Quinoa Is Related To Fat Hen, Chenopdium album, A Common UK Weed. So Growing It Here Is Possible. Here Are More Details On Growing Quinoa.

In fact I’ve seen quinoa, Chenopodium quinoa, being cultivated as an arable crop near me.  There were acres of it.

Quinoa growing on a Devon farm
Quinoa growing on a Devon farm

The leaves looked a bit like fat hen but the heads were much bigger. The plant was quite compact, only about a metre high, though I understand some varieties grow to double that size.

And this crop was quite variable, but we have had some strange weather and the crop was growing on a very sandy soil. This may well have affected growth.

How to Grow Quinoa

Some gardeners advocate growing quinoa in modules and transplanting it when ready from an April sowing. They Say it is easy to grow.

Farmers sow it direct in April – May and say it is a hard crop to grow if a good yield is to be produced. And that is the difference. Whereas gardeners may be happy with a modest yield, famers need s good yield to make it worthwhile.

The seed is quick to germinate in good conditions but only really starts to grow away once it is warmer. Weeds tend to grow faster than quinoa if the conditions are poor so weeding is necessary. Farmers use mechanical weeding rather than herbicides. And in the garden a hoe is often needed unless you are growing by No Dig.

Quinoa & The Saponin Problem

One of the problems with this plant is that it tastes awful unless processed correctly. In fact, worse than being bitter the saponins can be toxic!

The traditional way this was overcome in South America was to soak the seed in cold water. This removed the toxin but poisoned the water which isn’t great for the environment. Another way to remove the saponins is to scarify the seed coat and remove it. But the seed coat contains many vitamins which we don’t want to lose. In the USA they still try to remove the saponins by mechanical and physical means.

The UK answer has been too select varieties with naturally low or absent saponins. And that is what makes UK produced quinoa a better bet than imported varieties. Plus food miles are reduced.

Is Quinoa a Superfood?

Superfood advocates say quinoa is a superfood and full of nutrients. It’s certainly getting more popular in certain quarters and I wonder if that is because of the claims made about it.

Some of the claims need to be considered with great care. For example one website claims quinoa contains 8 grams of protein. But if you look at the small print that is in a cupful which they say is 185 grams. So the protein percentage isn’t 8%. It’s much lower at between 4.5- 6.3% depending on the source being quoted.

Quinoa is a pseudocereal  so let’s compare it with cereals. Barley is around 12% protein, wheat around 10%, rye around 9% and maize around 8-11%. That makes quinoa low in protein.

But is not just about protein. It also contains an array of other nutrients. But when I check out the quantities I’m not convinced any makes it a “super” food.

There are more unusual fruit, veg and cereals via this link.

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