Quinoa is an Andean plant which originated in the area surrounding Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa was cultivated and used by pre-Columbian civilizations and was replaced by cereals on the arrival of the Spanish, despite being a local staple food at the time. Existing historical evidence indicates that its domestication by the peoples of America may have occurred between 3,000 and 5,000 years BCE. There are archeological discoveries of quinoa in tombs of Tarapacá, Calama and Arica in Chile, and in different regions of Peru.
At the time of Spanish arrival, quinoa was well developed technologically and was widely distributed within and beyond Inca territory. The first Spaniard to note the cultivation of quinoa was Pedro de Valdivia who, on noticing the planted crops around Concepción, recorded that, for food, the native indians also sowed quinoa among other plants.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.