Quinoa is an incredibly healthy food that has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past few years. However, did you know that it's actually a seed and not a grain? With this knowledge, you might wonder if you can grow it from store-bought seeds. Well, you're in luck! We've researched and assembled a guide to help you on your quinoa-growing journey.
You can grow quinoa from seeds purchased at the grocery store as long as they are unwashed, pre-washed, or unpolished. Plus, the leaves can be used in sandwiches or salads!
Just follow these steps:
- In early to mid-spring, plant the seeds in containers or directly into the ground.
- When the seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin them until there is one plant every 16 to 18 inches.
- Water lightly once a week.
- After the leaves fall off, harvest the seeds.
- Remove chaff, dry the seeds, and rinse before cooking to prepare them for consumption.
Quinoa is an easy-to-grow plant with tremendous health benefits. In the rest of this article, we'll share the best tips for growing it successfully, along with other interesting facts about the plant. So, let's get started!
What You Will Need
- Bag of unwashed, pre-washed, or unpolished quinoa
- Watering can
- Two large bowls
- Air-tight storage containers
- Small growing containers
- Potting soil
- Grow lamp
- Sheet or tarp
- Large paper bag
- Non-oscillating fan
How To Grow Quinoa From Store Bought Seeds
Plant Your Seeds
Quinoa does not do well in the cold, so it's important to wait to plant until after the last frost. Depending on where you live, this usually falls in early to mid-spring. However, it could be as late as mid-May to early June in colder climates.
To ensure germination, the ground should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You'll also want to choose an area of your garden with full sunlight.
To plant your quinoa, make a narrow trench in the ground and sprinkle the seeds inside. Add just enough dirt to lightly cover them. Water often enough to keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout.
Alternatively, you can start your seeds indoors three or four weeks before the last frost. Plant them in small containers, using the manner described above. If necessary, you can use a grow lamp to ensure the soil's temperature stays above 60 degrees.
Thin the Seedlings
When your seedlings reach a height of 4 inches, it's time to thin them. Pull out the smaller, weaker seedlings, leaving only the strongest. Since your quinoa plants will develop full branches and leaves when they reach maturity, maintain a space of about 16 to 18 inches apart.
If you planted your seeds indoors, you can transplant them outside when they reach this height. To transplant, dig a small hole about 2 inches deep in your garden.
Gently loosen the soil around your quinoa seedling, leaving some dirt clinging to its roots, and place it in the hole. Cover the roots with more soil and pat it down firmly.
Quinoa, which comes from the Andean region of South America, is a drought-resistant plant that only needs about 10 inches of water each growing season.
This means that after your seeds have sprouted, you'll want to reduce your plants' water intake significantly. Let the top 2 inches of soil dry completely between watering to avoid water-logging your quinoa plants.
Harvest the Seeds
When your quinoa plant loses its leaves in early autumn, you'll know that it's time to harvest the seeds. You can also check by grasping one of the seed heads and giving it a little shake.
If the seeds fall out easily, they're ready to be harvested. Keep an eye on the weather, as you'll need to harvest the seeds while the weather is still dry.
If the weather permits you to take your time, you can go outside with a bucket and harvest the seeds directly from the plant. To do this, set your bucket under the quinoa plant and grasp the stalk firmly between your fingers just below the seed head.
Use the fingers of your other hand to sweep along the seed head toward the stalk, dislodging the seeds into the bucket. This is also a good method if you have just a few plants to harvest.
However, if rain is approaching quickly, speed up the process by cutting the stalks about 6 inches below the seed head and bringing them indoors.
Use string to tie the seed heads together in bundles of ten to twelve. Hang them in a dimly-lit, well-ventilated room over a sheet or tarp spread on the ground to catch stray seeds.
When the seed heads are completely dry, you can remove the seeds. Either use the method described above or put the seed heads in a paper bag and shake it until all of the seeds have been dislodged from the heads.
Remove Chaff, Dry, and Rinse Seeds
Finally, remove the chaff by going outside and pouring the seeds back and forth between two large bowls, allowing the lighter-weight chaff to float away in the wind.
You can also do this indoors by doing this process in front of a large non-oscillating fan. Just make sure to keep the door closed so your house doesn't fill up with chaff!
After the chaff has been completely removed, you'll need to let the seeds dry completely. This is an important step because if you store seeds that still contain moisture, they could mold in the storage container.
To dry the seeds, spread them out on a tray or other flat surface and place them outside in the sun, near a sunny window, or close to a heater. When they've dried completely, it's safe to pour them into an airtight container for storage.
Your last step to prep your quinoa for eating is to rinse the seeds. Quinoa seeds are coated in a bitter-tasting substance called saponin.
This protects them from birds and other animals who might want to steal the seeds, but your quinoa won't taste very good if you cook it with saponin still coating the seeds. So, before cooking, simply rinse the seeds several times under cool, running water.
Can Store Bought Quinoa Be Sprouted?
Another way to use your store-bought quinoa is growing quinoa sprouts. Sprouts give you all the health benefits of quinoa seeds [which we'll explain later in this article!] but even more highly concentrated since you're consuming them during the germination stage.
Plus, sprouts contain chlorophyll in their leaves, which contains antioxidants and other helpful nutrients.
To sprout quinoa, follow these steps:
- Pour the quinoa into a large bowl and rinse it to remove saponin and any lingering chaff or dust.
- Cover the quinoa with water and let it soak for an hour.
- Drain the water, rinse the quinoa again, and then pour it into a sprouting jar. Place the jar upside down in a bracket over a plate or drip tray.
- Approximately every six hours, rinse the quinoa with fresh water, pour it out, and put it back on the bracket. It's okay if you don't do this precisely every six hours or if you let it sit a little longer overnight.
- Sprouts should start appearing after about 24 hours. You can harvest them at this point or let them grow for another day or two for softer sprouts. Continue rinsing every six hours or so.
- When the sprouts have reached a size you're happy with, pour them gently onto a plate and cover them with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Let them dry completely.
- To store, put the sprouts in an airtight glass container or sealed plastic. They'll stay fresh in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
What Are The Health Benefits of Quinoa?
Quinoa is an incredibly popular health food, and for good reason. One of its most interesting qualities is that unlike most other plant-based proteins, it's a complete protein.
This means that it provides all nine amino acids your body needs to build and maintain skin, internal organs, and more but cannot produce on its own.
For this reason, it's a very popular choice for vegetarian and vegan diets. And with 4 g of protein in one 1/2 cup of quinoa, it's a great protein source for anyone.
In addition to being an impressive source of protein, quinoa also contains nutrients like iron, folate, thiamine, zinc, and more.
Plus, it's a great source of fiber, which fights constipation, helps you feel full for a longer time, and lowers the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.
Quinoa is easy to grow from store bought seeds if you follow these steps:
- Plant seeds after the last frost.
- Thin 4 inch tall seedlings to 16 to 18 inches apart.
- Water lightly.
- Harvest seeds after the leaves fall off.
Growing quinoa is worthwhile because it provides a phenomenal source of necessary nutrients. Plus, you can sprout quinoa for even more ways to add it to your diet.
Before you go, check out these articles about growing other plants from store bought seeds: