This beautiful plant with its heart-shaped leaves and nectar-rich pink or white flowers, produces triangular seeds like beach masts, hence its German name ‘Buchweizen’.
Buckwheat has become part of many ethnic cuisines from the delicious soba noodles of Japan, to the Kasha porridge of the Russian steppes, to the delicate buckwheat crepes made in Brittany from Blé noir (Black flour).
Now much of the world’s supply is grown in Russia and China, with some acreage in Canada and the Northern USA. It grows well in moist cool climates and at high altitudes on well-drained soil, but is sensitive to frost.
Perhaps the most exciting form is buckwheat sprouts, a living food rich in bioavailable minerals such as zinc to support the immune system, copper, manganese and potassium to maintain water/acid balance, and support bone growth and the nervous system.
Buckwheat sprouts also contain all eight essential amino acids and the flavonoids quercetin (antiviral, anti-inflammatory) and rutin (anti-inflammatory, inhibiting platelet aggregation). Rutin is a powerful capillary wall strengthener and helps heal varicose veins and haemorrhoids and prevent hardening of the arteries.
Buckwheat is also useful in a Diabetes type II diet as it contains D-chiro-inositol which helps balance blood sugar levels. It is also known to lower high blood pressure. Sprouted buckwheat also helps with constipation as it cleanses the colon and alkalizes the body.
So, being high in fibre and gluten-free, this nutty grain is a fantastic addition to your diet. Even the hulls are useful for cool buckwheat pillows or meditation cushions!
Do you know…..?
1) Buckwheat is not related to wheat (Poaceae family), but belongs to the Polygonaceae family like dock, sorrel and rhubarb. This means it is also gluten-free.
2) One way to remember that buckwheat is not a true grain is illustrated in Hans Christian Andersen’s story. Buckwheat stands straight and looks to heaven, not bowing its head like rye, barley, wheat or oats.
3) Buckwheat is one crop which is very attractive to bees and also great as a green manure, returning nutrients to the soil. The attractive dark brown honey has a distinctive taste and is good for coughs.
4) The wild ancestors of buckwheat are still found in Yunnan and it is possible that it was first domesticated here around 6000BC and then spread via trade routes to Central Asia, Europe and eventually with settlers to North America.