Buckwheat, belonging to the Fagopyrum species, is a truly versatile plant that excels as a green manure crop, produces edible seeds which can be turned into a gluten-free and tasty flour, attracts bees, and more.
The most common varieties of buckwheat are Common Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), Perennial Buckwheat (Fagopyrum dibotrys) and Tartary Buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum).
It can produce a seed crop in 100 days from sowing and a crop of leaves in 8 weeks. However, the seed ripens irregularly over a period of several weeks so it is difficult to harvest.
Where It Grows
Buckwheat likely originates from East or Southeast Asia, and sometime around 6,000 BC, Common Buckwheat was first cultivated, after which it spread west.
The plant is easy to grow and can be grown in both temperate, moist climates as well as dry and arid regions. It prefers a sandy, well-rained soil but can also grow in heavy clay and poor soils. It cannot grow in the shade.
Why We Like It
- The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked, and has a nutty texture. You can also sproud the seeds and add it to salads. Fresh seeds should be eaten within a few days, while dried seeds can be stored for years if kept in an airtight, minimal oxygen container (like with oxygen absorbers).
- The seeds can also be ground into a gluten-free flour that can be made into pancakes, breads, etc. or as a thickening agent in soups. Store the buckwheat flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator or other cool place, and it can store for a few months.
- You can also make buckwheat noodles from the flour. The noodles are called soba in Japan, naengmyeon in Korea, and pizzoccheri in Italy.
- The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach, and contain rutin which makes them a healthy addition to your diet. They do taste better when cooked.
- You can supposedly also brew an excellent gluten-free beer from Buckwheat (and whisky!)
- Excellent cover crop / green manure. It grows quickly and produces an impressive amount of organic matter that breaks down quickly in the soil.
- It acts as a dynamic accumulator, pulling up phosphorus and calcium from the soil and makes it available to other plants.
- Nectar plant – Bees and other insects love the buckwheat flowers, and buckwheat honey is a highly sought after honey. You’ll recognize the honey by its distinctively dark color.
- It’s deep and fibrous roots makes buckwheat a suitable plant for erosion control.
“Buckwheat is a bitter but pleasant tasting herb that is frequently used medicinally because the leaves are a good source of rutin. Rutin is useful in the treatment of a wide range of circulatory problems, it dilates the blood vessels, reduces capillary permeability and lowers blood pressure[238, 254]. The leaves and shoots of flowering plants are acrid, astringent and vasodilator[4, 141, 165]. It is used internally in the treatment of high blood pressure, gout, varicose veins, chilblains, radiation damage etc[4, 141, 165]. It is best used in conjunction with vitamin C since this aids absorption. Often combined with lime flowers (Tilia species), it is a specific treatment for haemorrhage into the retina. The leaves and flowering stems are harvested as the plant begins to flower and are dried for later use. They should be stored in the dark because the active ingredients rapidly degrade in the light. Some caution should be exercised in the use of this herb because it has been known to cause light-sensitive dermatitis. A poultice made from the seeds has been used for restoring the flow of milk in nursing mothers. An infusion of the herb has been used in the treatment of erysipelas (an acute infectious skin disease)[4, 244]. A homeopathic remedy has been made from the leaves. It is used in the treatment of eczema and liver disorders.” – Plants for a Future
Where To Get It
You should be able to find buckwheat seeds in any well stocked seed catalog. Here are a couple examples: