Margo came to me and told me what I already knew: It was time to figure out, once and for all, how to separate the seeds from all the leaf and stem debris.
We experimented with a few methods we'd heard about. We tried out every single strainer in the kitchen to see if one was magically the right size to keep the seeds but let the debris pass -- no luck. We tried stirring bowls of the mess to see if the debris would rise to the top -- no luck.
There was no avoiding it -- it was time to winnow.
Winnow - to separate the chaff from the grain by using air currents
We set up a small fan on the floor and laid a sheet down to catch the debris. We placed a baking sheet a few feet in front of the fan to catch the seeds. Looking back, I'm not entirely sure why we didn't do this outside. One reason may have been that we didn't get to this until 6pm on a Friday night, and it was practically dark out.
We rubbed our hands together, letting the seeds and debris fall downward. The quinoa was heavier than the chaff, so it fell to the baking sheet. And the remaining debris blew onto the sheet (actually, it left a fine sheen over most of the test kitchen. We turned the sheet into a U shape by draping it over chairs on either side...that helped some).
I don't know why I'd been so scared. It worked marvelously.
We only got through about a fourth of our harvest, but in that hour or so, we became successful winnowers. Our quinoa began to look like something you could buy at the store.