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Quinoa - A Diet Crop In Your Garden

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There is a very interesting plant in the amaranth family that is native to the shores of the famous Lake Titicaca. Its natural habitat is the high Andean slopes with poor soils and a harsh climate. Quinoa became known as a food crop more than 3,000 years ago. It was domesticated and introduced into the diet by Andean aborigines. The product was widely used in the diet of the Indians, along with corn and potatoes. The Incas called this plant "the golden grain. The Russian name quinoa has several synonyms: rice swan, quinoa, quinoa, quinwa and others.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), or Quinoa - pseudo grain crop, an annual plant, a genus Mar (Chenopodium) of the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae).

Quinoa - a diet crop in your garden
Quinoa, or Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)

O Quinoa

Unpretentious quinoa to the conditions of cultivation, High nutritive value, medicinal substances give wide prospects for its spreading and cultivation in difficult regions of agriculture in all countries and continents.

In Russia quinoa or rice swan appeared relatively recently, but its popularity is constantly growing. This crop likes cold nights and cannot stand the heat of the day. In Russia, Siberia and northern areas of the European part of the country are most suitable for its cultivation.

Seeds of quinoa for sowing in the countryside can be purchased in the same supermarkets or from companies engaged in supplying seeds of crops. Buying seeds, including seeds for planting, in conventional stores, you can not count on 100% germination. Seeds are husked before they are sold, and during this process, some of the crops have damaged germs. It is more practical to buy seeds for sowing in specialized stores or on the Internet.

Quinoa - a diet crop in your garden
Different colors of quinoa fruits. Scientists refer quinoa to pseudo-grain crops.

Beneficial and medicinal properties of quinoa

The ancient Incas called this plant "the mother of all grains" because of its beneficial and medicinal properties. Regarding its composition and digestibility nutritionists compare quinoa to mother's milk and consider it an irreplaceable dietary product for gluten-free, protein and paleo diets, as well as for allergic people. The crop is of great interest to medics, nutritionists, dietitians, chefs, food bloggers, highly valued by vegetarians.

The chemical composition of quinoa is unmatched by the content of vitamins B group, A, E, C, K, PP, D and others. It contains many minerals, especially calcium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium and manganese. Quinoa grits are rich in fiber, fats, and in quality animal protein comparable to natural whole milk. It has a fairly high content of proteins and amino acids, especially lysine, which promotes rapid healing of wounds, including postoperative. The fruits contain tryptophan, valine, threonine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, chistadine, isoleucine and leucine. It has antioxidant, choleretic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic properties. It has a positive effect on the nervous system, is used to treat the gastrointestinal tract, affects the structure of bones, normalizes blood pressure and lowers cholesterol, cleanses the body of toxins. It has anti-oncological properties. It is used for problems with the liver and pancreas. Quinoa products are suitable for the diet of astronauts during long flights.

Quinoa fruits have a slight nutty flavor that gives porridges and side dishes an unusual crunchy effect. It is used in the preparation of numerous second dishes, snacks, side dishes with a fairly neutral flavor, drinks, pastries. In Europe, quinoa is sometimes cultivated as a vegetable plant, used for salads. Amateur raw food eaters use quinoa seeds soaked and thoroughly washed of the saponins that give bitterness to the product or as germ sprouts.

Quinoa - a diet crop in your garden
Quinoa, or rice swan. © Tom Rataj

Biological features of quinoa

Quinoa or rice swan is an annual plant of the genus Mareca. Quinoa resembles the giant Moorish swan in the external structure of its stems and leaves. Plants in natural conditions at home reach 4.0 m in height. When grown in European countries it is somewhat lower, 1.5-2.0 m. They have a branched stem with simple three-lobed leaves resembling goose paws. Young leaves are used in salads; the seeds are used to make grits and flour. By fall, the leaves change from green to yellow, red, and purple and look very decorative. Roots are tapering, branched, able to provide plants with water from deep layers, which is very important when cultivating in arid areas. The growing season lasts from 90 to 130 days and depends on the region of cultivation and variety.

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Quinoa is a self-pollinated crop, but cross-pollination increases yields by 10 to 20%. After flowering, it produces tall, candle-like clusters (like sorghum) or panicles of white, yellow or red flowers in separate clusters. Flowers in the inflorescences are whitish-yellow and small. Biologists classify the crop as a pseudograin, due to the absence of a hard shell on the grain, and the fruits of the grain are called fruit. Indeed, it is not a seedpod, but a very small seed fruit. The seeds are small (0.3 cm in diameter), shaped like a tablet the size of a millet seed. The consistency of the seeds is very delicate. Depending on the variety, the seeds have a variety of colors: white, yellow, orange, pink, red, black.

Agro technology for growing quinoa

Bearing in mind the area of distribution (mainly mountainous areas) and the specifics of natural growing conditions, the culture requires sandy loam and sandy soils with low fertility and a very wide spread to the level of acidity of the soil. In the countryside it can be found in waste soil with pH=4,8 to highly alkaline with pH=8,5.

Quinoa - a diet crop in your garden
Seedling Quinoa. © Mason Feduccia

Sowing Quinoa

Tolerant to temperature during growth and development, quinoa needs certain soil conditions for germination. Rational time for sowing seeds is considered the period when the soil in the 5-15 cm layer warms up to +6... +8 °С. Usually this period spans mid-April to mid-May. If the spring is short and hot and the soil temperature exceeds +8°C, you should keep the seeds for 2-3 days in a freezer and sow them frozen. Without such preparation in the hot south, sprouts will not succeed.

Sowing scheme is rowwise. Distance in a row 5-7 cm, after breakthrough, increase to 20-40 cm. Seeding depth varies from 0,5 to 1,5 cm. The distance between the rows is 40-60 cm. Plants are huge in human height and above. When artificially thickened, it reduces the yield. Young green sprouts when thinning are used together with the leaves to make vitamin spring salads. If necessary, the second thinning is carried out in 10 days.

Post-sowing care for quinoa

Before sowing it is better to moisten the soil and after sowing mulch. Until the mass germination of quinoa needs constant humidity. If necessary, water from a watering can only a strip in between the rows. The first watering is carried out at the appearance of 2-3 true leaves. Despite the rapid sprouting of quinoa plants at first grow very slowly and require maintaining the site in a clean condition. During this period, the main care is the manual elimination of weeds. When clearing the site of weeds be careful, quinoa is very reminiscent of the common weed swan. Because of the external similarity it is called the rice swan (the fruit resembles a grain of rice).

Before reaching 30 cm height quinoa plants growth is slow. Entering the phase of development, the plants very quickly gain green mass, throw out tall, elegant panicles and flower.

Quinoa - a diet crop in your garden
Plantation of quinoa. © zug55

Fertilizing and watering quinoa

Quinoa, developing a deep penetrating tap root, needs almost no watering and belongs to the annual drought-resistant plants. The crop only needs one watering from the first shoots to 3 leaves.

If before sowing the soil dressed with organic fertilizer, it does not need any additional fertilizer during vegetation. In order to obtain higher yields (up to 18% increase), the plants can be fertilized with nitrophoska or nitrogen-phosphoric fertilizers during the inflorescence shoots. The dose of fertilizer is respectively 70-90 g or 50 and 40 g of nitrogen and phosphorus in the form of ammonium nitrate and superphosphate. Fertilizer is applied under irrigation (if available) or in the upper 10-15 cm layer of soil and incorporated by loosening. When growing without irrigation, feeding is timed to coincide with rainfall or carried out as a solution with subsequent embedding in the soil.

Protecting quinoa from diseases and pests

The most common diseases of quinoa are stem rot, gray rot, bacterial scald, false powdery mildew, leaf spotting. At home, to control diseases, you should use only harmless to humans and animals biopreparations to protect plants from diseases. These are Agat-25, Alirin-B, Gamair, Gliokladin. The listed biofungicides are effective against dew of different etiology, rot, bacterial scald. Dosages, periods of plant treatment, usage in tank mixtures with bioinsecticides are indicated on packages or instructions for usage.

Pests of quinoa are practically not damaged by them but if some biting or sucking pests are observed on the plants it is possible to use in a tank mixture with biofungicide Lepidocide, Bitoxybacillin, Fitoverm, Gaupsin according to the recommendations

Quinoa - a diet crop in your garden
Growing quinoa. © Madeline McKeever

Harvesting Quinoa

Harvesting is done after the leaves have completely yellowed and fallen. Sometimes quinoa does not mature in time with early frosts. It easily survives short-term frosts to -2...

Harvesting begins when the weather is dry. The bundles are cut, bundled and transported to the place for threshing. If the rainy weather drags on, remove the wet ones and hang them out to dry in a draught under sheds. They need to dry quickly, since seeds can germinate in the cut panicles within 24 hours. Dry panicles are threshed and cleaned in the wind or using various devices (a household fan can be used).

The best option for storing quinoa is a refrigerator or freezer. Otherwise, products in containers should be tightly packed and kept in a dry, dark place at zero or subzero temperatures.

Before using in cooking, quinoa fruits should be washed of saponin, which gives a bitter taste to dishes.

Rinse seeds in room temperature water, changing water at least 5 times until soap foam disappears. An original method is suggested by some gardeners. The seeds are sewn into a pillowcase, put into a washing machine and turn on the rinse mode on low speed. Saponin-washed products are spread out on towels and dried (not on film). Store in tightly closed containers and use as needed.