This is an old post I did on growing quinoa a few years back and never put up. (pic is not mine)
The quinoa growing experiment
This past spring we decided we were going to attempt to grow some of our own grains in our attempt to become as self sustaining as possible. One of the grains we chose to grow is called QUINOA or the mother of all grains.For ease in explanation here is a pretty good link describing it. It sone of the best grains available and is super high in protein content (20% or there abouts). It also has all your amino acids in it and very little is needed to be a very nutritious grain for you.
My own observations
It was very simple to grow, simply plant and let it go. It withstood both heavy rains as well as dry to drought conditions very well until just before it should have been harvested. The weight on the seed heads did cause it to snap off just before harvest time. I am assuming that part of the breakage was because we planted in rows and it wasn't dense enough to keep it standing .
The plant itself it beautiful, when it is nearing maturity it changes color much like hardwood trees do. There are shades of yellow, reds and oranges in the leaves then they begin to fall off. The quinoa we planted had seed heads that were rainbow colored as well, making the plants even more pretty.
Plants were ready to harvest here in about 4 months time. I direct seeded just after the last frost and harvested the second or third week of august. I simply went out and cut the stalks off then laid them out to dry or hung them to finish drying. Then I rubbed the seed heads between my hands onto a large sheet. Once this was done i harrowed it in front of a fan to get the chaff and junk from the actual seed. This is a bit tedious and boring... OK, it is a lot tedious and boring, but a good job for a useless eater. I then let them finish drying and tossed them into a storage container.
The biggest problem I have had with the quinoa is removing the saponins from the outside of the seeds themselves. The saponins are also what make it a good plant since birds and other animals will not touch the seeds. Removing the saponins is very important before cooking , they can make you very ill or kill you if you ingest too much of them. To remove the outer coating, books will tell you to soak for 12 hours before cooking. I did this and it didn't work . I since have figured out that in order to eat the final product, you need to think about it 3 days in advance of when you plan on eating it and soak them in water for all three days. Change the water out several times a day and mix the grains around in it while doing this. The water may bubble some , much like soap does and it will be a greyish color when you change out the water. When the water runs clear and no more bubbles it should be ready for cooking. A different approach is to soak it for a day or two before cooking, Place it in water boil for one minute, change the water boil another minute and then cook.
It is a rather odd little grain, has a different consistency to it and takes a bit of getting used to . There are a few ways to cook it other than boiling like rice. Some roast it and "pop" it and make something resembling popcorn balls. It has a slightly nutty flavor to it when done this way. It is often seen in vegan and veggie dishes and there are a few cold salads that it can be used in... It can also be sprouted and used as a sprout.
Overall, it is not bad to grow, harvest, or cook. Its pretty and can be grown in some pretty rotten soil and conditions. As a survival food it would be good to grow in a garden or in a guerrilla fashion. It will reseed itself and grow again the next year. One other thing I did notice was that it will begin to sprout in the field when the seed heads are ready and a big rain comes so it is important to get it out of the weather when it is ready for harvest. I lost a few plants of it this season by not realizing just how easy it goes to reproducing..
I forgot to mention that we planted only one small pack of seeds this spring in ground that had only been tilled in order to plant grains. In total i had about an 80 row of quinoa (was actually four 20 foot rows). No fertilizers or nutrients of any kind were used so the soil base is hard chunky clay for the most part . When all was said and done i got about 4 pounds of quinoa for cooking purposes or two quart jars which for us would be about 8 meals as a side dish. All total time spent between harvesting n harrowing was about 3 hours in addition to the time spent tilling, planting and weeding once.
We are thinking next year of just scattering some seed in an area using the broadcast method and seeing how this turns out rather than using tilled garden space for this grain...
We have since been growing quinoa in non garden areas and it seems to do quite well that way. I just leave a few plants to do the reseeding for me and it comes back year after year.