Q: Why isn’t anyone growing quinoa in Florida? It seems that if it grows in South America, we should be able to grow it here. Wouldn’t it be better for us than corn?
Answer: Quinoa is originally from South America, that’s true. But it’s from Peru and Bolivia, which are both at very high elevation and cold in most of the country. Florida is neither!
Quinoa prefers elevations over 7,000 feet, and we barely get over 300 feet. Quinoa would not be happy here. It is being grown in some high parts of Colorado, but when it was tested in Minnesota, it would not make seeds. The researchers think Minnesota is too warm for it!
Our days are too long and our weather too warm. So we’re stuck with buying it, not growing it.
As for whether it’s better for us, it is not as starchy as corn. It is not technically a grain either. It’s a seed of a plant in the spinach family. It has much more protein than corn but still has less than barley or buckwheat. It has less carbohydrate than corn, wheat, rye or rice but more than oats. And it has more minerals than most of our grains. But it is very different from corn or wheat and cannot be substituted directly into recipes for cornmeal or flour.
If you like it, certainly eat it. But don’t try to grow it in your Florida garden.
Mary A. Keith, a licensed dietitian and health agent at Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at [email protected]