Quinoa d’Anjou

Did you know that we can now grow Quinoa in France? And it’s a super healthy, delicious, wholegrain variety. Read on to see how Jason Abbott managed this feat, and why it should interest you.


The whole adventure started eleven years ago, when Jason Abbot embarked on the challenge of growing Peru’s ancient mothergrain in his family’s country: La France. No, he isn’t mad. But when he found out his daughter, Lula Jane, was gluten intolerant and he moved to France, the path was clear. Who doesn’t like a challenge?

It’s been a long process, Jason tested, observed and analysed 40 types of quinoa in his first year alone. The next year involved further testing with 30 volunteer farmers from the cooperative in the Loire Valley, but the results were disappointing. Several years of trials, cross breeding and testing ensued, but eventually with help from experts at the ESA (Ecole superieure d’agricultures) Jason finally cracked it. He finally developed some quinoa varieties that managed to brave the colder, wetter climates of the Loire Valley to grow successfully.

Not only were these varieties suitable for the French climate, they were also saponin free varieties, which means the grains can be eaten as wholegrains. In the quinoa world, quinoa with saponin and quinoa without are very different. South American quinoa, the birth place of the tomato, corn and the potato amongst other staple crops, has a natural pesticide called saponin. This is a bitter tasting element found in the ‘husk’ of the grain. In order for us to eat and enjoy this quinoa, this outer epidermis has to be removed.

The Reality of Farming Quinoa

Because farming quinoa in France is such a new concept, much remains unexplained and there aren’t always clear solutions to problems that may arise with the crops. Often, there is a huge variety in the size yields, but that’s only because growing quinoa isn’t that common yet. The more we grow, the easier it will be. It makes agricultural sense to keep growing quinoa in the Loire Valley too. It allows for a break from growing wheat or corn, and preserves soil fertility as quinoa exchanges different minerals with the soil. Plus, the fact quinoa is a new crop means that it isn’t limited to an industrial style set of established processes and chemicals. This allows for a more individual, natural style of farming, which in encourages the quinoa farmers to indulge in healthy competition and take pride in their farming, ultimately resulting in a more unique and artisanal crop.

The Economic Side

So agriculturally growing quinoa makes sense. How about economically?

Quinoa has a much better revenue than other crops, such as wheat, corn and barley, and as its especially rare to be grown In France, the farmers can ask for a higher price. And we’re not talking a few pennies extra, quinoa can sell for up to ten times more per kilo when compared to wheat. This is especially important considering farmers in France are often at or below the poverty line, a recent study by the Paris school of economics states that 22% of farmers are in relative poverty, when their income was compared to just 60% of the national median.

Thinking about the planet

Environmentally, Jason’s Loire Valley quinoa is almost perfect. When we say ‘almost’, its slightly unfair because it would be nigh on impossible for the quinoa to actually grow enough to be harvested without one round of treatment with pesticide. Essentially, aphids who would eat the crop, are around before their predators, the ladybirds do, which means without using pesticides to keep them off, there simply wouldn’t be any quinoa crop left. Quinoa d’anjou is treated with just one round of pesticide, compared to conventional use which is 7 or 8 rounds. It’s a necessary evil for now, in the words of Jason: “We minimize interventions, to ensure that there is no pesticide residue in our grains”.

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