Cultigen Chenopods in the Americas: A Hemispherical Perspective

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Book Chapter

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Social Perspectives on Ancient Lives from Paleoethnobotanical Data


Few if any of us working with archaeological plant remains 30 years ago dreamed that a chenopod could by now have achieved Supergrain status in the popular food world. Back then, North American chenopod was considered a lowly weed by most archaeologists, and quinoa was not well known outside of Peru and Bolivia. Now, of course, quinoa is the darling of celebrity chefs around the world, even featured on the cover of Time Magazine's September 1, 2011 issue. A Google search for quinoa recipes will turn up millions of results. Boxes of quinoa are sold in chain supermarkets across North America, it is available in bulk at stores catering to the health-conscious, entire cookbooks are dedicated to this single ingredient, and quinoa dishes are offered several times a week in the main cafeterias at our colleges and universities. Its virtues are widely appreciated: a subtle nutty flavor, gluten-free, fuller suite of amino acids, and higher protein content than staple cereals such as rice, wheat, or maize (National Research Council 1989). UNESCO (General Assembly Resolution 66/221) declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa in recognition of its high nutritional value, deep cultural root in the Andes, and its potential to aid in resolving world hunger.


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