Follow the Food With James Wong

Last summer, I got to film with ethnobotanist James Wong for BBC ‘Follow the Food’, where we explored how quinoa can contribute to global food security.

As you know, over the years, here at The British Quinoa Company, we have worked really hard on our quinoa breeding efforts to find varieties that thrive in the UK climate and produce a good seed quality. We are firm believers that quinoa can benefit global food security by being an alternative to crops such as wheat and rice. However, there is still a long way to go with developing new quinoa varieties for this to happen.

Nearly almost all quinoa is grown in Peru or Bolivia, which hold very different climates to ours. I talk with James and explain the importance of finding varieties of quinoa that will grow within the UK climate and thrive.

Although quinoa as grain was domesticated over 5000 years ago, it has largely been left behind by the ‘big three’ staple crops. There is now the big question of if quinoa could become one of these main staple crops? Crops like maize and potatoes, all domesticated around the same time, have undergone many more years of breeding efforts to develop varieties that do well when grown in the UK. It may be sometime before quinoa reaches that level of growth, breeding and genetic testing, allowing the gap to close and demand and popularity for quinoa to grow.

Through growing quinoa on our farm, we’ve found that having a diverse range of crops comes with many benefits – the main being it spreads the risk from growing any single crop. Growing multiple crops in a rotation is important for eliminating the risk associated with bad weather, disease and working conditions affecting a crop’s performance and yields.

With all this in mind, I feel that crops locally grown and consumed within their country of origin can be a wonderful way to strengthen supply chains and food engagement. I would challenge more large retailers to use our home-grown quinoa over imported alternatives to help close the gap between quinoa to the more popular crops such as potatoes, rice and wheat.

You can watch the programme here. It is the ‘Seeds of Life’ episodes and starts at around the 10 minute mark.