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Chenopodium quinoa - Willd.

Common Name Quinoa, Goosefoot, Pigweed, Inca Wheat
Family Chenopodiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K]. The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plants will reduce their content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[238].
Habitats The original habitat is obscure, the plant probably arose through cultivation[139].
Range S. America - Western Andes.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Chenopodium quinoa Quinoa, Goosefoot, Pigweed, Inca Wheat

Chenopodium quinoa Quinoa, Goosefoot, Pigweed, Inca Wheat


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Quinoa or Chenopodium quinoa, also known as Goosefoot, Pigweed, or Inca wheat, is an erect annual plant of up to 3 m in height that is widely cultivated in Chile and Peru as a grain crop. It is drought resistant when fully established. The taproot is branched. The leaves are toothed, grey-green in colour, and vary in shape. The small flowers are arranged in clusters at the top of the plant. The seeds are cooked but have to be soaked and rinsed first to remove a coating of saponins on the surface. It is used for soups and stews. It can also be powdered for porridge, or sprouted and used in salads. The leaves are cooked or consumed raw as well. Young leaves are cooked like spinach. Further, the whole plant yields gold or green dye.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Chenopodium quinoa is a ANNUAL growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chenopodium album leucospermum (Schrad.) Kuntze Chenopodium canihua Cook Chenopodium hircinum millea

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed
Edible Uses:

Edible portion: Leaves, Seeds, Vegetable. Seed - cooked[ 1 , 2 , 4 , 27 , 57 , 97 ]. A pleasant mild flavour, the seed can absorb the flavour of other foods that are cooked with it and so it can be used in a wide variety of ways[ K ]. The protein is good quality because of its amino acid balance. It has 2-6% more protein and better amino acid balance than wheat. It should be thoroughly soaked and rinsed to remove a coating of saponins on the seed surface. The seed can be used in all the ways that rice is used, as a savoury or sweet dish. It can also be ground into a powder and used as a porridge[ 37 , 183 ]. The seed can also be sprouted and used in salads[ 183 ] though many people find the sprouted seed unpleasant[ K ]. The seed contains a very high quality protein that is rich in the amino acids lysine, methionine and cystine, it has the same biological value as milk[ 196 ]. The seed contains about 38% carbohydrate, 19% protein, 5% fat, 5% sugar[ 171 ]. Leaves - raw or cooked[ 2 , 4 , 37 , 57 ]. The young leaves are cooked like spinach[ 183 ]. It is best not to eat large quantities of the raw leaves, see the notes above on toxicity.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Repellent  Soap

Other uses rating: Low (2/5). Other Uses: Gold/green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[ 168 ]. Saponins on the seed can be used as a bird and insect deterrent by spraying them on growing plants[ 141 ]. The saponins are obtained by saving the soak-water used when preparing the seed for eating. The spray remains effective for a few weeks or until washed off by rain[ K ].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

a cultivated food crop. A plant of higher elevations in the tropics, it has also been successfully grown in the temperate and subtropical zones. Plants tolerate light frosts at any stage in their development except when flowering[ 57 , 196 ]. An easily grown plant, it requires a rich moist well-drained soil and a warm position if it is to do really well, but it also succeeds in less than optimum conditions[ 27 , 37 ]. Tolerates a pH range from 6 to 8.5 and moderate soil salinity[ 196 ]. Plants are quite wind resistant[ K ]. Plants are drought tolerant once they are established[ 196 ]. The plant is day-length sensitive and many varieties fail to flower properly away from equatorial regions, however those varieties coming from the south of its range in Chile are more likely to do well in Britain[ 196 ]. Different cultivars take from 90 - 220 days from seed sowing to harvest[ 196 ]. Yields as high as 5 tonnes per hectare have been recorded in the Andes, which compares favourably with wheat in that area[ 196 ]. Young plants look remarkably like the common garden weed fat hen (Chenopodium album). Be careful not to weed the seedlings out in error[ K ]. The seed is not attacked by birds because it has a coating of bitter tasting saponins[ 141 , K ]. These saponins are very easily removed by soaking the seed overnight and then thoroughly rinsing it until there is no sign of any soapiness in the water. The seed itself is very easy to harvest by hand on a small scale and is usually ripe in August. Cut down the plants when the first ripe seeds are falling easily from the flower head, lay out the stems on a sheet in a warm dry position for a few days and then simply beat the stems against a wall or some other surface, the seed will fall out easily if it is fully ripe and then merely requires winnowing to get rid of the chaff.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow April in situ. The seed can either be sown broadcast or in rows about 25cm apart, thinning the plants to about every 10cm. Germination is rapid, even in fairly dry conditions. Be careful not to weed out the seedlings because they look very similar to some common garden weeds[ K ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Suba, Quinua, Kiuna, Inca rice, Petty rice, Inca wheat, Huauzontle.

Found In: Andes, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Central America, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Iran, Mexico, North America, Peru, South America, Tasmania, USA.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

May be a noxious weed or invasive in the wrong place.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Chenopodium acuminatum Annual0.6 -  LMHNM201
Chenopodium albumFat Hen, LambsquartersAnnual0.9 0-0  LMHNM321
Chenopodium ambrosioidesMexican TeaAnnual/Perennial1.0 7-10  LMHNM233
Chenopodium ambrosioides anthelminticumWormseedAnnual/Perennial1.0 7-10  LMHNM232
Chenopodium auricomumQueensland BluebushAnnual1.8 -  LMHNM201
Chenopodium berlandieriSouthern Huauzontle, Pitseed goosefoot, Nuttall's goosefoot, Bush's goosefoot, Zschack's goosefootAnnual1.2 0-0  LMHNM201
Chenopodium bonus-henricusGood King HenryPerennial0.3 4-8  LMHNM421
Chenopodium botrysJerusalem Oak, Jerusalem oak goosefootAnnual0.6 0-0  LMHNM222
Chenopodium bushianumBush's goosefootAnnual0.6 0-0  LMHNM201
Chenopodium californicumCalifornia GoosefootAnnual0.6 -  LMHNDM212
Chenopodium canihua Annual0.0 -  LMHNM201
Chenopodium capitatumStrawberry Blite, Blite goosefootAnnual0.6 4-8  LMHNM311
Chenopodium cristatumCrested GoosefootAnnual0.6 -  LMHNM211
Chenopodium ficifoliumFig-Leaved GoosefootAnnual0.9 4-8  LMHNM201
Chenopodium foliosumLeafy goosefootAnnual0.6 4-8  LMHNM301
Chenopodium fremontiiGoosefoot, Fremont's goosefoot, Pringle's goosefootAnnual0.6 0-0  LMHNM201
Chenopodium giganteumTree SpinachAnnual2.4 4-8  LMHNM302
Chenopodium glaucumOak-Leaved GoosefootAnnual0.3 -  LMHNM201
Chenopodium graveolensFoetid GoosefootAnnual0.9 -  LMHNM211
Chenopodium hybridum Annual1.5 -  LMHNM211
Chenopodium incanumMealy GoosefootAnnual0.5 -  LMHNM201
Chenopodium leptophyllumNarrow Leaved GoosefootAnnual0.6 0-0  LMHNM201
Chenopodium muraleNettleleaf GoosefootAnnual0.6 0-0  LMHNM201
Chenopodium nuttalliaeHuauzontle, Nuttall's goosefootAnnual0.6 0-0  LMHNM401
Chenopodium opulifoliumSeaport goosefootAnnual0.8 0-0  LMHSNM201
Chenopodium overiOver's goosefootAnnual0.8 0-0  LMHNM201
Chenopodium pallidicauleCañihuaAnnual0.6 -  LMHNDM301
Chenopodium polyspermumAll-Seed, Manyseed goosefootAnnual0.9 0-0  LMHNM201
Chenopodium pratericolaDesert GoosefootAnnual1.0 -  LMHNM201

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Abd Ellaif Awwad   Sun Dec 9 2007

We try to plant quinoa in Egypt hop to workes & provied you by all details

greendesert-intr.org under costraction

Ethan Descoteau   Thu Mar 20 2008

Salt Spring Seeds a good rundown of basic quinoa and amaranth culture

k gheewala   Fri Nov 14 2008

we are a small co-operative village in Uganda we want to try and grow quinoa. please can you advise where we can obtain the seeds to grow quinoa? do we need the seeds with husks or can they be grown with the processed seeds. can you also give some idea of yield per hectar? thank you very much

david n   Fri Nov 14 2008

B & T World Seeds sell seeds of this plant internationally, you can purchase them via the internet(www.b-and-t-world-seed.com). I don't know the yield.

Stephen Maxam   Sat Nov 29 2008

Add an "s" to the word "seed" in the link above, i.e. www.b-and-t-world-seeds.com And, prepare yourself for the weirdest web page layout and programming ever.

Robert Bucknall   Mon Jan 12 2009

I am a farmer from Ontario, Canada. Is there anyone growing quinoa in my area and if not is it possible to grow it here.

Ashley Wiese   Fri Jan 15 2010

I am a broad acre farmer in the wheatbelt of Western Australia and successfully germinated some Quinoa last winter. I would like to try Faro Quinoa and need about 100kg. Could anyone please advise me where I can source seed in any quantity. Thankyou.

   Nov 29 2010 12:00AM

well, this year I tried growing some quinoa in my garden. My latitude is 45deg, temperate climate, Italy. The seeds, of an unknown cultivar and bought from a french ebayer, germinated around mid april and flowered at the beginning of june. The temperature rose and during July peaked at 33C for 3-4 hours during the afternoon practically for the full month. It seems the plants fell in a kind of stasis and only during august 3/4 of the plants began producing white seeds while 1/4 of them failed to set seeds at all. I expect to harvest the seeds by the end of September and plant the best ones next year at March. This experiment says that I've been lucky and I probably got a day-neutral cultivar, however its temperature sensitivity *seems* disappointing. so far I'm around 150 days of plant growth and the end of the cycle has not yet been reached. I also observe a great deal of variability, a few plants are probably mutant and *might* be able to adapt themselves to higher temperatures. One thing is sure, if you want to grow quinoa in temperate environments you need a day-neutral cultivar. The one I stumbled upon is, but producing white relatively large seeds it probably isn't a sea-level variety and thus shows temperature sensitivity. Through some research I found another cultivar in addition to faro and red faro which might work better in my climate, it's a chile variety called "regalona baer" it has already been tested in my country and is a pretty good producer tolerating our climate and latitude pretty well. I just need to import at least one Kg of such seeds. Of course nobody seems to sell it online. If purchasing well characterised cultivars proves impossibile, I'll probably have to stick to the slow and painful process of adapting my present quinoa line to my climate on my own via artificial selection. *ouch*

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