Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thoughts on Quinoa, in 1832.

For the next couple of days I will be in travel limbo as I head home to Australia after several weeks in England.  Wednesday will be a blur as I travel the westwards time-warp, but never fear, there will be a post on that day, thanks to the marvels of scheduled postings.

From The Southern Agriculturist and Register of Rural Affairs: Adapted to the Southern Section of the United States, Volume 5  (1832), I give you some thoughts on "Peruvian Rice."

On the Cultivation of Quinoa or Peruvian Rice.

The only direction that we have obtained from Peru for cultivating the quinoa, is, that it is to be sown and managed like wheat. From our brief experience we find this entirely erroneous, and by following it last summer we lost at least nineteentwentieths of our small supply of seed. We sowed the seed in drills one foot apart, the seed in the drills about as close as wheat, on common soil. The result was, the plants stood so close that few of them bore seed; while a few scattering plants that grew singly, yielded abundantly; and the richer the ground the greater was the yield—so much so was this the case, that one plant that grew in a spent hot-bed (a pile of rotten stable manure with a few inches of soil on the top) yielded about two quarts of seed. We conclude from this that the quinoa should be planted one foot apart each way; the ground should be highly manured with stable manure, and it should be hoed like corn to keep the weeds down in the forepart of the season. It should be planted as early as the season will admit. The frost in the fall does not affect it, much of ours was standing during the severe frosts of this month [Nov.] ; the plant on the spent hot-bed particularly, was exposed to the very severe snow storm of Monday night last, the 21st inst., and the leaves frozen as hard as ice; but no injury was done to it. In cleaning out the seed, after the plants are ripe, we cut them up, tie them in convenient bundles and dry them perfectly. The seed is then easily rubbed out by the hand, and cleaned by winnowing. Some simple machine will soon be invented to clean it. The Peruvians rub the tops between coarse woollen cloths. If the ground be highly manured we believe that it will produce one hundred and fifty bushels to the acre—at least this is the proportion produced by  some of ours. It has this great advantage over every other grain—you cannot make the ground too rich for it, and it will yield in proportion to the quantity of manure applied, or to the richness of the soil. It will grow on any soil, where the common lambs-quarter (Chenopodium alba, its full brother) will grow. From a rough calculation we judge that half a pound of seed will be sufficient for an acre of ground. We must not forget to caution persons who make trial of this new grain, against destroying it by mistake ; for it resembles so closely the common weed called lambs-quarter in some places, pig-weed in New-York and some other places (Chenopodium alba) that before the seed begin to form they can scarcely be distinguished from each other.
Quinoa is used for all the purposes of common rice. We have tried it in all the different forms —in a baked pudding we think it far superior to rice. It does not resemble rice either in flavour or appearance ; and can only have received the name of Peruvian rice from the fact of its being used in the same way. Its flavour resembles that of oatmeal more than any thing else. The grain is circular, flat, and about the size of a small radish seed. There are two kinds, the white and the red. The former when cooked is quite white, the latter retains its reddish colour. They arc easily separated, as the whole of the red plant is covered with a reddish powder, which is a most perfect rouge when applied to the skin. The colouring matter is not dissipated by light, but remains permanent. Perhaps a valuable dye may be extracted from it. The leaves are used as spinnage, being little (if any) inferior to common spinnage. Persons wishing to try the quinoa can obtain seed at the rate of four dollars a pound, by applying to the editor of the 'American Farmer.'

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