This was the third consecutive year that we've tried to grow quinoa, and we finally had a good crop. Two summers ago we planted Quinoa and Amaranth seed that we brought with us from California. We had intended to grow both in our backyard garden there, but never did. The amaranth did great here, but the none of the quinoa seed germinated. Last year we bought some new seed and tried it again. A lot of it germinated, but the sprouts were pretty much all washed away in heavy June rain. This year we started our quinoa seeds in flats in the greenhouse and transplanted the seedlings later. A lot of the literature we saw recommended that quinoa be direct seeded, that it didn't transplant well, whereas amaranth was ok to direct seed or transplant. We figured we'd give the transplanting a try, and if it didn't work, we could still direct seed. Turns out we didn't need to direct seed; the transplants did very well, thank you very much. Carol and I both enjoy quinoa, and we are happy that it did well. Quinoa and amaranth are similar crops, both native to the New World. Quinoa likes cooler weather, as it was cultivated by the Incas in the Andes. Amaranth likes warmer weather, since it was cultivated by American Indians in the desert southwest. Although both are treated as grains by the food world, neither is a true grain, which is the seed of a grass. Both plants are broad-leafed, and the seeds are like little round berries. Quinoa seeds are larger than amaranth, and I suspect that's one reason why it is sold in stores, but amaranth isn't. Because it is not a grain, quinoa is gluten-free. Even better, it is one of the few foods that has complete protein, ie. it contains every essential amino acid the human body requires. That's why it's sometimes called a "miracle food". And best of all, it tastes great.
Quinoa plants don't require much care. Just plant it and keep it weeded until time for harvesting. The literature said that we could expect around a pound of seed from every ten plants. We grew 78 plants in a double row about 40' long, spaced at 12". We harvested 7.8 lbs. of seed, so we were right on the norm. We haven't invested in any threshing or winnowing equipment yet, because we wanted to make sure we could grow it successfully. But now that we proved that we can, we're thinking of eventually expanding our quinoa crop, so we might have to get some time-saving equipment.
It is important to wash the seeds before cooking, to remove the hulls, which contain saponins and taste bitter.
Even though we've been enjoying store-bought quinoa for quite a while, we think our home-grown is even tastier. If you've never tried it, here is our favorite recipe of Carol's and a few photos of our crop. Steve
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
1 cup Quinoa
1-1 1/4 cups Water or Broth
2-3 stalks Celery finely chopped
3/4 cup julienne cut Sundried Tomatoes in herbs & oil
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian Parsley chopped
1/4 cup green onion or sweet onion finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/8 tsp Crushed Red Pepper (optional if you like spicy)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4-1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Wash, rinse and cook quinoa. Bring liquid to a boil, add quinoa, stir. Once liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot and cook 15-20 mins. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 mins.
While the quinoa is cooking, combine remaining ingredients in separate bowl so flavors will meld. Allow quinoa to cool to room temperature before combining with the prepared ingredients. Serve either at room temperature or chill first before serving.
You can add any of your favorite fresh vegetables. Get creative!