Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is commonly cultivated as a grain crop in Chile and Peru. A trouble-free easily grown seed crop for warm temperate and tropical zones. It has the potential to outcrop cereals on light land in Britain.
Gold/green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant.
Saponins on the seed can be used as a bird and insect deterrent by spraying them on growing plants. The saponins are obtained by saving the soak-water used when preparing the seed for eating. The spray remains effective for a few weeks or until washed off by rain.
An easily grown plant, it requires a rich moist well-drained soil and a warm position if it is to do really well, but it also succeeds in less than optimum conditions. Tolerates a pH range from 6 to 8.5 and moderate soil salinity. Plants are quite wind resistant. Plants are drought tolerant once they are established.
Sow April in situ. The seed can either be sown broadcast or in rows about 25cm apart, thinning the plants to about every 10cm. Germination is rapid, even in fairly dry conditions. Be careful not to weed out the seedlings because they look very similar to some common garden weeds.
Seed - cooked. A pleasant mild flavour, the seed can absorb the flavour of other foods that are cooked with it and so it can be used in a wide variety of ways. It should be thoroughly soaked and rinsed to remove a coating of saponins on the seed surface. The seed can be used in all the ways that rice is used, as a savoury or sweet dish. It can also be ground into a powder and used as a porridge. The seed can also be sprouted and used in salads though many people find the sprouted seed unpleasant. The seed contains a very high quality protein, with the same biological value as milk. .
Leaves - raw or cooked. The young leaves are cooked like spinach. It is best not to eat large quantities of the raw leaves, because of saponins.