Quinoa: the plant

Quinoa plantations in Chimborazo, Ecuador, South America

When working to create the inciting moment for WIDOW’S RUN, I looked for something different than the run of the mill saving the world from annihilation. I knew Diamond’s husband was a professor but didn’t know his field. He was a “good guy”, which put me in the market for a thing/item/product that could have lifted up humanity (had he not been killed).

Jumping into the internet rabbit hole, I explored a whole lotta ideas and then locked in on quinoa.

Isn't it pretty?!?!?!

Quinoa is a plant that, not surprisingly, has leaves and seeds, which are also called quinoa. It has been cultivated for over five-thousand years. While it roots (Ha! Pun) trace back to Andes Mountains of South America and the current day countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. The part we commonly eat, the seed, is highly nutritious, providing a better balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates as well as a source of key minerals compared to other crops.

Of course, whenever you go down the rabbit hole, you are going to find conflicting information. One source indicated quinoa is a highly adaptable crop, tolerant of varying moisture conditions. Another said it is a poorly adaptable crop, preferring specific temperature ranges. Not being a farmer or having experience in agriculture, I don’t know what is true. For my purposes, the idea of quinoa being a nutrient-rich, adaptable plant led to the development of Dr. Gavriil Rubchinsky whose research at an unnamed university was working toward feeding underfed populations.

This doesn’t just apply to far away countries but also to food deserts in our back yard. A food desert is an urban area where it is hard to buy good, fresh food. This isn’t a food shortage. There’s plenty of the cheap, low quality food that keeps America’s waistlines expanding. It’s the nutrient rich fruits and veggies that can’t be found. The good doctor Rubchinsky saw quinoa as a solution where the leaves, stems, and seeds could do more than fill bellies.

This huffington post entry has a great description of the harvest process and photos of the plant. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-does-quinoa-grow_n_592e1cf0e4b0e95ac194de75

This Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN website is filled with facts and a downloadable recipe book. http://www.fao.org/quinoa/en/

This article from the University of Minnesota via Purdue’s horticulture website provides a scholarly take on the crop. This is something like my deceased, fictional professor would have produced. https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/quinoa.html

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