Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quinoa harvest


Quinoa providing a lovely backdrop for a stray poppy, in July.

I finally got around to dealing with the quinoa that has been patiently hanging around since I harvested it about 6 weeks ago. The reason for the delay has been puzzlement over exactly how I was supposed to separate the edible parts - the seeds - from the fluffy material surrounding them, not to mention all the dried leaves and stems.

I know how to Google as well as the next person, but I didn't find much to help me. There is general consensus that you need to bash the heck out of the seed heads to break apart the clusters of seeds and fluff, but past that all I could find were very brief references to "winnowing", which were contradicted in the next source by a statement that the seeds are too light for traditional grain winnowing to be of any use: the seeds would be blown away along with everything else. In the end I decided to just make it up as I went along...


The quinoa had been hanging in splendid colour outside under cover of the verandah, but once the rains started the ambient humidity was so great there was no chance they would dry. So a couple of weeks ago it got moved inside to a cozy corner of the wood-stove-heated family room. My first step was to strip the seed heads from the stalks into a big bucket. Because each stalk had numerous seed heads nestled in among all the dried leaves, this meant quite a lot of dried leaf and stem matter made it into the bucket along with the seed heads.


After a bit of experimenting, I settled on a two-step process: I would dump a big handful into a colander and gently mash it to separate out the smaller seed and fluff clusters from the bigger stems and leaves. Then I put the result into a finer sieve and rubbed and rubbed to separate out the fluff (which was fine and fell through into the bowl) from the seeds.


All of that took about an hour, and resulted in about two pounds of this: mostly seeds, but also small pieces of leaves and stems.


I figured I was most of the way there, but how the heck was I going to get the seed clean enough to eat? And then I realized that when I washed the quinoa (which has to be done before cooking because it is coated in a protective soap-tasting substance) the seed should sink but the chaff should float. So I tried it with a small amount and it worked perfectly.


I feel like this deserves a trumpet fanfare: I grew quinoa that I can actually eat in my garden!

Now for some math: 2 pounds from about 32 square feet is exactly the same yield per square foot as the Vermont Cranberry beans. How do they compare nutrient wise? After all, the purpose of growing both was to see how much protein I could produce from the garden. Since 100 g of (uncooked) dried beans provide about 23 grams of protein and the same amount of (uncooked) quinoa provides only 14 g, the beans win hands down. But since one is a legume and one is a seed, they would actually be very nice nutritive complements to each other.

Will I grow quinoa again next year? Yes, and in fact I'll grow more. It was a great crop for this part of the world: sturdy, drought tolerant and nutritious. I didn't have to fuss over it, it germinated well, it looked gorgeous in the garden all season long and, best of all, it's already part of my regular diet so I don't have to learn to like something I really can't stand (can you spell K-A-L-E?). What's not to like about that?

7 comments:

Natalie said...

I am cheering for your success!!
It's really quite impressive and inspiring.

Flartus said...

Ok, if you're gonna inspire me to maybe plant quinoa, how about sharing some recipe ideas, too? (Miss Chef made us a cold quinoa salad, but I want more ideas!)

Miriam said...

Recipes...hmmm....Most of the time I use quinoa the way I would use rice, in a pilaf or under a curry or stir-fry. And I use a lot of quinoa flour in gluten-free baked goods. My favourite recipe would be to make a traditional taboulleh, but with cooked quinoa instead of bulgar.

The best quinoa cookbook I know is "Quinoa 365" by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming - some of the recipes make quinoa the star, like it would be in Miss Chef's cold salad, but many of them are all about sneaking in quinoa for a bit of nutty flavour and lots of extra nutrition. They have a website at http://www.quinoa365.com/ where you can see some of their recipes. Yum!

Flartus said...

Thanks, Miriam! I'm sending a link to your post to Miss Chef. :)

Paula said...

Very cool that you grew your own grain (deliberately!) in your garden and that you have enough to actually do something with it. Does quinoa flower make pasta? Because if we ever meet, I am so cooking you my kale and pasta dish! In fact, I'm craving it, and we had to buy some kale because it's one of the things that didn't get done this year...

jeanives said...

You've gotta give kale another chance. It is the preferred salad in our house and I throw it into lots of other things. I am sending you the link, again, for the salad recipe which I bet you haven't tried...

http://jeanives.blogspot.com/2010/06/kale-salad.html

Holly House said...

This is now officially on my to do list. I see it at the store and it looks so tasty! Thanks for doing all the heavy lifting for us! Now it should be a breeze :)

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