Quinoa Nutrition Facts
How to Grow Quinoa

The quinoa you buy from the supermarket can also be grown in your backyard garden. In the Andean region where they have been cultivated for millennia, quinoa is planted in extreme conditions of cold, drought and salty and alkaline soils and survives where very few others can. The quinoa is quite versatile and you can bet that it can thrive in less extreme environments, such as in your backyard.

Most people think that quinoa are grains and grow the same way that wheat and rice do. But actually, quinoa belongs to the grass family. In North America, pigweed and lamb's-quarters are their closes relatives. Yes, weeds! Aside from the seed, the leaves of the plant can also be used to provide a nutritious and delicious fare.

When growing quinoa, it is important to pay attention to the things that it needs to thrive. It requires very little to survive, and once planted, they practically grow themselves. Here are some things you should prepare:

1. Quinoa seeds can be planted in almost any type of soil. Regular garden soil will produce plants that are about 4 to 6 feet tall, while rich soil or compost can see plants of over 8 feet in height. Well draining soil is ideal. Avoid clay soils.

2. Quinoa prefers cool climates. They are best grown in places where the temperature does not exceed 32C or 90F.

3. Plant quinoa in a location where it can receive full sun.

4. Quinoa is best planted in the early spring. Put seeds in a shallow seed tray. Once the seedlings have sprouted, move them to the ground and plant them in rows with 50cm in between seedlings to allow each one enough room to grow.

5. Your quinoa plants will not require a lot of water. In fact if your soil has good moisture retention, you can plant your seeds at the beginning of spring, and water next only when the plant has 2 or 3 leaves. As the plant matures, it will require even less watering. This is because the leaves will have shaded the soil, and cause an even lower rate of evaporation.

6. Initially, your plant will grow slowly, so make sure the soil you plant them on is free from weeds. At this initial stage of slow growth, they can be easily choked by fast growing weeds. But once the crop reaches a height of about 1 foot, it will grow rapidly, and will probably even block the sun out, which should destroy the competition.

The nice thing about quinoa is that the seed itself is coated with saponin, making the seed taste bitter. This deters pests and birds from feeding on them. The leaves may be susceptible to aphids though, and other pests that feed on leaves, like caterpillars.

It takes about 90 to 120 days for the quinoa crop to be ready for harvesting. You'll know when the crop is ready to be harvested when you see the leaves fall, exposing the dried seed heads. At this point, as long as your seed heads are completely dry, you need not worry about frost harming your quinoa. If your quinoa is still green or is still moist, you might consider harvesting them early and then letting them dry to avoid being damaged on the stalk.

It's very easy to harvest quinoa even without any special equipment. An energetic shaking of the stalk should easily release the seeds. Put the seeds in a container and "winnow" it to get rid of dirt and pieces of leaves or stalk. To winnow it, one technique is to pour it from one container to another and simply allowing the wind to blow away and separate the dirt from the seeds.

Before storing the quinoa seeds, you have to make sure it is completely dry. Damp seeds can germinate when stored. Leave the seeds out in the sun for a couple of days and then store them in airtight containers.

Before cooking the quinoa seeds, be sure to rinse them several times until the rinse water is no longer soapy and cloudy. Repeated rinsing removes the saponin, which coats your quinoa and gives it a bitter taste.


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