Every year I choose something new to plant in my garden. This year I am growing quinoa (keen’ wah). Quinoa is a cool weather crop and grows best in northern U.S and most of southern Canadian sites. Amaranth is the warm weather crop. Both quinoa and amaranth are high protein plants that come from South America. Both of these plants grow very easily and the quality of food they offer far surpasses that of our common grain. Quinoa and amaranth are grains, but they have broad leaves which is unlike most grains which are considered grasses. Their leaves are one of the most nutritious vegetable greens, but it is their fruit that offer the high protein grain.
Both quinoa and amaranth are disease free and drought tolerable plants. They like rich soil that drains well, but both of them will thrive in dry conditions once they are established. Most amaranth and quinoa grow 4 to 8 feet high. If planting in a raised bed, you can plant 4 plants per square foot. Quinoa grows best where temperatures do not exceed 90°F. When soil temperatures reach 60°F, then it is time to plant them. It is best to refrigerate quinoa seeds before planting. Amaranth is a warm season crop. It is best to plant them when soil temperatures range between 65°F-75°F. Both amaranth and quinoa are slow getting started, but once they reach a foot tall, they take off and grow very rapidly.
Quinoa is ready to harvest when the leaves have fallen leaving just the dried seedheads. Amaranth keeps on flowering until your first hard frost. The best way to see if they are ready for harvest is to gently shake the flower head and see if the seeds fall out. If they do, then they are ready for harvest. I will show you in a later segment how to harvest them.
Once you harvest your seeds, you want to clean them with screens and a blowing device (a fan), not with water. It is very important to dry your harvest for several days to ensure it won’t get moldy when storing. It can be left on trays in the hot sun or by an indoor heat source. Stir occasionally until it is as dry as possible. Store in an air tight container in a cool dry place.
For a recipe using quinoa or amaranth click here.