First things first, buckwheat is a seed. As deceiving as its name may be, we guarantee you it is wheat and gluten free. And packed full of nutrients. Importantly, buckwheat contains eight of our nine essential amino acids, so vegetarians and vegans can especially benefit from including buckwheat as part of their daily protein intake.
In addition, buckwheat contains high amounts of manganese, magnesium and fibre. Manganese in particular, is great for blood sugar control, which is important when carbohydrate consumption is concerned. Buckwheat is starchier than our favourite almond and coconut flours, but variety is important right? Buckwheat also contains quercitin and rutin – flavonoids that support healing, circulation, exercise recovery and chronic disease management.
Buckwheat flour is a great place to start, particularly if you are new to buckwheat in general. These Buckwheat Wraps as a fantastic natural and gluten free alternative to store-bought wraps. Buckwheat flour is also great in pancakes, muffins and cookies, but please be mindful of the carbohydrate content. Regardless of whether they are gluten and sugar free, sweet treats are still sometimes foods in my opinion.
Buckwheat groats refer to buckwheat that has been hulled – that is, the dark, triangular-shaped shell has been removed. This is usually to make it more palatable and user-friendly. Unhulled buckwheat can still be made into flour, but will be stronger tasting and darker in colour than that which you purchase.
Similar to quinoa, buckwheat groats should be soaked for 15 minutes and rinsed thoroughly under running water before cooking. Then, simply add one part buckwheat to two parts boiling water and bring to the boil, before turning down the heat and leaving to simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Cooked buckwheat can then be added to salads and stir-fries, and used as a gluten free replacement to barley and couscous. Once again, please keep the carbohydrate content in mind and consider a serve to be half a cup of cooked groats.
*Tip: If you find your groats become too clumpy, the trick is to toss them with a beaten egg and slowly cook the egg in a non-stick pan before following the method above.
In their raw state, hulled buckwheat groats are a great addition to granola and can be simply added with the coconut, nuts and seeds prior to toasting. Toasted buckwheat is referred to as kasha, so please make sure you buy the raw groats if you are using the methods above.
What about sprouting buckwheat?
The benefits of sprouting buckwheat are similar to that of soaking – it allows the full nutrient profile to be accessed. In addition, the complex carbohydrates start to break down into simpler glucose molecules, which is more efficiently utilised by our bodies as a fuel source. Overall, sprouting (and soaking) greatly helps digestion, so please ensure you always include this step.
Sprouted buckwheat is quite a common in raw food recipes. I’m not a raw food expert, and am yet to dabble in sprouting seeds. For those of you that are interested, watch this video “How to Sprout Buckwheat” by Russell James, The Raw Chef. And stay tuned for some new TNN recipes, coming soon!
Are you a sprouter? What is your favourite way to use buckwheat?
*Since posting this article, we have had a question or two about buckinis. To clarify, buckinis come in a packet and usually state they are made with activated buckwheat – a fancy word for soaked buckwheat. As mentioned, this is essential for nutrient availability and digestion, but by no means justifies some of the prices being charged! Please be mindful that some brands add agave, coconut nectar and/or dried fruit, so please check the sugar content. Or, just make your own. It will certainly be a far more economical way, and if you need sweetness, a tablespoon or two of rice malt syrup should do the trick.