Quinoa Quick Facts and Tips

What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family, but is closely related to spinach. Quinoa is a member of the goosefoot family, an annual herb.

Is Quinoa gluten-free?

Can I eat the leaves?
Yes! The leaves have a wonderful nutty flavor. Pick some of the young leaves and either steam them (steaming instead of boiling maintains more of the nutritional value) or add them raw to a salad. The leaves can also be juiced (for example, with carrots) for an invigorating drink.

Health Benefits
Leaves: excellent source of vitamins A and B9 and antioxidants such as lutein carotene, crypto-xanthin and zea-xanthin.

Grains: very good source of B-complex vitamins, vitamin E and an excellent source of minerals – iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese and magnesium.

Growing Quinoa
Plant in well drained soil, in a sunny location. If planted in soil rich in nitrogen and phosphorous, the plants may reach over 8 feet tall. Average garden soil will produce plants 4-6 feet tall.

Quinoa is a cool weather crop that can be planted from late April to late May. It grows best when the maximum day temperature does not exceed 90 degrees and night-time temperatures are cool.

Plants are extremely drought-tolerant, so don’t over water.

Plant Yields
About 1 pound of grain for every 10 plants, but yield will depend on the growing conditions.

Harvesting Quinoa Leaves
Leaves can be picked off to eat raw or steamed.

Harvesting Quinoa Seed

  • When to harvest: Quinoa is ready to harvest when the leaves have fallen off, leaving just the dried seedheads. Quinoa resists light frosts, especially when the soil is dry, so long as the maturing seed is past the green stage, it can still be harvested. Seed heads should be very dry when harvesting. You’ll know they’re prime when you can barely indent the seeds with your thumbnail.
  • How to harvest: Using a gloved hand, strip the seeds upwards off the stalk. Or bend the stalks over a bucket and shake the flower heads. Mature seeds will fall off easily, immature ones can be harvested another day.
  • Cleaning Quinoa: Clean quinoa with screens, by winnowing (agricultural method developed by ancient cultures for separating grain from chaff) with a fan to clean out small pieces of leaves or dirt. Pour the seeds from one container down to another; the breeze blows the lighter pieces away, leaving the seeds as it falls. Dry thoroughly before storing. It can be left on trays in the hot sun or placed near an indoor heat source. Stir occasionally until the seeds are as dry as possible (to prevent mildewing). Store seed in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
  • Threshing: Although there are no hulls to remove, quinoa is covered with a bitter substance called saponin (why birds and deer don’t eat it) which should be thoroughly rinsed off before cooking.
  • Put the grain in a blender with cool water at lowest speed, until the water is no longer soapy looking or frothy. This may take about five changes of water.
  • Less rinsing: The saponin taste will be less noticeable if mixed with other grains, but do rinse at least a little to reduce the bitterness

Storing Quinoa

Let the seed completely dry before storing

Store whole quinoa in a tight container in a cool, dark location. Should last at least 6 months.

Sources: Wikipedia, Salt Spring Seeds, Backyard Gardener

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