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Unit 5 Part (C). Inca Agriculture

[Quinoa Grain]

Quinoa is an ancient grain, which was called the "Mother Grain" by the Incas. Each year the first quinoa seeds were planted by the leader of the Incas. He used a solid gold shovel to plant the grain.

We now know that of all the vegetable foods in the world, quinoa is perhaps the best source of balanced protein and is very nutritious. Recent research by NASA for the space station and Mars has concluded that we should be growing quinoa on our space travels to provide the most nutritious food source for humans.

The Inca civilization began about 1200 AD and continued until the Spanish arrived in the mid 1500's. The land area controlled by the Incas covered about 1.5 million square kilometers. The population was from six to 15 million people. The Inca devoted much of their wealth to providing land for their people to become self sufficient in growing food. There are still many irrigation canals that were built to bring water to the agricultural areas. The Inca also built terraces to grow food.

[Terraces for food at Machu Picchu]

Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca village that lies deep in the mountains. This is a view looking into the food terraces at Machu Picchu, and it shows the small amount of land required to grow food when the diet is vegetarian and based on a nutritious grain such as quinoa.

More views of Machu Picchu are at Machu Picchu Jewel in the Clouds. There is also a site where you can follow the virtual trail to Machu Picchu.

Humans need 8 essential amino acids, and quinoa supplies a balanced amount of all eight. This means it provides balanced protein and can be used as a survival food.

Quinoa has much more protein then most other grains, so you need less quinoa to survive. About 4 ounces a day (about 1/4 cup dry grain) will supply all the protein a child needs in a day.

Nutritional Values %

Grain

Protein

Fat

Carbohydrate

Fiber

Wheat (English)

8.9

2.2

66.8

2.1

Barley

10.0

1.5

66.4

4.5

Oats (whole grain)

10.3

4.7

62.1

9.3

Rye

12.4

1.3

71.7

2.3

Rice (brown)

9.7

2.4

73.2

1.1

QUINOA

*13.1

5.3

55.7

4.9

*approximate. Source of data:
Technology of Cereals, Kent, N.L. (Pergamon Press)

Quinoa can be used in a variety of foods. The grain can be used in stews like a barley, or used instead of rice for a grain in a stir fry meal, a hot breakfast cereal. When the grain is ground into flour it can be used for a variety of breads and cakes.

Quinoa leaves can be used as a substitute for spinach or for lettuce greens. A quinoa salad is much more nutritious than most salads.

Revised: 1 May 2016
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