Botanical name: Fagopyrum esculentum
Buckwheat is believed to date back all the way to China in 6.000 BC, although for the last two centuries its production is most common in Eastern Europe and Russia. It’s name is believed to come from the Dutch word bockweit, which means “beech wheat,” reflecting buckwheat’s beechnut-like shape and its wheat-like characteristics.
However, technically Buckwheat isn’t a cereal grain, although culinary arts categorizes it as such. It is actually a fruit seed that is part of the same family as rhubarb and sorrel. The plant produces short and widespread leaves with small white flowers. Buckwheat flowers are very fragrant and are attractive to bees that use them to produce a special, strongly flavored, dark honey.
Buckwheat is gluten-free and is rich in essential amino acids, making it a complete protein that is associated with muscle growth. In addition, it contains phosphorus, iron, zinc, vitamin B6 and magnesium. Many studies attribute “super food” qualities to buckwheat, given that it has been associated with health benefits that vary from lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure and contribution to blood sugar control, especially for diabetes, to the prevention against gallstones and breast cancer.
Buckwheat is used to make gluten-free noodles and beer, but involves a complicated process of removing its outer hull with special milling equipment. It is usually sold either roasted or unroasted and is a staple in raw food diets. It also can substitute oatmeal preparations and rice alternatives, and also ground into flour to make delicious buckwheat pancakes and crepes.
- The World’s Healthiest Foods: “Buckwheat“. Accessed Nov. 2014
- Whole Grains Council: “Buckwheat- December grain of the month“. Accessed Nov. 2014.
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