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Natural Food Security: Quinua, Hauzontli, Chia

Published: November 27, 2011, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

The United Nations 26 November began debate on a draft resolution declaring 2013 as the International Year of Quinua. The resolution notes that the peoples of the Andean region have maintained the essential cultural relationships between the people and the land to ensure the continued existence of the cereal food Quinua.  Quinua (Chenopodium quinoa) is a type of seed plant that is a sister to the Mexican Huazontli (Chenopodium berlandieri nuttalliae), and the Atlantic North America huazontli (Chenopodium berlandieri) that may well be the first domesticated (and ultimately highly nutritious) food source in the hemisphere.

A nearly nutritionally complete food, quinoa exists as a product of the intimate relationship between Aymara, Quechua and other indigenous peoples in the Andean region and the mountainous lands more than five thousand years before the present.  This tiny seed has been a central part of the diet of indigenous peoples in the Andean region used as a grain in baking, pourage, and soups.

Mexico also originated and domesticated Huazontli, a relative of Quinoa.  Though there is only a slight genetic and morphological similarity between Huazontli and Quinoa, they are different plants, according to botantical researchers.  Huazontli was appears to have become a major food source for peoples in Mexico about 5000 years before the present.  It’s historical uses were mainly as a green vegetable as it is today.  Like its sister in the Andean region, huazontli is richly nutritious with protein (amino acids) Vitamin A, riboflavin, Vitamin C and a compliment of nutrients including calcium, phosophorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc in greater amounts normally available in maize, oats, barley, wheat and rice.

Another version of Huazontli and Quinoa has been discovered to have been domesticated in North America’s Atlantic region (Eastern woodlands) about 1600 years before the present.

Yet, another important food, Chia, is cultivated by indigenous peoples and known to provide nearly complete nutritional support including essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6).  While Chia is not a Chenopodium, but rather a sage mint (Salvia Hespanica) the abundant seed provide all of the essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

These three plants are today a powerful source of nutrition that remain dependent on human intervention for their continuing adaptation to changing environmental and climatic conditions. Indigenous peoples are essential to the continuing availability of Chia, Hauzontli and Quinoa, and their continued cultivation of these important foods.

Quinoa, Hauzontli and Chia are among the oldest known cultivated foods in the hemisphere–preceding maize, beans, squash. They were plentifully cultivated by the ancestors of present day indigenous peoples, but forcibly replaced with wheat, oats and rye (less nutritious grains) when Spain colonized the land.  The restoration of Quinoa, Hauzontli and Chia as foods central to the indigenous diet is critical their health and well being.  The restored relationship between indigenous people and these three plants will ensure natural food security–a value that cannot be replaced by industrialized food production.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.

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