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buckwheat

 

Botanical name: Fagopyrum esculentum


Buchweizen

 

 

Origin, areas of cultivation

 

Buckwheat originated in Central Asia, from where it was taken to India and, in the Middle Ages, by the Tatars and Saracens to Europe.

It was first mentioned in Germany in 1396. The cultivation expanded in Germany in the 17th and 18th centuries, but mainly in the northern regions and the low mountain ranges. In addition to being used for the human diet, it was grown for animal fodder. At the end of the 18th century, however, buckwheat was supplanted by the potato.

Today it is grown in many areas. The USA, Canada, Brazil and South Africa produce buckwheat mainly for export. The buckwheat sold in Germany is imported predominantly from the regions mentioned, as well as from China and Poland.

 

Availability


There are approximately 15 species and subspecies of buckwheat; of these the wild, the common and the Tatar buckwheat are the most widespread. Common buckwheat is grown predominantly for kernel production, while Tatar buckwheat is traditional in mountainous regions of China, India and Nepal.

The annual plant, which is sown from May to August, ripens very quickly, and the seeds are usually harvested in September. Dried buckwheat is available the year round.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


Buckwheat belongs to the family Polygonaceae. The plant can reach a height of 40–100 cm and produces white to pink blossoms that have a strong scent. Botanically, the kernels or seeds are nuts, but they are usually referred to as kernels, probably because they belong to the pseudo grains.

They owe their name to their similarity to the seeds of the beech, the beechnuts. Both are triangular and dark brown.

The seeds taste pleasantly nutty.

A particular characteristic of buckwheat is its short growing period. It thrives well on poor, sandy soil. It grows best in a warm, dry climate and is very sensitive to cold. Due to these climatic needs, most buckwheat bought in Germany is imported, as the yields here are rather low.


Ingredients


Buckwheat is inferior to grains and the other pseudo grains where fibre content is concerned. Like amaranth and quinoa, however, buckwheat is rich in the essential amino acid lysine, as well as in tryptophan. These are important in the human diet, as tryptophan can form niacin.

Important minerals contained in buckwheat are potassium, iron, phosphorus and magnesium. It also supplies considerable amounts of vitamin B1, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Buckwheat is gluten-free and therefore a suitable component of the diet for persons with coeliac disease. 100 g contain:


 

Buckwheat,
whole kernel
Buckwheat,
hulled
Whole-grain buckwheat flour
Energy (kcal)
340
340
341
Water (g)
6.6
13
14
Protein (g)
9
9
11
Fat (g)
1.7
1.7
2.7
Carbohydrates (g)
71
71
67
Fibre (g)
9.9
3.7
3.6
Vitamin B1 (mg)
0.6
0.2
0.6
Niacin (NE) (mg)
5
5
5.4
Pantothenic acid (mg)
1,2
1.2
1.5
Potassium (mg)
400
324
68ß
Magnesium (mg)
130
85
50
Iron (mg)
3.1
3.2
2.2
Phosphorus (mg)
290
254
263



Harmful substances


The red pigment in the scale, the fagopyrin, makes the skin sensitive to sunlight. Hulled buckwheat is free of fagopyrin and should be preferred.


Presumed effect on health


The leaves and blossoms of the plant are reputed to be an effective medicine. They contain rutin, a flavonoid that is supposed to maintain the elasticity of blood vessels. Buckwheat tea and preparations containing rutin are therefore used in the treatment and prevention of vascular diseases and venous problems.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


Buckwheat is the best-known pseudo grain in Germany and is excellently suited for processing into groats, flakes and flours. Cooked like rice, i.e. kasha, it can be served as an accompaniment to various dishes. During cooking it secretes a great deal of slime, however, and it should therefore be rinsed well before and after cooking.

Delicious pancakes can be made with a very light and fluffy dough out of buckwheat flour. It is also suited for preparing soups, porridge and dumplings.


Miscellaneous


Compared with other grains, buckwheat has a satiating capacity. It can be an important component of an energy-conscious diet.

The honey from bees that collect the nectar of the buckwheat blossoms is very aromatic.

 

 

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