How to plant quinoa

Chenopodium quinoa

Quinoa or quinoa is a plant originally from the Andes, where it has been grown for thousands of years. Easy to grow, this plant can reach 1 to 2 m in height, and both seeds and leaves are edible. The seeds are very nutritious, and can be prepared in the same ways as rice, although they must be processed first to remove their saponin surface layer. Thanks to this bitter layer of saponins, birds avoid eating the seeds in the field, so there is little need for protective measures. The leaves and tips of the branches can be eaten cooked or even raw, as long as they are not in excessive amounts, as they contain a high concentration of oxalic acid.


Quinoa can grow over a wide range of temperatures, depending on the cultivar. In the Andes, it is not uncommon to withstand temperatures close to zero degrees centigrade at night and temperatures close to 30 ° C during the day. However, temperatures above 32 ° C during flowering can impair pollination and make seed production unfeasible. Heavy rains can greatly impair productivity if they occur at harvest time.

Most cultivars grow best at high altitudes, with moderately hot days and cold nights, but there are cultivars that grow and produce well even in coastal regions and in different types of climate.


It needs direct sunlight, not growing well if shaded.


Cultivate preferably in deep, fertile, well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, with soil pH between 6 and 8.5. However, it can be grown even in acidic or poorly fertile soils.


At the beginning of cultivation, irrigate in order to keep the soil moist, but without being soaked. When well developed, this plant is resistant to periods of drought, so irrigation can be sparse.


The seeds are normally sown in the final location, in separate rows of 25 to 50 cm, leaving the seeds 0.5 to 1 cm deep in the soil. The spacing between the plants can be 10 to 30 cm. A smaller spacing leads to smaller and more uniform plants, facilitating the harvest (especially in mechanized plantations). Larger spacing generates larger and less uniform plants. The seeds germinate quickly, usually in 3 to 5 days.


Remove invasive plants that are competing for resources and nutrients, especially in the first month of cultivation, when quinoa grows more slowly.


Young leaves can be harvested for consumption as vegetables, but excessive leaf harvesting can reduce seed production.

The period until harvest varies widely with the cultivar and the cultivation conditions, ranging from 90 to 180 days. The panicles must be harvested when they start to change color and the seeds start to come off. Rub some panicles between your hands, if some seeds come off, it’s time to harvest. In manual harvesting, the panicles are left in a dry and ventilated place to finish drying for a few days, then being beaten to loosen all the seeds.

The seeds must be washed before being consumed to remove the saponin layer. For this, the seeds can be left immersed in water for several hours, making changes until the water is no longer foaming. The water where the seeds were immersed can be used as insect repellent, and can be sprayed on vegetables in a vegetable garden.

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