa salt lake, salt lake located on the border with Chile at 3650 meters above sea level.

The highland ethnic groups, based on an agro-centric worldview, manage, use and protect biodiversity for their survival and that of the rest of the earth.

Millions against Monsanto


Amaranth, Quinoa and Cañihua: the seeds that can save the world

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