Can You Grow Quinoa Plants From the Grocery Store Seeds?
Today I set out to answer the following question – can you grow quinoa from seeds available in the grocery store? I’m using the seeds 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.
So where do we start? The first step is to do some calendar planning.
Contrary to what you might think, quinoa is a cold weather crop. This means that the best time to start planting is in March and indoors.
I know my seed will store for at least 8 years and possibly longer if I take the time to keep some as seed and store it properly. As will be discussed later on in this article, quinoa is a great addition to your garden, indoor or outdoor. It is a super healthy seed to add to almost any recipe. Keep scrolling down for some classic and unique takes on how to utilize quinoa in great home cooking.
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.”SaltSpringSeeds.com
The quinoa plant, when grown in average garden soil, will be four-feet to six-feet tall. By contrast, those grown in rich soil or compost may reach over eight feet tall. The plant responds best to a well-drained loam soil, but will do well in all but compacted clay soils.
This means that you’re really not that limited by your location. The price of quinoa has tripled in recent years due to its popularity. And although it tends to be grown in higher altitude and cooler regions, don’t worry if this doesn’t apply to you. You can always grow it indoors.
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. states, 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 nighttime temperatures high 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 in order to yield one pound of quinoa seed. So, I decided to experiment with the seed by doing this simple seed proofing test.
The Seed Sprouting Technique:
- Take a paper towel and fold it into 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.
- Congratulations! You have just created a mini greenhouse.
Use the wet paper towel test to proof your quinoa seed.
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 place for sprouting seeds, a milk jug greenhouse, for further growing.
Take it from me, you can grow quinoa seed the same way!
You can grow quinoa seed from the grocery store – as long as you use unwashed or prewashed seed. However, you cannot use POLISHED seed. That process kills the seed’s chance of developing into a full plant.
Adopt the right mindset first. 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. Be careful not to flood your plant.
I will follow these growing directions from eHow (for planting outside) once they are big enough to transplant outside. Next, thin the quinoa so there is one plant every 16 to 18 inches in each row. Water the quinoa starting 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. This is not much! So, again, go light on the water. 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.
If and when my quinoa plants do flower, what are some things I can do with this healthy seed? First of all, what are the health benefits of quinoa?
The Quinoa Health Craze
The seeds are a very rich source in protein, and unique for being one of the only plants to contain all the essential amino acids. Also, it’s gluten-free, so you can make a whole lot of dishes for even the most diet restricted vegan friends and family members. For example, come Thanksgiving, try out this savory quinoa stuffing to impress your most hipster cousins from Portland and Seattle.
There’s more. Quinoa is loaded with fiber, so if you’re struggling to get your kids to eat their celery, this is a tastier alternative. Even children can get on board with a good quinoa stir fry, like this great quinoa vegetable melange from Trader Joe’s.
Vitamin B is another bonus ingredient inside quinoa, rounding this seed out to be one of the healthiest things out there, period. Quinoa is also rich in calcium, magnesium, and according to Healthline.com, can even help with weight loss. There’s even been studies that demonstrate that the low glycemic values in quinoa make this a great supplement for reducing the effects of Type 2 Diabetes.
“As might be expected from a food that serves as a good source of protein and fiber, as well as a low glycemic index (GI) value, quinoa has raised the interest of researchers with respect to better blood sugar regulation, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and other aspects of metabolism related to blood sugar. Unfortunately, most of the studies in this area have been conducted on animals and we have yet to see a large scale study on humans enjoying quinoa as part of their regular food intake. We would be surprised, however, if quinoa did not turn out to show benefits for blood sugar regulation given its chemistry and nutrient-richness.”WHFoods.com
This seed is truly a miracle food.
Cooking with Quinoa
Assuming my plants make it to flowering, what can I cook with quinoa? If you want the absolute mother-load list of quinoa recipes, our friends at CookingLight.com are way ahead of you with 50 ideas for quinoa foods.
Their lemon garlic shrimp with radish and green bean version is particularly tasty. If you’re concerned about the high cholesterol of shrimp, consider replacing it with tofu instead. Here’s a great recipe for homemade crispy tofu that can replace the shrimp in that recipe.
We have some more quinoa highlights from around the globe that are definitely worth sharing. If you want to keep it light and springy, ideal for this time of year, salads are great. This quinoa salad is as multi-colored as it is healthy. Tomatoes, greens, and quinoa combine with an explosion of nice flavors in this salad from Chelsea’s Messy Apron.
Feeling something a little heavier? Did you know that you can make your own quinoa burgers? It’s easy and delicious. All you need are some black beans, tomato, seasoning, and of course, quinoa. Read more here. These are a much healthier alternative to soy burgers, which often run high in unhealthy oils and saturated fats. Remember, it is always better to do it yourself when possible!
Craving Mexican food? You can keep it simple, healthy, and delicious with these tasty quinoa tacos from our friends at ACoupleCooks.com. They also have a good number of other really interesting quinoa dishes. Another one of their delicious options is the vegan take on Korean bibimbap, which involves a fried egg right on top of your quinoa salad.
There’s really no shortage of things you can do with quinoa. You can use it as a meat substitute, a salad topping, or a topping for almost any other dish.
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!
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!
Have you tried planting store-bought quinoa seeds on your own? Did you have any successes or failures that you want to share with us? How about quinoa dishes that you didn’t see mentioned here? We want to hear from you! Please add your ideas to our comments below.