How To Harvest Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the grains that could be a good option to consider for small-scale home growers. While other crops like wheat, oats and barley require a lot of space to provide a worthwhile yield, even a small stand of quinoa in a home garden could yield enough seed to be worthwhile. Quinoa can be cooked like rice and is high in protein. Another good thing about quinoa is that it can be harvested without any specialist equipment.

But if you are growing quinoa for the first time, you might be a little confused about when and how to harvest the seed (and what to do with it once you have. Read on to learn more about this simple process:

When to Harvest Quinoa

The quinoa is ready to harvest as soon as the seed starts to form and the flower heads begin to change colour. Rub the flower heads gently between your palms and when the quinoa is ready to harvest, you will notice that some seed can be rubbed out easily.

Drying the Seeds (Step One)

Once your quinoa plants reach this stage, cut the heads and put them somewhere to dry out for a few days. The best way to do this is to hang them up with something below them to catch the seeds as they fall out. Good airflow and low temperatures are essential to prevent the plants from beginning to get mouldy. You can also help with this process by removing any larger leaves and bits of stem.

Separating the Seeds

After drying out the seed heads for a few days, any seeds that have not already fallen out can fairly easily by rubbed out by hand. Simply roll the heads gently between your palms to knock out the seeds. (You will now have a pile of seeds, but there are likely to also be several bits of plant in there too.)

If you have a riddle, you can use this to separate out the seeds. However, if you do not have one, you can simply pick out the larger pieces by hand. Now you should have a pile of seeds in their flower bracts that are somewhat dry, but which need to be dried out a little more.

Drying the Seeds (Step Two)

Lay out the seeds in their flower bracts in a thin layer on a baking tray or sheet and put them somewhere to dry. Give them a quick stir each day as you pass to make sure it all dries well. When fully dry, the seed can be easily rubbed out of the flower bracts (between two palms).Wearing some rubber gloves could make this process easier.


Once you have a pile of seeds, separated from their flower bracts and other small pieces of debris, you should winnow them. Winnowing basically involves pouring the seeds gently from one container into another in a breeze, so that small, light pieces and lighter, unviable seeds blow away.

Readying Seeds For Culinary Use

Finally, before using your quinoa, you will need to soak your seed overnight, and rinse it a few times in cold water. This will remove the coating that naturally protects the seed from insects, rodents and birds.

Now you can use your quinoa in a range of recipes.