quinoa (kēnwäˈ) [key], tall annual herb ( Chenopodium quinoa ) of the family Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot family), whose seeds have provided a staple food for peoples of the higher Andes since pre-Columbian times. The plant resembles the related lamb's-quarters of North America; its seeds are threshed, winnowed, and prepared like grain. Quinoa is eaten boiled like rice, used in soup or porridge, toasted in the form of tortillas, or mixed with wheat flour for bread. It is also used for poultry and livestock feed and is fermented to make an alcoholic beverage called chicha, more commonly made from corn. The foliage is used for salad greens. In the Inca Empire, where only the potato was more widely grown, quinoa is said to have been sacred; the year's first furrows were opened ceremoniously with a gold implement. Attempts to establish the crop outside its native habitat have been unsuccessful. Quinoa is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Caryophyllales, family Chenopodiaceae.