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Green quinoa plants against a blue sky
Most people are familiar with the dried quinoa that’s available in supermarkets and whole-food stores, but there’s more to this superfood than meets the eye. Popular with those seeking a gluten-free alternative, quinoa is easy to grow, and a few plants go a long way.

 

What you need to know about quinoa

Name: quinoa, Chenopodium quinoa.

Height: up to 1.2m; requires staking.

Foliage: annual.

Climate: prefers cold, warm, arid and semi-arid climates with cool night temperatures. Refrigerate seed overnight to improve germination. 

Soil: prefers a well-drained soil enriched with decomposed manure and compost.

Position: full sun.

Flowering and fruiting: flowers and sets seed in 12–14 weeks from sowing in spring.

Feeding: not required.

Watering: water regularly until germination. Drought-resistant once established.

Appearance and characteristics of quinoa

Unlike most cereal crops, quinoa is easy to grow at home, and you only need a couple of plants to produce a decent harvest. Related to the weed lamb’s quarter, it is an upright annual that grows to around 1.2m tall and produces a mass of seed at the top of the plant. It is this seed that is harvested as “quinoa”. The leaves are also edible, but only in moderation, as they are high in oxalic acid.

A head of flowering quinoa with seeds 

Uses for quinoa

Quinoa is a popular substitute for rice and flour, as it is gluten free. Always change the water at least once during cooking to remove the bitterness that is part of the seeds’ protective coating.

How to plant and grow quinoa

Quinoa is grown from seed sown in spring, after the likelihood of frost has passed.

  1. Prepare the soil prior to sowing by adding compost and decomposed manure, turning it well to break up any large clods.
  2. Rake and create a row or channel only 1cm deep.
  3. Sow seed and lightly cover with soil. Water well.
  4. Thin seedlings to 30–40cm and stake to help support the seed heads when they develop.
  5. Harvest when the leaves have shed. . 

How to care for quinoa

Water regularly, especially during germination. Additional fertiliser should not be required if planted in an enriched soil, however a treatment with a seaweed solution will help maintain plant vigour over the growing period.

Diseases and pests

Quinoa is relatively pest and disease free due to the bitter coating protecting the seed.

How to harvest and propagate quinoa

Propagation of quinoa is done by seed, even though that’s also the part you want to eat! Follow the steps below to harvest quinoa and save some seed for sowing the next season.

How to harvest quinoa

  1. Wait until the leaves have shed before harvesting.  
  2. Cut the stalks and place them in a bucket or paper bag to dry.  
  3. Strip the seed and remaining leaves from the stems, and sieve to remove unwanted plant material.  
  4. Winnow the seed (blow air over it) to remove fine debris by fanning. 
  5. Leave to dry inside for several weeks prior to storing.  

If you like this then try

Stevia: grow your own sweetener. 

Vanilla: a climbing indoor plant producing delicious vanilla beans.   

Saffron: a crocus bulb that produces one of the world’s most expensive spices.   .

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing.

 

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.