Buckwheat is the hearty, working-man’s crop that thrives in poor soil conditions, freezing temperatures, droughts, and excess rains. Buckwheat is resistant to damage and is therefore relatively inexpensive and easy to grow.
Buckwheat is native to Northern Europe and Asia and eventually spread to Europe and Russia in the 14th and 15th centuries, and was introduced to the United States by the Dutch during the 17th century.
It may surprise some people to learn that buckwheat is actually a fruit even though it is commonly thought to be a grain. Buckwheat is a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel.
Whole buckwheat is a very nutritious food. The protein in buckwheat contains the eight essential amino acids and is also high in lysine. Buckwheat is also rich in many B vitamins as well as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. Buckwheat is also a good oil source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid, which is one of the two essential fatty acids we must have to be healthy.
Health Benefits of Buckwheat
- Buckwheat is high in fiber. 1 cup of cooked buckwheat groats contains over 4 grams of dietary fiber.
- Buckwheat contains the eight essential amino acids.
- Buckwheat contains many minerals including: phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese.
- Buckwheat contains a rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin.
- Buckwheat lowers glucose levels and is beneficial for managing diabetes.
- Buckwheat has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
- Buckwheat is a fruit seed and is a gluten-free alternative to grains.
Dietary Uses of Buckwheat
Buckwheat flour has a strong, distinctive flavor and is often mixed with other flours to lend its distinctive taste to many baked goods. Buckwheat comes in a few different forms for dietary consumption:
- Buckwheat Groats are the hulled grains of buckwheat; they are three-sided in shape and
resemble grains of wheat, oats, or rye. Kasha is a traditional porridge made from buckwheat groats. Buckwheat groats are used whole in hot cereals and soups. The triangular seeds from buckwheat can be used to make flour after being removed from the husk.
- Buckwheat Flour is commonly used to make buckwheat pancakes, hot cereals, and soups. Buckwheat flour is mixed with whole wheat flour to make breads, muffins and biscuits.
- Buckwheat Noodles or Soba noodles (soba, the Japanese name for buckwheat). These thin noodles are made from buckwheat flour and are typically served chilled with a sauce or in a hot broth like a soup.
Buckwheat should be stored in an airtight container which is kept in a cool dry place. Buckwheat flour should be always stored in the refrigerator, while other buckwheat products should be kept refrigerated if you live in a warm climate or during periods of warmer weather. Whole buckwheat can last up to 1 year if stored properly. Buckwheat flour will keep fresh for several months.