Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Final Year of Testing Quinoa

I planted quinoa again in 2010. This will be an informal report because I gave up on taking data on it this year. The crop was a failure. I've decided that it is not the crop to try to grow in Olympia and it's time to think in terms of our climate.

It was a cool, wet summer all over the Pacific Northwest. The temperature never got high in Olympia, probably not hitting 80 degrees for more than for a day or two. It was a marginal growing year for tomatoes and I didn't even try winter squash.

I had decided to try one last thing with growing quinoa: to grow transplants in order to lengthen the growing season. I started seeds indoors in April and transplanted them in May. Most of the five varieties that I've been growing did not grow well this year, were "puny". One or two were better than the others but I failed to note which. The soil may have needed nutrients but since quinoa grows on marginal land in a marginal climate, I thought they would recover. For the most part the quinoa plants did eventually produce seed heads but they did not seem to fully ripen. I harvested a few branches but didn't clean the seed. By October I was allowing the chickens into the garden to harvest their share.

I had initially tried quinoa because I wanted to know if there was a protein food or grain that could be grown here. It's time to think about what does grow in Olympia This is a place of greens and berries. The climate is probably like Japan's but perhaps cooler, maybe a northern coastal Japan? If I'm still gardening in Olympia this summer, it will be the year of brassicas, greens, and onions. I will pick my berries in the wild.

The protein question? We are the people of Salmon Nation and we should be eating the seafood of this area: the salmon from our streams, Olympia oysters, Dungeness crab, and razor clams from the ocean beaches. If vegetarian, we might look for a short season dry bean or pea to grow. The alternative is to grow what grows best here and trade our goods for what grows well elsewhere. Sometimes you have to consider eating the foods of nearby regions (thinking of the Eat Local Movement). Eastern Washington has hotter, drier summers and people there do an excellent job of growing dried beans including lentils and chickpeas. They also grow wheat and it's a thriving wine grape growing region. To the south, the Willamette Valley grows much better warm weather vegetables such as corn and tomatoes than we can. Even inland Western Washington, where the sun shines and there is less of a coastal influence, even there gardens produce tomatoes, peppers, and squash that we can't grow. Yes, it's time to adapt the garden to the local climate.