According to the Cook's Thesaurus, buckwheat groats are the seed kernels of the plant Fagopyrum sagittatum which have had their inedible outer covering removed. They may have been crushed into smaller bits or been left whole. Buckwheat, first farmed in China more than 5,000 years ago, derives its name from the Dutch boekweit or beach-wheat because it resembles wheat and beech nuts.
White or unprocessed groats can taste bitter. Toasting in oil turns the groats a rusty colour and brings out a nutty flavour while removing bitterness. Pre-toasted buckwheat groats, known as kasha, are commercially available in whole, coarse, medium and fine varieties. Buckwheat groats may be ground to produce buckwheat grits, a quick-cooking preparation eaten as a breakfast cereal. Whole groats may sprout between six and 48 hours and you can eat them raw.
Although named after wheat, buckwheat is not a true cereal. True cereals such as wheat, barley and oats are grasses whereas buckwheat is a broad-leaved herbaceous plant whose heart-shaped leaves reach a length of 2 to 3 inches. As the uses of buckwheat seeds are similar to those of the grains of true cereals it is known as a pseudocereal. Other psuedocereals include amaranth and quinoa.
Manufactuers can process buckwheat into flour for baking and as an ingredient in pancake mix. This is its most common use in the USA. In Japan, buckwheat flour is used in the making of noodles, while in Eastern Europe the groats are used in a similar way to rice.
The plants can be used as a green manure crop on gardens and fields or to smother weed growth. Beekeepers may plant buckwheat to support bees as 1 acre of the plants can produce 150 lbs of a dark-coloured, distinctively flavoured honey.
Buckwheat is suitable for consumption by those who suffer from celiac disease and it can serve as a replacement for many dishes which are normally made with ingredients that contain gluten such as wheat flour and porridge oats.
Whole-grain buckwheat comprises up to 12 percent protein but hulled buckwheat groats offer up to 17 percent protein. It is high in lysine, vitamins B1 and B2, iron, potassium and magnesium.
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- The Cooks Thesaurus: Buckwheat
- University of Missouri Extension: Buckwheat: A Multi-Purpose, Short-Season Alternative
- Sprout People: Buckwheat Groats
- Purdue University Extension: Cereals, Pseudocereals
- University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center: Gluten Free Diet
- Purdue University Extension: Buckwheat as a Nutraceutical