A TINY, bead-shaped millet with slight bitterness and a firm texture, quinoa might not be a household name yet, but it’s all set for a starry future. Quinoa, which is said to be a pseudo millet, is considered to be the staple food of the Andes region from the days of the Inca civilisation. It is now finding its place under the Project Anantha experiment in Andhra Pradesh (AP), under which quinoa was grown both in Hyderabad and Anantapur district.
Quinoa is known in the Andes by the name ‘Chisaya mama’, which means ‘mother of all grains’. Quinoa contains all the 10 essential amino acids and is low in glycemic index due to which the world—especially people with diabetes or allergic to gluten—is looking at it as an alternative to existing foodgrains. It is also a good substitute for rice, as it does not have the high quantity of carbohydrates present in rice.
“The successful results over the past two years show that we can start with its full-fledged cultivation from this year onwards,” says K Chandramouli, the head of the committee looking after the quality management of the varieties of quinoa being experimented with in AP.
The cereal is already in demand in the country—the imported grain is sold at nearly Rs 1,500 per kg.
The experiment, carried out in Hyderabad, had resulted in the emergence of an India-specific variety: ‘Project Anantha Quinoa’. After being successfully harvested by a farmer in Anantapur district, quinoa is now being grown by 47 other farmers. Locals have also learnt to use it to prepare dosas, idlis and payasam.
“You will see Indian quinoa in stores from mid-2016 and it will not be as expensive as what’s in stores presently. We are expecting to sell it for around Rs 950 per kg,” Chandramouli adds.
The plant’s growth is highly variable due to a high complexity of different subspecies and varieties. However, in general, it is undemanding and altitude-hardy. It is grown from coastal regions to over 13,000 ft in the Andes near the Equator.
As per Jeet Singh Sandhu, deputy director general (crop science), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, “Quinoa has a lot of varieties and each variety has different soil and climatic requirements. The species we are experimenting with in India is the one that is generally cultivated in deserts, thus we are seeing successful trials. As a mass-market agricultural product, it has a lot of scope and possibilities that will not just benefit the Andhra region, but the entire model of farming in dry and desert-like conditions, just like olives in Rajasthan.”
The quinoa planted in India is of the Bolivian variety, and this variety can be grown in desert-like conditions, which the crop braves in the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana regions. The same variety has been cultivated in the US, primarily in the high-elevation San Luis Valley of Colorado, where it was introduced in 1982.