Andean Grains – Development of a probiotic product based on kiwicha (Amaranthus caudatus) and goose berry (Physalisperuviana L.)

As a part of the PECOLO project, a novel food product based on the Andean grain kiwicha (also known as amaranth or “mini quinoa”), Andean fruit goose berry (or golden berry or physalis) and probiotic bacteria is being developed. The objective is to introduce a healthy food product that will spread the consumption and the nutritional attributes of kiwicha.

I’m Tatiana A. Rojas Ayerve, lecturer at the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences, Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM). I am also a PhD student in the Food Science programme of UNALM. Currently I have the opportunity to participate in the exchange program of the PECOLO project and with the support of the University of Turku and the research group the PECOLO project, I am in the facilities of the Functional Foods Forum advancing my Doctoral Thesis for a period of 4 months. Upon my arrival to the city of Turku, in January of 2019, we were in the middle of the Winter, with negative temperatures and strong winds. It was completely different to what we experience in Peru, but it has nonetheless been a new and an interesting experience to get to know this new city, to walk along the river Aura, to visit the Castle, the Cathedral, to get to know another culture and other customs. All this is contributing to my development as a student, researcher, teacher and a mother.

The research topic of my Doctoral Thesis is based on utilizing Andean grains in new ways. The aim is to improve the nutritional value and digestibility of the Andean grain kiwicha and this way develop products with health benefits. Fermentation of cereals is an ancient technique and widely used in different cultures and countries around the world.

Kiwicha (Amaranthus caudatus), also known as amaranth or “mini quinoa”. Image:

During my stay at the Functional Foods Forum of the University of Turku, I am carrying out a series of tests and trials in the process of fermentation of kiwicha (Amaranthus caudatus) by incorporation of lactic acid bacteria – probiotics of the genre Lactobacillus, labeled as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). Different strains of probiotics as L.rhamnosus GG (ATCC53103), L. rhamnosus CRL 1505 and   L. rhamnosus LC 705, as well as the combination of these probiotics are being tested. Each of these has a beneficial contribution on consumer health as well as on the nutritional and sensorial quality of the final product. The health benefits of probiotics in fermented foods can be for example decrease in incidences of respiratory diseases, of allergy, inhibition of pathogens, and improvements in the immune system. These beneficial effects have already been clinically tested and widely studied in humans (Segers & Lebeer, 2014).

Tatiana working in the laboratory of the Functional Foods Forum, University of Turku.

My research project proposes to develop a novel fermented product based on kiwicha and with the help of a fruit native to the Peruvian Andes, gooseberry (or golden berry or physalis), to improve the acceptability of the product among the population. It is interesting to test the viability of the probiotics against the nectar of the fruit. Due to its bioactive components the fruit is considered to be a natural functional food (Olivares et al., 2016).

Samples of kiwicha fermented with lactic acid bacteria and nectar samples of gooseberry (or golden berry or physalis).

Kiwicha and gooseberry are foods typical and native to Peru and have been consumed since Pre-Inca and Inca eras. This research is about evaluating the viability of a fermented product that is nutritious, healthy (presence of probiotics) and acceptable to the consumer. It also allows to revalue these crops and provide added value through its functional feature.

My experience in Turku, Finland, is a great support in my professional training and for my country, not only in the academic and research side, but also seeing the solidarity towards Latin America. Future actions to implement social programs to support for the most vulnerable and low income children through the presentation of this nutritious and healthy food is an option that could be developed on a broader level.


PhD Candidate in Food Sciences, UNALM, Peru