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5 High Protein Plants to Grow

We’re all familiar with the importance of nutrient rich foods, and gardeners are especially fortunate to have access to some of the freshest and healthiest food on the planet. When it comes to protein, most people think of meat rather than protein plants to grow.

Other protein foods include eggs and dairy, favored by lacto ovo vegetarians. For vegans, beans and nuts are common sources of protein. Soy beans and peas are often favorites for protein and protein powders and bars, however a growing number of people are allergic to soy, a problem for members of our family.

Soy can also cause hormonal imbalances in men and women. You can read more about soy problems for male hormones here.

All Vegetables Contain Protein

Beyond the obvious meat and meat related choices, all vegetables have some protein, and some more than others. Knowing which high protein plants to grow can help you in planning your garden for the greatest food value for you and your family.

Getting additional protein from plant based protein foods is especially beneficial due to the other vitamin and mineral density also in plants.

Next, we’ll cover five high protein plants to grow. These plants all require more growing space for your harvest to amount to much, so if you don’t have a large garden space then this article may not serve you.

Protein Plants 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.

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

We split the pumpkin and removed the high protein hull-less seeds, and the pumpkin pulp went straight into soup of the day. You can eat these hulless seeds raw or toast them.

We like to toss them with a drizzle of olive oil — just enough to moisten for salt to stick — then sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast them. We roast them in the oven on parchment paper on cookie sheets, but you can also roast them in a skillet, tossing with seasoning and oil, or else dry roasted.

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

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Kakai pumpkin and high protein pumpkin seeds.

Kakai Pumpkin – Benefits and Deficits

Our assessment of the kakai pumpkins..? Well, we grew them only one year.

  1. GOOD: The attractive kakai pumpkin adds beauty to your garden and harvest.
  2. NEGATIVE: We found the kakai pumpkin meat to be quite bland. 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.
  3. GOOD: The kakai pumpkins seeds taste great!
  4. NEGATIVE: It takes 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 kakai, so that’s not a good return on investment of growing time and space, plus cooking time and cost. It was a tiny yield of pumpkins seeds for all that effort.


As a survival food, the kakai is fine if you have loads of garden space and the patience to process lots of pumpkins for a little bit of pumpkin seeds. It offers large quantities of food plus the protein rich seeds. But for a regular crop, we won’t delegate any more space to growing kakai.

We also tried a different hulless pumpkin seed variety, the Styrian Hulless Pumpkin. However that crop was affected by powdery mildew and then decimated by squash vine borers. They got to it before we got to them, and if you’ve ever had it happen, then you know it can happen almost overnight.

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Protein Plants to Grow


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, Amazon, and many of your favorite seed companies.


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.

Non-Grain “Grain” Protein Plants to Grow

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. The good news is they grow in different seasons, so it works really well to plant one as an early crop, then follow up with the next.

Quinoa, Amaranth, and Buckwheat – 3 Complete Proteins

Often thought of as grains, Amaranth, Quinoa, and Buckwheat aren’t true grains. All three of these high protein plants are complete proteins, containing all nine of the essential amino acids we need.

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

These pseudocereals are substantial nutrient rich protein plants to grow, 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 these, 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. Similar to grains, all three of these make great gluten-free flour substitutes for those with gluten intolerance. You can grow the plants, (or purchase the food in bulk) and grind portions of it into flour to use.

We use the Vitamix dry blender for turning oats, rice, quinoa and buckwheat into flours.

3. Quinoa

A pseudocereal[1] used like a grain, quinoa 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.

Quinoa plantations in Chimborazo, Ecuador, South America

4. Amaranth

Just like quinoa, but without the bitter saponin coating. Amaranthis a high protein plant to grow that 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 and this plant offers a complete protein. The grain cooks up like a porridge, and can be ground into a flour (non-rising).

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

Nutritionally superior to common grains such as wheat or rice, amaranth and quinoa, both are complete proteins, containing around 8 to 9 grams of protein per serving. But the vitamins and minerals content of these high protein plants are different.

Quinoa is higher in vitamins; amaranth is higher in minerals. Both are high in protein.

Quinoa Nutrition – per 1 cup serving

  • Folate – 19% DRV
  • Fiber – 5 grams
  • Calcium
  • Copper – 18% DRV
  • Iron – 15% DRV
  • Manganese – 58% of the recommended daily allowance DRV
  • Magnesium – 30% of the DRV.
  • Phosphorus – 28% of the DRV
  • Protein – 8 grams.
  • Potassium 9% of the DRV
  • Vitamins B1, B2 & B6 – 10% DRV
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) – small amounts
  • Vitamin E – small amounts
  • Zinc: 13% of the DRV

Amaranth Nutrition – per 1 cup serving

  • Folate – 14% DRV
  • Fiber – 5 grams
  • Copper – small amounts
  • Iron – small amounts
  • Manganese – 50% DRV
  • Magnesium – 25% DRV
  • Phosphorus – 25% of the DRV
  • Protein – 8 grams.
  • Potassium 9% DRV
  • Vitamin B6 – 14% DRV
  • Zinc – small amounts

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 gluten free grain that’s not a grain!

Buckwheat, often a cover crop, is a gluten-free “not-grain”. The buckwheat groat is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel.

For 5 high nutrition, high yield crops to grow, you may enjoy this article on backyard garden farming, and this one on best crops for high yields and profits for small farms.

Buckwheat Nutrition – per 1 cup serving

  • Calories 583 – 29% DV
  • Carbohydrates – 41% DV
  • Fiber – 68% DV
  • Fat – 9% Total
  • Saturated Fat – 6%
  • Folate – 13% DV
  • Niacin – 10% DV
  • Pantothenic Acid – 21% DV
  • Protein – 45% DV
  • Riboflavin – 42% DV
  • Thiamin – 11% DV
  • Vitamin B6 – 18% DV

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Please let us know if you have experience growing any of these — or other — high protein plants and we’d be glad to share your experience here.

Let’s keep on growing!


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