What is Buckwheat ?
Despite its recent rise to prominence, buckwheat is actually an ancient grain with a long history. It has been eaten in Asian and Eastern European countries for centuries, but is now becoming increasingly popular in the west due to its many health benefits.
While buckwheat is often thought of as a cereal grain, it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. However, because its seeds are rich in complex carbohydrates, it is sometimes referred to as a pseudo-cereal.
While it is not a true grain, it can be used like one in cooking and is a delicious alternative to couscous, bulgur wheat, rice and pasta.
Buckwheat is super healthy, very versatile and, despite its name, it’s not actually related to wheat. It is naturally gluten free and should therefore be safe to eat for those with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivities.
Buckwheat also comes in several different forms: buckwheat seeds (often called buckwheat groats, or just buckwheat), noodles, pasta and flour. The groats are available completely raw or sprouted and are also available toasted. The toasted buckwheat groats are commonly referred to as kasha and have an earthier, nuttier flavour than the raw buckwheat.
Why is buckwheat so healthy?
Buckwheat is high in protein and fibre. It is rich in many trace minerals, including manganese, magnesium and copper and is a good source of the B vitamins. It also contains relatively few calories (66 calories for an 80g cooked portion, 40g uncooked) and practically no fat. Buckwheat also ranks low on the glycaemic scale. In fact buckwheat is so packed with nutrients and antioxidants that it is often referred to as a “superfood”.
Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure and buckwheat may even help weight loss, reduce food cravings and improve diabetes.
It is an excellent source of plant-based protein, meaning buckwheat is an great choice for vegetarian and vegan diets.
How do you cook buckwheat?
Buckwheat is actually incredibly easy to cook, but our biggest piece of advice would be: be wary of following the packet instructions! The instructions on my packet of Tesco Buckwheat advised me to cook it for 30 minutes – well after 20 minutes it was a horrible tasting mush. Goodness knows what would have happened after 30 minutes! Less is obviously better. Our advice is to cook the buckwheat for 10 to 15 minutes in plenty of boiling water and drain. That’s it.
Whether you cook it for 10 or 15 minutes, it’s a matter for personal taste – a bit like pasta. If you want to add a little extra taste to your buckwheat, try toasting it in the dry pan for 2 to 3 minutes first before adding the boiling water, this will give you some extra nutty flavours and a richer, deeper taste, but is not necessary if you are in a hurry. (Also, do be careful when adding the boiling water to the pan that’s been toasting the buckwheat – it’s liable to bubble up like a volcano!).
Buckwheat can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, making it a great one to cook up a big batch and use for various salads throughout the week. It can also be frozen.
Does buckwheat taste nice?
Yes but it can be a bit of an acquired taste. We would encourage you to persevere if you don’t like it at first.
What do you do with buckwheat?
Buckwheat can be used in place of other carbs such as rice, couscous, potatoes or pasta. It can be used as a side dish for a curry or stew. It can also be used instead of rice, bulgur wheat or couscous in a salad. Buckwheat can also be used instead of rice to make a risotto-style dish.