Andean Grains and Legumes

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Cañihua (Chenopodium pallidicaule)
The canihua, which originated in the Andes of southern Peru and Bolivia, was domesticated by the settlers of Tiahuanaco, who established themselves on the tableland of Collao. No archaeological remains have been found connected with this plant, and the dehiscence which the seeds still display suggests that its domestication is not complete. It is important on the high plateau of Peru and Bolivia because it produces grains for human consumption at between 3 800 and 4 300 m, being very cold-resistant in its various phenological phases. At present, its cultivation and utilization are maintained at subsistence levels in these regions. One of the causes of its marginalization is the large number of people required to harvest it and its small grain size, which makes handling difficult.
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)
The quinoa is a food plant which was extensively cultivated in the Andean region by pre-Columbian cultures some 5000 years ago and was used in the diet of the settlers both of the inter-Andean valleys. which are very cold high areas, and of the high plateaus. After maize. it has occupied the most prominent place among Andean grains. At present. it continues to be grown in Colombia. Ecuador. Peru, Bolivia. Chile and Argentina. Its marginalization began with the introduction of cereals such as barley and wheat, which eventually replaced it. The reduction in its cultivated area in the Andean countries is also due to technical. economic and social reasons. Harvesting and threshing, which in the majority of cases are done by hand, take a great many days and the grain requires a process to remove its bitter ingredients before consumption. The prices received by farmers often do not justify their labour.
Andean Lupin (Lupinus mutabilis)
The Andean lupin is a leguminous plant that was domesticated and grown by the ancient settlers of the central Andean region from pre-Incan times, as indicated by seeds found in tombs of the Nazca culture and the plant's representation on Tiahuanaco pottery. As in earlier times, Andean populations still use the seeds as a food today. They were very important as long ago as the pre-Hispanic era, figuring foremost among foods because of their high protein content. Lupinus mutabilis is still grown from Ecuador to Chile and northern Argentina under different production systems. It was displaced by European crops and, because of this, has been one of the native species most affected by marginalization. The grain has a high alkaloid content which imparts a very bitter taste and a process is therefore needed to eliminate it, thus giving it a disadvantage compared with other introduced legumes. The result has been a reduction in cultivated area of L. mutabilis, despite its agronomic and nutritional benefits. such as the fixing of atmospheric nitrogen (more than 100 kg per hectare), cold resistance and a high protein and oil content. Its marginalization may have been influenced by the fact that it was eaten mainly by the indigenous population. as well as by its variable yield: on peasant plots, 300 to 600 kg per hectare are obtained: under suitable conditions, 3500 kg, and experimentally. 7000 kg per hectare.

Authors: 
A. Mujica
Publisher: 
FAO