Archives for January 13, 2017

DAY 30 – From field to factory – the hand processing of quinoa

DAY 30 – From field to factory – the hand processing of quinoa

Quinoa grows in tall, tight sheaths with the seeds carefully encapsulates in a tight seed head.  The seeds need to be removed from this head before being brought to the quinoa processing plant for final saponin removal and cleaning.  Thousands of Bolivia farmers carefully hand clean their quinoa putting many hours of work into the process, using methods passed down from generations of farmers.

cleaning quinoa - chachi warmi

Celia and Miguel separate the quinoa chaff from the seeds using a sifter and the Andean winds.

Organic, Fair Trade quinoa farmers, Miguel and Celia Huaylla are members of APROCAY a quinoa growers association that sells their quinoa to Andean Naturals, one of the largest quinoa importers in the US.  I spent yesterday afternoon with them on a windy outcropping of a large lava rock, documenting the cleaning of the quinoa seed from chaf – a process I have helped out with many times on my children’s’ grandmother’s farm in the quinoa dulce growing region of Poopo.

The Quillacas church bell tower offers a panoramic view of miles of flat quinoa lands – once green with quinoa, now a patchwork of green and brown as the drought took its toll on the quinoa – drying up the tiny plants or covering them with windblown volcanic sand that make up the soils that Bolivia’s famous Royal Quinoa grow in.

stepping on the quinoa

Their daughter helps to further separate the chaff by stepping on the seeds. The seeds were previously ridden over by a tractor to break up the seed heads. Miguel laments how this does not work as well as the traditional stone threshing floors that were once used to separate the seeds – also by stepping on them.

We are processing a red quinoa that has a white seed…

seed sorter

Seed sifter


sorting together

Working together to pour out more mixed seed and chaff for separation. The wind blows away the lighter chaff while the heavy seeds fall to the hand woven aguayo cloth below.  The chaff and smaller, lighter seeds are fed to the family’s sheep and llamas.