Name: quinoa, Chenopodium quinoa.
Height: up to 1.2m; requires staking.
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.
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.
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.
Quinoa is grown from seed sown in spring, after the likelihood of frost has passed.
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.
Quinoa is relatively pest and disease free due to the bitter coating protecting the seed.
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.
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