Quinoa is the umbrella term that encompasses the different quinoa varieties. There are about 120 species of the Chenopodium plant, which produces the quinoa seeds. Quinoa seeds come in a variety of sizes, shape and color. These seeds can be pink, light brown, yellow, black, red, gray or take on shades in between.
When it comes to quinoa, there are basically 5 types of quinoa to which these 120 or so species can be classified under. These quinoa types are grown in different regions and in different conditions. It is these differences in growing conditions that contributes to the diversity of this plant specie.
At present almost all of the quinoa that we enjoy is grown in the semi-arid Andes region. Quinoa is suited to this region that enjoys harsh winters and little rain and is an important crop given that very few crops can survive these kinds of growing conditions. Quinoa is quite versatile. It can survive in soils with pH levels of between 4.8 to 8.5. It can survive in sandy and loamy soil. It tolerates high salt concentration of up to 57 mS/cm. With this kind of profile, it truly is a wonder food, especially in these areas where no other crop can be cultivated.
Here are the 5 general classifications of quinoa:
1. Quinoa from the valley
This type of quinoa is grown in the interandean valleys. They are grown at altitudes that is between 6,500 to 12,000 feet above sea level.
2. Altiplanic quinoa
This type of quinoa is grown in the areas surrounding Lake Titicaca. This quinoa variety is hardy and resistant to frost. This is the area where scientists believe that quinoa was first domesticated before 5000 B.C. Archaeological explorations in the area have discovered quinoa in prehistoric tombs in this area.
3. Quinoa from the salares
Salares means salt flats. This quinoa is native to the Bolivian salares, and has adapted to the salty and alkaline soils of the region. Quinoa is one of the fewest crops that can be grown in this region.
4. Sea level quinoa
Sea level quinoa is quinoa grown in the south of Chile. This quinoa has yellow seeds.
5. Subtropical quinoa
Subtropical quinoa is quinoa grown in the interandean valleys of Bolivia. The quinoa seeds produced by this plant are small and can either be white or orange.