Buckwheat, also known by its Latin name, Fagopyrum esculentum, is rising in popularity in the United States.  It is highly cultivated in other parts of the world.  It first appeared to have been grown in Southeast Asia and then made its way to Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Did you know that Buckwheat is actually a fruit that is related to plants such as rhubarb?

Despite what many people may think, Buckwheat is not a cereal grain like wheat. In fact, it is not at all related to wheat. The Buckwheat seed got its name from the form of its seed, which has a triangular shape.  The Buckwheat kernel is similar in size to wheat kernels.  In order to be eaten, the outer hull of the Buckwheat kernel must be removed, which is a process that requires milling due to its unusual shape.

Buckwheat is either sold unroasted or roasted.  The roasted form is often called “kasha” and has an earthy nutty flavor.   The unroasted buckwheat has a soft, subtle flavor.  The color of Buckwheat ranges from tannish-pink to brown.  Buckwheat is often served as a rice alternative, porridge or as a cereal.  The flowers of Buckwheat are very fragrant and attract bees to produce a special, strong flavored, dark honey. The buckwheat seeds contain starches, proteins, and minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc, and antioxidants. Buckwheat is becoming very popular for many good reasons:

  • Buckwheat is gluten free.
  • It is a highly nutritious and is a tasty alternative to wheat and rice.
  • It has easily digestible proteins which can consider it to be a meat substitute.
  • Studies on Buckwheat show that it may be effective in reducing cholesterol, childhood asthma, gallstones, reducing body fat and obesity, management of diabetes including insulin resistance, and high blood pressure.
  • It can be used as an aide in digestion and has been used treat dysentery and chronic diarrhea.
  • It may have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart failure and ischemic stroke.
  • Fiber from buckwheat and fruit may be protective against certain types of cancer including breast cancer and colon cancer.

The next time you are looking for a substitution for wheat or needing a gluten-free alternative, consider buckwheat.  It is not only good for your health but it tastes delicious!