The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Appalachian quinoa

The rise of quinoa

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.

Dr. Paul Patton

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.

Nutrition of Native American crops

Appalachian quinoa (as I've decided to dub Chenopodium berlandieri), is 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?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I tried to grow Quinoi a couple of times here in western NC. Either it didn't germinate or slugs ate it before I ever saw it but it was total failure.
Comment by Katherine Sat Jan 27 19:25:30 2018
One of my absolute favorite plants is poulette grasse (Chenopodium album, it's a traditional Acadian crop). I've been growing it for years, but it's so prolific as a weed that you can gather literally gallons of seeds wild each year for free anyways. It's extremely cold hardy and just as nutritious as Chenopodium berliandi or Chenopodium pallidicaule. I've tried growing both quinoa and canihua with little results, but I tried huazontle for the first time last year and it did really well, nearly as well as poulette grasse but with larger seeds and more compact seed heads. I'd be happy to send you some seeds of what I've been growing of both of them if you'd like to experiment or help with domestication? Chances are you probably already have wild-type poulette grasse growing in your garden though. Also, I'd be surprised if the huazontle seed I harvested isn't hybridised with poulette grasse.
Comment by muskrat Wed Jan 31 08:06:37 2018

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