Posted by Hannah Perry on June 06, 2016
According to The Guardian, the pigments in the quinoa plants responsible for the psychedelic shades are called “betalains” and they are rarely found in nature, which means that they stand out as appearing almost artificially intense. Betalains are a class of red and yellow indole-derived pigments found in plants of the Caryophyllales, where they replace anthocyanin pigments. The Incas, who domesticated quinoa, were astute agricultural engineers in the sense that so many of their key crops were essentially weeds.
Quinoa has one of the fastest germination rate among grains, popping up in as little as 24 hours. It is packed full of soap-like chemicals called “saponins”. Saponins occur in many plant foods and get their name from their soap-like qualities, so pests ignore the plant. Normally, it is recommended to wash the quinoa to get rid of saponins due to the taste, but according to Healthy Eating at SF Gate, Eating saponins may help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
The plants are tolerant of drought and diseases, and have good fertility; the only work to do is to thin out the young seedlings to about 20cm apart to ensure getting the largest plants and biggest flowers. Growing quickly to a foot or so, the plants then tend to slow down to accumulate sugars. Then, in the late summer – and almost without warning – they rocket out flower spikes up to a meter and a half tall. So go on ahead, plant some quinoa!