THE FOOD SERIES: Buckwheat
Buckwheat is a food that is still new in my palate but has started to become a solid staple.
The name is very misleading. It comes from the Dutch word: bockweit which translates to ‘beech wheat’ because it resembles the seeds of a beech nut of the beech tree, and wheat because of its similar characteristics and usage. Buckwheat is not a cereal grain and therefore is definitely NOT related to wheat. Instead, it is a fruit seed similar to rhubarb and sorrel. As a result it is a great substitute for those who are celiac, gluten intolerant or are simply gluten free.
From the picture, you can see that the buckwheat is a triangular shape and requires special equipment to remove the outer shell. Buckwheat can be purchased roasted or unroasted, with roasted buckwheat having a more earthy and nutty taste; whereas unroasted has a more subtle and softer taste. Another popular product of buckwheat is buckwheat flour which can be found in various colours. However, the darker the flour the more nutritious.
Buckwheat is originated from Asia and Northern Europe. Today, the top producers include: Russia, China, Ukraine, and the United States. Buckwheat grows on acidic, infertile soil, has a short growing season and requires a cold climate for optimal development.
Half cup uncooked buckwheat groats:
53.0 g carbs
1.9 g fiber
2.2 g fat
9.6 g protein
1.3 mg manganese
181.2 mg magnesium
0.5 mg copper
261.6 mg phosphorus
Buckwheat is a very good source of manganese. I actually talked about manganese in my last food series post about beets. So if you are interested about learning more about that nutrient, take a read HERE.
Instead of repeating myself I will talk about another nutrient that buckwheat is a good source of and that is magnesium! Many of us may be familiar with magnesium, a mineral that helps relaxes the blood vessels which is important in blood flow and nutrient delivery. It also creates and maintains healthy bones! Did you know about 50-60% of a person’s magnesium is stored in the bone? Magnesium also enables energy production as it acts as a co-factor for many enzymes in order for chemical reactions to occur. Another benefit to magnesium is that it maintains a balance in our nervous system because it plays a crucial role in the activity of our brain cell receptors, known as NMDA.
Beyond the benefits from magnesium, there are many other health benefits associated with buckwheat. It has been found to be linked to lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and thus beneficial to the cardiovascular system. This is because buckwheat is rich in flavonoids, which are phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, have anti-bacterial properties, and help fight against inflammation and other diseases. Compared to other grains, especially refined grains like wheat flour, buckwheat can better support blood sugar stability and therefore lower the risk of diabetes.
WAYS TO ENJOY
There are still so many things I have yet to try with buckwheat, as a result these suggestions are all alternatives to a more common or typical recipe.
Use it like you would other grains such as oats for example, a warm hearty porridge bowl sweetened with maple syrup and topped with fresh strawberries, shredded coconut, walnuts or pecans. Another easy recipe is to prepare an overnight buckwheat parfait, by soaking buckwheat in plant-based milk the night before, and in the morning simply layering or adding various ingredients into a bowl or glass jar (a great option to take on the go). I suggest adding in whatever fruits are in season, such as apples and pomegranate seeds during the fall, or fresh berries in the summer.
Buckwheat can also be used in your granola recipe. Try adding in buckwheat groats, your desired mixed nuts and seeds, coconut flakes, cinnamon, coconut oil and sweeten it a little with maple syrup. After it has been baked and cooled, eat it as a snack, sprinkle it on top of … literally everything: plant-based yogurt, nice cream, acai bowl, apple crumble, porridge… or just eat it like cereal and add in your choice of plant-based milk. Yum.
Buckwheat flour is becoming more well-known, especially using it to make pancakes or waffles. Simply substitute your current choice of flour with buckwheat flour to change things up. Experiment with other baked goods such as cookies, muffins, scones, cakes, breads, or even pizza!
- Buckwheat is often mixed into recipes with wheat such as breads and pancakes to give it a nutty taste.
- Kasha is when buckwheat groats are toasted in oil. This is a popular method in the Middle East which is eaten as a side dish and breakfast cereal.
- The honey created from buckwheat flowers is very dark and strongly flavoured.
- Buckwheat is used to great gluten-free beer and whiskey.
- Discarded hulls of buckwheat are used as fillers for the pillows.
- 90% of global consumed buckwheat originates from Russia.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES