View Full Version : Quinoa ???

January 5th, 2008, 10:32 PM
OK, I'm trying to determine if it would be practical to try to grow my own quinoa. I planted some about 10 or 12 years ago, just to see how it would do as an ornamental, and it grew well and was quite attractive, but birds stripped it pretty badly.

I have since come to learn to really like the grain as a rice alternative. I was just wondering if it would actually be worthwhile to try to grow a small patch of it -- what kind of yield do you actually get per plant or stalk -- a couple of tablespoons or so.

If I planted a packet or two, would I end up with enough to feel it was worth it -- like say maybe a gallon of seeds?

January 6th, 2008, 10:49 AM
When you grew it a decade ago, did it keep the birds from your other plants?

January 6th, 2008, 05:38 PM
No, we have more birds than plants!

If I grow it again, I'll have to cover it with row cover as it approaches maturity.

January 10th, 2008, 02:36 PM
I was under the impression that harvest was much more than a couple of tablespoons. More along the line of 1-2 cups. (per plant)

Which zone are you in? They do best with less than 12" of water in a season and temps that don't get above 90.

January 10th, 2008, 09:25 PM
I've grown Quinoa. It's basically Lamb Quarters on steroids. I didn't think it was pretty, it wasn't bad looking, but it didn't rock me. It does make a LOT of seeds. It's native to the Andes so you know its seeds will survive winter and reseed in spring. It's a reseeding nightmare. If you have a wild habitat area you might be able to grow it there, but in a garden where you don't want next years weeds to happen extensively, you don't want this plant. I will never grow this again.

January 10th, 2008, 09:26 PM
I'm in 5b/6a, right on the borderline, in SE Michigan. We usually only have a handful of days most summers above 90, although it can really vary -- our summers can be really cool, really hot, or anywhere in between. Same with moisture -- it can be really wet, really dry, or anything in between. When I grew the quinoa years ago, it seemd to thrive -- got about 6 feet tall, and had large, colorful heads before the birds got to them. It is, after all, just a pigweed.

I'm probably rethinking this, and am going to order three or four varieties of seeds, after stoping by the grocery store last night for some couscous, and seeing how expensive quinoa has gotten.

January 10th, 2008, 09:36 PM
Well, I stopped by the grocery store last night for some couscous, and based upon the price of quinoa at the store, I'm definitely growing three or four varieties this summer.

As far as my weather, I'm in 6A SE Michigan -- we usually only have 8 or 10 days above 90 most summers, although the technical average is something like 20. Our years go one of two ways == summers can be cool and pleasant, or hot and muggy, depending upon where the northern branch of the jet stream parks itself for the summer, down over Ohion and Kentucky, or up north of Lake Superior. I'd say that 2 out of 3 years follow the cool and pleasant model, with only short periods of hot, humid weather before polar fronts bring relief in the form of storms followed by cool, clean Canadian airmasses.

As far as water goes, unfortunately, I'm in a "rain shadow" area dto an elevated band of terminal moraines (old, ancient hills of sand and rock deposited by the glaciers on the shores of the "unified" great lake of 15,000 years ago) which divert storms on a northerly or southerly storm track, and I tend to get much less summer rainfall than counties to the north and south of me. However, I have a really good well and lots of sprinklers, so its not a problem.

January 11th, 2008, 12:44 AM

I was thinking of growing it myself this year. I have not grown it before and was not sure if it is an envasive type plant. I think I read somewhere that it could be. With your experience in growing this, would you suggest growing it in large pots or half barrels? or would this be a no no? Any information you have would be helpful.


January 11th, 2008, 04:25 PM
growing it in tubs isn't going to stop the seed from blowing or the birds from spreading it. Just something to keep in mind. :)

January 11th, 2008, 04:46 PM
When I grew it that one season, none seemed to come up the next year, but the birds stripped it really bad -- I take it they really liked it, and also, my garden is covered in -- gasp, shock, I know it's bad, makes us all hostages to OPEC -- black plastic.

January 11th, 2008, 06:35 PM
I think this is an interesting plant, may try to grow it myself. This is from the Bountiful Gardens catalog I just recieved.

"A beautiful, very hardy, high-yielding ancient Andean staple grain. This grain is a contender for most complete food of all. Grows 4-6' high with many arrow-shaped leaves used like spinach. The 3-6 oz. seedhead is made up of tiny round seeds which are cooked as a grain, ground into a meal, in soups, boiled like rice, etc. Beautiful autumnal color. CAUTION: Quinoa seed has a natural soapy coating (saponin) that must be washed off before cooking or eating. (Instructions included with seed.) Our seed grower uses the rinse water as a "pretty good laundry soap". Talk about a useful plant!

January 11th, 2008, 07:29 PM
So how expensive is it to purchase and how much can you expect off a plant. Just wondering. I was thinking of suggesting plastic to control the moisture level. It will also keep off too much water if it rains hard. the soil can still remain a bit dry if that is needed especially toward the end.

I might expect it not to be invasive in cold areas like Michigan but it might be invasive in cool areas like california or even Oregon or Wash where it does not get real cold. One way to test it out is to put out seed in the winter and see if it sprouts in the spring through the coldest part of the winter. It might be a little late for that now.

January 11th, 2008, 07:37 PM
from wikipidia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa

In its natural state quinoa has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. Some have speculated this bitter coating may have caused the Europeans who first encountered quinoa to reject it as a food source, since they adopted other indigenous food plants of the Americas like maize and potatoes. However, this bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and thus requires minimal protection. There have been attempts to lower the saponin content of quinoa through selective breeding in order to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties. However, when new varieties were introduced by agronomists to native growers in the high plateau, they were rejected after just one season. Growers returned to their traditional high saponin varieties: despite the newer varieties 'magnificent' yields, birds had consumed the entire crop.

The saponins in quinoa can be mildly toxic, as can be the oxalic acid in the leaves of all the chenopodium family. However, the risks associated with quinoa are minimal, provided it is properly prepared and leaves are not eaten to excess.

Caution should be exercised in collecting this weed, however, because when growing in heavily fertilized agricultural fields it can accumulate dangerously high concentrations of nitrates.

The first step in preparing quinoa is to remove the saponins, a process that requires soaking the grain in water for a few hours, then changing the water and resoaking again, or rinsing it in ample running water either in a fine strainer or in cheesecloth. Boxed quinoa typically has been pre-rinsed for convenience.

January 11th, 2008, 07:55 PM
Actually, it wasn't my experience that the grain was unpopular with birds, because they stripped my patch with as much vigor as they go after sunflowers. It was pretty much the same crowd, too, goldfinches, chickadees, and sparrows. I've noticed in some of the catalogs, like Seeds of Change, that some of the varieties are said to be very low or even no-saponin, so they don't require all of the elaborate preparation. Probably this is why the birds got into mine.

As far as how expensive -- the varieties S of C offers are all something like $2.75 a package, for I believe 300 or 400 seeds, so it's not really expensive.

I think mine didn't reseed because I grew it on black plastic, which made it really easy for the sparrows to find the seeds which the other birds tossed to the ground.

January 12th, 2008, 06:21 PM
After reading this thread, I plan to sew bags of row cover fabric and tie it around the blossom heads when full bloom is just starting to fade, assuming the bees have had plenty of time to pollinate. Then the seeds will be protected from birds and they will all be caught in the bag. When I feel that seeds have fallen inside the bag, I will cut the stalk and hang the bag in the shed to finish drying.

Don't forget to wash the saponin off of your seeds and let them dry before cooking, unless you've learned to love the taste of soap! LOL

January 14th, 2008, 03:11 PM
CAUTION: Quinoa seed has a natural soapy coating (saponin) that must be washed off before cooking or eating. (Instructions included with seed.) Our seed grower uses the rinse water as a "pretty good laundry soap". Talk about a useful plant!


I wonder if this soapy rinse water might work as an insect repellent/killer.

I think I'll try it in the garden this year.

January 14th, 2008, 04:04 PM
Now does it store well after washing and soaking it? Should it be done the day you plan to use it?

January 15th, 2008, 05:16 PM
If I was to hazard a guess, it would store quite well without the saponins, as long as it was kept cool and dry like other stored grains.

March 13th, 2008, 07:55 PM
I live in SW Missouri and I've ordered some of the seeds to try out. Has anyone tried growing this in the general vicinity? The land I'm working with is basically big hills leading into deep ravines, so waterlogging won't be a problem...nothing flat here.
(I'm at 1280 feet above sea level I think.)

March 13th, 2008, 08:23 PM
what the heck is quinoa? smile I must be missing out on something. can't have that.

March 13th, 2008, 09:43 PM
I tried growing amaranth once - another of the powerhouse grains which has similar growing requirements - but didn't get it in the ground early enough to harvest a crop of seeds (the leaves are edible too though) - so make sure you plant as soon as you can after your last frost date. Also, don't do as I did & put the plants in the compost - if there are any viable seeds on the plant they will be popping up everywhere you spread your compost!

This is from Salt Spring Seed wesbite - I know they no longer ship to the USA, but their website can be useful:

"Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)

Quinoa ("keen-wa") has been cultivated for at least 5000 years. It will germinate in fairly cool conditions and prefers light, well-drained soil. It looks like lambs-quarters and has nutritious flavourful greens. By midsummer, a large seedhead develops, loaded with millet-like seeds. In dry autumns, seeds can be harvested after the leaves have dried and fallen by simply stripping them from the stalk between thumb and forefinger.

Quinoa is 15-16% protein and is high in E and B vitamins, calcium, iron and phosphorous. It is easy to digest and has a delicious flavour. It must be thoroughly rinsed before cooking and is then prepared like rice. (Less rinsing is required if mixed with other grains.) Simmer it for 15 minutes in an equal volume of water.

Quinoa can cross with its weedy relatives, so it's best to weed out the much more branching lambs-quarters if you wish to save seed for next year. "

The bit about crossing with lamb's quarters alarms me 'cos that grows rampantly all over here - so I checked Suzanne Ashworth's book, Seed to Seed, and learned that quinoa has perfect flowers - ie male & female parts within the same flower. So...I think I would be inclined to put Remay baggies over the flower heads earlier rather than later, shaking them once in a while to ensure pollination. This would hopefully prevent cross-pollination with the lamb's quarters by insects or wind . . . I think.:rolleyes:

March 14th, 2008, 11:36 AM
what the heck is quinoa? smile I must be missing out on something. can't have that.

It's the grain/seed of a South American goosefoot weed/plant. Most any supermarket has it now, usually where they keep the rice. Looks a lot like couscous or millet -- a round beige/tan seed. It is boiled and used just like rice or couscous. Not a whole lot of flavor, sort of neutral. Very high in protein for a grain.

You've gotta try it! Just gotta!

March 14th, 2008, 02:53 PM
I agree and its easy to cook. 15 minutes opposed to 50 minutes for brown rice. And its yummy!

March 14th, 2008, 09:59 PM
Next time I go in, I'll get some and try it thanks, I use instant brown rice.

April 9th, 2010, 04:20 PM
How did the Quinoa trial go for you?

Sister Fearless
April 9th, 2010, 06:14 PM
Man I wish I could grow it here....we got the right temps but get 90 inches of rain a year and up to 200 inches of rain......we are moldy....rusty and water logged here on the Oregon Coast. Plus very very windy almost all the time. Not great for grains of any kind:(

April 9th, 2010, 06:34 PM
What if any "unwanted" volunteer seedlings were themselves harvested? Lamb's Q. makes very good greens, has anyone tried Quinoa sprouts or greens?