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The Torah prohibits the consumption on Pesah of any food made from the “five species of grain,” conventionally identified as wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt, unless it has been carefully made in such a way that no leavening or fermentation could take place.

Since the Middle Ages, Ashkenazic Jews have also avoided eating kitniyot, foods commonly although inexactly identified with legumes, which either resemble the five forbidden species of grains or are often found or processed around those grains. Examples are peas, beans, and rice. Recently, there has been great interest in quinoa, a grain-like food native to South America. Quinoa is clearly not one of the five forbidden kinds of grain. Furthermore, it is a very different type of plant than the familiar grains or kitniyot. Those all belong to the order Poales. Quinoa belongs to the order Caryophyllales, and is therefore related to cacti, carnations, spinach, beets, and rhubarb.

Most rabbinic authorities have ruled, therefore, that quinoa is permitted on Pesah, the only qualification being that one must be sure that it has not come into contact with the forbidden grains during processing. Therefore, it is better to buy quinoa in boxes rather than in bulk. Currently, boxes of quinoa produced under the supervision of the Kosher Overseers Associates of America may be considered kosher for Passover.






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