Last updated: Saturday May 26th 2018
Growing Royal Quinoa
Andean Sol Royal Quinoa is a 100% organic and raw superfood – no pesticides or other chemicals are used in its production. Please read on to learn more about how Andean Sol Royal Quinoa is produced.
Near the Salar de Uyuni In Bolivia where our Andean Sol Royal Quinoa is grown, planting generally takes place between September and October of each year. Due to the extreme altitude and intense solar radiation in the growing region, interesting techniques have been developed to help Royal Quinoa to grow. In a practice called “ph’iznado”, when quinoa seedlings first emerge, straw and sticks are placed on top to form a protective tent that shields the seedlings from direct sunlight.
Once established, Royal Quinoa is an exceptionally hardy and adaptable plant that can survive in areas where adverse climate and soil conditions make growing anything else next to impossible. Quinoa can grow in dry desert-like conditions as well as in quite humid environments. It can survive below freezing temperatures as well as extremely hot weather. Quinoa is naturally irrigated, so the only water it receives comes from rainfall. Quinoa is a plant that is very efficient in its use of water and can grow in soils lacking in minerals and nutrients. As you can see – truly a superhero of plants!
Harvest and Cleaning
When the Royal Quinoa plants reach maturity between March through May, the plants take on a golden colour and some of the leaves begin to drop. This signifies the quinoa is ready to harvest and be processed and cleaned.
Harvest takes place in the early hours of the morning using a variety of instruments including manual tools such as sickles as well as hand held motorized mowers which are basically weeding machines adapted to cut the quinoa. This harvested quinoa is placed into piles and covered with straw for around 7 to 15 days to protect it from any poor weather until it reaches the lower level of humidity needed for threshing, which is the process of loosening the delicious, edible part of the quinoa plant from the leaves and stems. The traditional method of threshing quinoa involved placing the quinoa plants on platforms covered with llama pelts where they were then beaten with a tool called a “huactana” and even cactus sticks. After the quinoa grains were free from the rest of the plant, they were then sifted to separate them from the rest of the plant pieces. These days most threshing is done mechanically using a machine which uses sieves to separate the grains from the leaves and stems automatically. Following threshing, this quinoa would then be placed into bowls and poured out onto tarps in the strong afternoon winds which blew away some of the finer unwanted plant pieces that had not yet been cleaned from the grain, though today fans are also used to speed up the process. Once the Royal Quinoa is threshed and the grain separated from the unwanted parts, it is then placed into bags and transported approximately 500km to a modern processing facility located in La Paz, Bolivia for further cleaning and purification of the product.
When first received into the processing plant, the Royal Quinoa is weighed, its origin for traceability purposes is established, and its high quality is confirmed. Quinoa grains naturally have a bitter, soapy tasting coating called “saponins” which repels insects, birds and other animals that might want to eat them. Though not harmful (in fact saponins can actually be used as soap!), the saponin is removed by first cleaning the quinoa with water and then drying it. The Royal Quinoa is then fed onto an inclined vibrating table which sorts the quinoa by size: smaller, lighter quinoa grains move towards the top of the table, and the larger grains that Andean Sol uses move towards the bottom. After this, the Royal Quinoa is destoned using a machine that can specifically identify stones and remove them via air compression – yes, we know. Crazy. As a precaution, Andean Sol Royal Quinoa is then passed through a metal detector which removes any metal impurities that may have fallen into the product. Our Andean Sol Royal Quinoa is then packed into 25kg kraft paper bags, ready for the most important test of their lives.
ANALYSIS & TESTING
To confirm the quality and organic status of our Andean Sol Organic Royal Quinoa, using a laboratory in Europe we analyse each batch produced for an array of items including purity (minimum 99.95%!), microbiology, pesticides and other contaminants to make sure you are only getting the highest quality product possible. Only when we are convinced of the quality do we prepare a shipment for transport.
Once the Andean Sol Royal Quinoa has been checked and approved for quality, it is ready to be transported to Europe. The 25kg bags of Royal Quinoa are packed into a truck which then makes the 500km (36 hour) journey from La Paz to the port of Arica, Chile on the Pacific Coast. Why Chile? Bolivia is actually land locked and so has no access to water. As such, all Royal Quinoa exported (in fact all goods exported except to Bolivia’s neighbours) generally go through Arica. In the port of Arica, Chile, the trucks are unloaded and the bags of Andean Sol Royal Quinoa are loaded into containers and loaded aboard a ship. The journey on the water from Chile to Europe generally takes between 28-35 days during which the vessel travels up the west coast of South America, passes through the Panama Canal, and then travels across the Atlantic Ocean to reach us. Once it finally arrives, it is then unloaded and packed into Andean Sol spout pouches. Enter in the Andean Sol Unique Batch Code into our Batch Code Tracker to learn more about the specific batch of Andean Sol Royal Quinoa you purchased.