Can you Grow Quinoa plants from the seed in the grocery store?
I set out today to answer this question – Can you grow quinoa from seed in the grocery store? I’m using the seed from a 4 pound bag of washed quinoa that I purchased at Costco. We’ve been eating so much quinoa and I want to know if the seed I have is viable for planting. I would love to have more of this wonderful grain in my food storage and be more self-reliant.
There are similarities between quinoa and amaranth seed. Quinoa, however, is a cool weather crop and amaranth is a warm weather one. Salt Spring Seeds has information about quinoa growing conditions, planting times, harvesting and threshing.
“Quinoa and amaranth are two very old, high-protein plants that hail from South America. They were held sacred in ancient Inca and Aztec cultures. Both now hold great potential for self-sustaining gardens in the northern hemisphere. They grow as easily as their weedy relatives (pigweed or lamb’s-quarters) and the quality of food they offer far surpasses that of our common grains. Traditional hand-harvesting methods can obtain bounteous harvests.”
Quinoa grown in average garden soil will be four-feet to six-feet tall, while those grown in rich soil or compost may reach over eight feet. It responds best to a well-drained loam soil, but will do well in all but compacted clay soils.
Quinoa grows best where maximum temperatures do not exceed 90°F (32°C) and nighttime temperatures are cool. For most southern Canadian and northern U.S. sites, the best time to plant quinoa is late April to late May. When soil temperatures are around 60°F (15°C) seedlings emerge within three to four days. However, when quinoa seeds are planted in soil with night-time temperatures much above that, quinoa, like spinach, may not germinate. In this instance, it’s best to refrigerate seeds before planting.
You need to grow about 10 plants to make one pound of quinoa seed, so I decided to experiment with the seed by doing this simple seed proofing test.
The Seed Sprouting Technique:
- // Get a paper towel and fold it in fourths
- // Wet the paper towel without wringing it out
- // Place 10 seeds in the middle of the wet paper towel
- // Cover the seed and place it in a Ziploc bag for the number of days your seed packet says it will take to sprout. Quinoa is supposed to sprout in 2-4 days.
- // You have just created a mini greenhouse
Grow Quinoa – the Seed Sprouting Results:
After two days, all 10 seeds from my paper towel package have sprouted. Now I know the supermarket seed is viable and will grow. I placed them in my new favorite way to sprout seeds, a milk jug greenhouse, for further growing.
YES! You can grow Quinoa
You can grow quinoa seed from the grocery store – as long as you use unwashed or prewashed seed – but NOT POLISHED seed.
Treat it like any regular seed you might purchase. Start your seed indoors 3-4 weeks before last frost. Plant it to a depth equal to the size of the seed, cover it with good soil and sufficient water.
I will follow these growing directions from eHow (for planting outside) once they are big enough to transplant outside – Thin the quinoa so there is one plant every 16 to 18 inches in each row. Water the quinoa when the plants show two or three leaves, irrigating just until the soil is moist. Quinoa is drought-resistant and only requires 10 inches of water each growing season. Harvest the quinoa once the leaves have fallen off, exposing the dried seed head. Strip the seeds off the stalk by pulling up on the head with a gloved hand.
It remains to be seen if my little plants will flower and set seed here in the Pacific Northwest. Quinoa is slow growing and matures in 90-120 days. Since it is a cool weather crop (and I definitely have cool weather), I’m going to experiment more with early planting. I will keep you updated on the progress.
Happy quinoa planting!
Further reading: Recently, it has been declared that 2013 is the International Year of Quinoa. There is some controversy about eating Quinoa, in that it has become so popular that the farmers growing it cannot afford to eat it.
PS -This seed proofing test also works well on old seed. By planting 10 seeds you can see the percentage of germination. If 9 germinate, 90%, if 4 germinate 40% -easy peasy!