Quinoa in a large mug
Quinoa has high levels of protein and a good balance of amino acids.

MINNEAPOLIS — Sensory studies at Washington State University have focused on domestically grown quinoa, an ancient grain that originated in the Andes mountains in South America. Geyang Wu, a student and Ph.D. candidate at the university, gave updates on the quinoa studies Oct. 20 at the AACC International Centennial Meeting in Minneapolis.

Quinoa has high levels of protein and a good balance of amino acids, she said. The grain also contains vitamin B, vitamin E, minerals and phenolic antioxidants, making it a prime candidate to boost the nutritional attributes of gluten-free products.

Washington State University researchers have bred quinoa varieties in the state since 2010. Protein levels have ranged from 11% to 17% in the varieties, Ms. Wu said. Besides Washington, she said Oregon, part of Idaho and part of British Columbia also are potential growing regions for quinoa. Ms. Wu has worked with professors Carolyn Ross, Kevin Murphy and Craig Morris at the university.

The sensory testing involved a trained panel of 9 people and a consumer panel of 102 people. The results revealed that quinoa varieties differ in several aspects, such as a nutty flavor and woody aroma, a sweet and bitter taste, and texture. For example, panelists rated nutty flavor between 1 and 10 with 10 being like a peanut flavor. Quinoa varieties generally rated 6 or 7 or lower, Ms. Wu said.

Attributes that consumers liked in the quinoa varieties were grainy, crunchy, firm and a grassy aroma, Ms. Wu said.

Another gluten-free presentation at the AACC International event focused on barley, which actually has gluten in it. Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia are breeding barley varieties with levels of gluten as low as 10 parts per million.

However, they have had more success with those varieties in brewing beer instead of creating gluten-free food products, said Crispin Howitt, Ph.D., a researcher at the CSIRO. The CSIRO researchers have developed hull-less barley varieties for food applications, but that research is not as far along as the brewery research.

Their efforts also face a regulatory hurdle. In Australia, if a product contains barley, it cannot legally be called gluten-free, Dr. Howitt said.