Sunday, 5 October 2014

Why Quinoa's going to be a mainstay on my allotment

It's the second year I've been experimenting with growing Quinoa.

Last year's green house quinoa
Last year, I grew it at Winterbourne Garden's, Urban Veg garden http://urbanvegwhg.wordpress.com/ in the green house and a little bit outside.  To be fair it was planted out very late and the quinoa grown in the green house was better than those grown outside.

Previously, I thought it was heat that helped but after growing it again this year I think it might have been the rich compost in the green house versus the soil outside.

I didn't get a huge crop from last year's attempt, about a jam jar's worth.  I used some of these seeds to grow this year's crop and cooked with the rest.

This year, I've grown some of the quinoa in compost in tomato bags and the majority of the quinoa on my work allotment (about 10 metres away from where I grew it last year!)  They've grown OK in the compost tomato bags but they've grown amazingly well on the allotment - I'm so glad I planted the majority there!  They're well over a metre high and loads of grains on each plant.  It looks like my first proper bumper crop of quinoa.  I love store cupboard food growing in abundance!  They've grown much higher than they did in the green house.  The conditions on my allotment are a very nice loamy soil that I feed with compost each year and a sheltered sunny south facing spot.  Although we did have a great growing season in the UK this summer, I think it's the condition of the soil that has made them shoot up this year.

This year's allotment quinoa
I've started to crop the ones that have fallen over already - they're drying in our outbuilding, but I've yet to crop the majority that is still growing on the allotment plot.

And it's such a versatile thing to use in the kitchen.  You just store the dried seeds in a jar and use a few handfuls when you fancy.  What could be easier?  NB: Just before you use them you must thoroughly rinse them until you don't see soap suds as they contain saponins.  

You do need to get to grips with removing the seeds from the flower heads.  There's some really good instructions on http://www.realseeds.co.uk/grains.html  I work mine out of dried flower heads when I'm watching TV.

Earlier in the season I used some of the leaves in salad and they were delicious as a salad leaf with a few small oca leaves to create a flavour mixture.  They are a very close relation to fat hen, which also grows really easily in our gardens and especially on my allotment - so maybe if the fat hen's found my plot maybe I just have all the right conditions for growing quinoa and I should just not over analyse it!

If you've been inspired to try growing quinoa, my original seeds were Rainbow Quinoa from Real Seeds http://www.realseeds.co.uk/grains.html  I sowed the seeds in trays in early May.  As it was mild enough already, I kept these outside until they were ready to plant in early June.

Are you growing quinoa?
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