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Kiwicha, Quihuicha

Amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus L.) is known as quihuicha or kiwicha in the Quechua language. It is in the is an annual plant cultivated in gardens and small plots in the Andes up to 3,600 meters above sea level. It is a rustic plant, which can reach up to 2.5 m. in height at maturity. It is resistant to drought (it can grow in the presence of as little as 200 mm of annual rain), heat and cold. It is usually planted in September and harvested after 4 – 6 (occasionally up to 10) months later. The harvest is manual and the amaranth is sun dried using only rudimentary tools.   Local people us the amaranth as a whole grain roasted, boiled or ground into flour. The young leaves can be used like other leafy vegetables. The grains can be used to prepare a variety of foods and drinks. It is possible to make amaranth nougat by mixing the grain with honey, molasses or chocolate and pressing it into forms. In folk medicine, amaranth is used to treat persistent diarrhea. Furthermore, there are several investigations into the cholesterol-lowering properties attributed to amaranth.   Amaranth grows very easily in the Andean region and for over 4000 years. It was one of the basic foods of the indigenous people, along with potatoes and corn. Its use disappeared with the arrival of the conquistadors who banned it on grounds that it was part of the pagan rituals of the Inca population. Today, it is still grown in rural communities in northwestern Argentina. Some regional markets in the northwest and province of Salta feature amaranth, however it is not commonly found outside this region.   The traditional use of amaranth as food risks being lost due to changes in local dietary habits. Furthermore, with increased commercial agriculture, this plant has come to be considred a weed, eradicated to prevent competition from introduced crops such as soybean, wheat and corn. 

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Cereals and flours

Indigenous community:Aymara, Quechua
Nominated by:Aldana Gatti e Hugo Cetrangolo