Quinoa was originally domesticated about four or five thousand years ago in the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru and Bolivia. There is evidence however, that it may have been used for livestock up to 7,000 years ago. The Incas called it chisaya mama, or ‘mother of all grains’, demonstrating the high esteem in which it was held.
Quinoa was sacred and was used in indigenous religious ceremonies. According to legend, the Incan emperor would ceremoniously plant the first quinoa seeds every season. Sadly, quinoa fell victim to the Spanish in their goal to eradicate all indigenous cultures, starting in the 1530’s. Fields were destroyed, and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead. Only tiny pockets of quinoa cultivation remained, hidden high in the mountains.
Fortunately, those tiny pockets of hidden quinoa were enough to keep the plant from going extinct, and in the 1970s it was finally reintroduced to the world.