An average Malayali's daily diet includes rice, that too three times a day. This occassional intake of rice makes us at high risk of diabetes. Naturally, many of us have already changed food habits. For long, Malayalis are in search of a low-fat cereal that can replace the traditional food grains.

Here comes quinoa, an amazing cereal, which contains about 65 grams of carbohydrate in 100 grams of grain. UN introduced the South American grain ‘Quinoa’ to the world in 2013 by observing a special year for it. In India, the grain is being popularized by Food Technological Research Institute. Quinoa is commonly cultivated in the Andean region in Latin America. However, since the plant does not belong to grass family, it is not considered as a cereal.

Cultivation

Quinoa does not require as much water as other crops like paddy would do. Compared to paddy and wheat, quinoa plant need only 1/5 water for steady growth. So, the plant can sruvive severe drought and unstable climate. Quinoa can be cultivated during both summer and monsoon seasons.

Quinoa
Image: Pixabay

Loose and highly fertile soil is ideal for farming quinoa. The geographical condition of Kerala allows cultivating quinoa upto an altitude of 1500 meters, though it gives the best yield in 400-1000 meters. The soil should have proper water infiltration and aeration.

The ideal pH value of the soil is between 6 and 7. If the acidity is high, add some lime or dolomite in the soil to balance it. The ground should be ploughed thoroughly before sowing seeds. Then the land should be levelled adding cow dung or compost in a ratio of 30-40 kilograms per one cent. The seeds should not be sown more than ¼ inch deep.

The seeds will sprout within 24 hours, if the soil has sufficient amount of moisture. All seeds will grow into saplings within 7-10 days of sowing. To ensure better growth, the saplings should be replanted. About 500-700 grams of seeds is sufficient for farming in one acre. Once the plants are 30-60 days old, apply fertilizers again.

Normally, quinoa is not affected by pests. In case of insect attacks, try spraying some neem seed oil - soap liquid. When the plant starts to get dried with a yellowish red colour, pluck them and keep away from moisture, after threshing. Moisture will make seeds sprout.

Health benefits

Quinoa dish
A dish made of quinoa cereal.  Image: Pixabay

Quinoa is nutritious for children, as it provides protein and carbohydrate, and stabilizes amino acid content in their body. Compared to other grains, quinoa contains more protein, fibers, manganese, riboflavin, carbohydrate, sodium and energy. Besides, lack of gluten also make quinoa a better choice. As it contains low fat, bad cholesterol level is reduced, which in turn protects our heart.