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5 Plant Based Protein Foods You Can Grow

Nuts, Grains and Not-Grains

Whether you’re vegetarian or not, most people recognize the need for adequate amounts of protein. When it comes to protein, most people think of meat rather than plant based protein foods. Meat, eggs, dairy, beans and nuts.


Photo via Flickr – dirtyolive

Photo credit, Ada-DirtyOlive via Flickr: 1)

However, all vegetables have some protein, and some more than others. Getting additional protein from plant based protein foods is especially beneficial due to the other vitamin and mineral density also in plants.

Next, we cover 5 high protein plants—besides those well known in the legume family, such as peas, beans, lentils—that you can grow in your garden to supply you with that much needed nutrient, protein. We’re growing the first one on that list this year and will report back.

However, these all require more growing space for your harvest to amount to much, so if that’s not you, then this article may not serve you.

Plant Based Protein Foods to Grow

Excerpted from article by Thoreau on

1. Hulless pumpkin seeds — There are several varieties of pumpkin with hulless seeds.

Pumpkin seeds are high in protein and high in healthy omega-6 dietary fat. This crop therefore offers a high nutritional density.

The Kakai Pumpkin has the green hulless seeds high in protein and other nutrients.

Reporting back! Here’s our first Kakai!  Split, hull–less seeds removed, pumpkin pulp went straight into soup of the day. Lots more to come, and yes, you can eat these hulless seeds raw or toast them. We like to toss them with just a tad of olive oil—just enough to moisten for salt to stick—then sprinkle with salt and roast them. 

Roasted, these hulless pumpkin seeds make a healthy high protein nutrient dense snack.



Editor’s Note: We grew these kakai pumpkins last season and here’s our assessment. The kakai pumpkin adds beauty to your garden but…

  1. The pumpkin meat doesn’t taste good. We would only eat it if there was a famine. We added it to soup where it was more like filler and made edible, but it didn’t add any good flavor to the soup, and it’s definitely not on the sweet side for pumpkin desserts.
  2. The pumpkins seeds are GREAT… the best, BUT take a LOT of effort to cook the pumpkin and then extract the seeds from the pulp. We got less than a cup full of seeds (about three handfuls) from four kakais, so that’s not a good return on investment of growing time and space, plus cooking time and cost.
  3. It was a tiny yield of pumpkins seeds for all that effort. 

SO…. as a survival food, the kakai is fine, and if you have loads of garden space and the patience to process lots of pumpkins for a little bit of pumpkin seeds. But for a regular crop, we won’t delegate any more space to growing kakai’s.

We’re trying a different hulless pumpkin seed variety this time: Styrian Hulless Pumpkin. We’ll report back on that next fall after harvesting.

Whether you’re vegetarian or not, most people recognize the need for adequate amounts of protein. When it comes to protein, most people think of meat rather than plant based protein foods. Meat, eggs, dairy, beans and nuts.

2. Peanuts — Yes, you can grow your own peanuts. You need relatively dry hot weather, so in most locals it would be a summer crop. Where can you find peanuts to plant? At your local supermarket! See this previous post: Grocery Store Sources of Gardening Seeds.2)


Peanuts need to be dried thoroughly after harvest, to prevent fungus from growing in the crop, especially when storing long term. Peanuts are an excellent source of protein and dietary fat. They’re also the best vegetarian source of biotin – vitamin B7.


Editor’s Note: Now these next two are sometimes confused one for the other. They have a similar look in the field, and both are tall, colorful and beautiful. But they’re different with different nutritional values, and… the good news is they grow in different seasons, so works really well to plant one as an early crop, then follow up with the next.

Can you guess which quasi grains this is?

Quinoa and Amaranth plus Buckwheat – 3 Complete Proteins

Did you guess it? We were hinting at Quinoa and Amaranth, plus we’ve added in Buckwheat to this section too because they’re all often thought of as grains, yet they aren’t true grains. And… all are complete proteins.

A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for humans and animals.4)

Well, these pseudocereals are substantial protein and nutrient rich additions to your garden, adding both beauty, nutrition and varied uses. The other thing to consider about growing these cereal types of crops is that they last longer in dry storage than other fruits and vegetables.

First is the summary of both, then we’ll provide a little nutritional breakdown on each. While the amaranth and quinoa could seem similar in food value and appearance, they contain different nutrient profiles and growing seasons, making them both a great addition to any garden.

All of these are great eaten as breakfast foods or with any meal, and also similar to grains, all three of these make great gluten-free flour substitutes for those with gluten intolerance.


3. Quinoa — a pseudocereal5) used like a grain, quinoa offers a complete protein. It is higher in protein than wheat and has almost twice the protein of white rice. Unlike most grains, quinoa does not need to be hulled after harvest. However, the bitter saponin coating must be removed by washing before cooking.6)

Quinoa plantations in Chimborazo, Ecuador, South America

4. Amaranth — just like quinoa, but without the bitter saponin coating. Amaranth is easy to harvest. You get several ounces, up to as much as one pound, of grains on one stalk. There are no hulls to remove. The grain cooks up like a porridge, and can be ground into a flour (non-rising). Amaranth is high in protein and is a complete protein.

A beautiful example of a yard garden of beautiful edibles, amaranth draping over black eyed susan.


shutterstock_155208701 (1)


Amaranth plant and flour

Amaranth and Quinoa Nutrition

Nutritional info excerpted from

Amaranth and quinoa are both grain-like superfoods high in protein and other nutrients. Prepared much like rice, amaranth and quinoa taste and look similar. There are several key differences between amaranth and quinoa, however, including nutrient content, ideal growth conditions, and some preparation techniques.

Nutritionally superior to common grains such as wheat or rice, amaranth and quinoa, contain around 8 to 9 grams of protein per serving and both are complete proteins. But when it comes to vitamins and minerals, Quinoa and Amaranth are different.

Quinoa is higher in vitamins.

Quinoa contains 19% of the daily recommended value (DRV) of folate and approximately 10% of vitamins B1, B2 and B6 for a single serving.

Amaranth is higher in minerals.

A serving of amaranth contains about 14% DRV of folate and 14% DRV of B6, but not a significant amount of other vitamins. Amaranth, however, has a greater amount of healthy minerals, with 100% DRV of manganese and more than 25% DRV of phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Quinoa has approximately 50% DRV of manganese and appreciable amounts of iron, copper and zinc.7)

Buckwheat is actually a fruit that is also a complete protein.

5. Buckwheat — not a type of wheat at all, buckwheat seeds are achenes (like quinoa and amaranth), which means they’re actually a fruit! An achene is a small, dry, one-seeded fruit that does not open to release the seed. Buckwheat “groats” as they are called are a complete protein. Again, there are no hulls to be removed, so harvesting is easier than for wheat or rice. The groats can be boiled like rice, or ground into a flour. You’ve heard of buckwheat pancakes, right? We use the Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour regularly, as a great gluten free flour.

You may enjoy this article on buckwheat… the grain that’s not a grain! We love that it’s lighter and 8)

Buckwheat, often a cover crop, is the “not-grain” that’s also gluten free. Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel.

For a few more high protein plants, you may enjoy visiting

For 5 high nutrition, high yield crops you can grow (there are a couple crossovers to this high-protein list), you may enjoy this article.10)

Whether you’re vegetarian or not, most people recognize the need for adequate amounts of protein. When it comes to protein, most people think of meat rather than plant based protein foods. Meat, eggs, dairy, beans and nuts.

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