Dear friends of incuQIna, we are happy to introduce you to the new “focus on food” ingredient. We started this series with the well-known carrots, and we decided now to move to a not-so-well-known but really interesting aliment: BUCKWHEAT!
We are also launching another CONTEST, and the rules are the same as last time: we want to know what is your favorite recipe that has buckwheat as an ingredient, we’ll test the best ones and finally declare a winner publishing the recipe (see last month outcome)! You can either send your recipes to email@example.com, or leave a comment in this post or write us on our facebook page. Send us your recipe before the 31st of May 2015!
Name and history
So let’s start from the name, which is already tricky and misleading: buckwheat in fact doesn’t have anything to do with wheat and doesn’t belong to the Graminae family. So what is it exactly? Often included into the pseudocereals group, it is the achene (dried fruit which contains one seed) of a plant (Fagopyrum esculentum) that belongs to the family of Polygonaceae, the same of rhubarb and sorrel. It is naturally gluten-free and suitable for people with celiac desease.
Its cultivation started most likely in China, in the wonderful region of Yunnan, one thousand years ago. Around the 14th-15th centuries it spread across all Asia and Northern Europe, and it was introduced in the U.S. by the Dutch during the 17th century. Nowadays the main producers (and eaters) of buckwheat are Russia and Poland, where the plant can thrive even in poor soil and live through freezing temperatures. During spring time it blossoms with white and pink flowers, loved by bees that use them to produce a delicious, dark honey.
Similar in size to wheat, buckwheat fruit seeds are three-sided and resemble the shape of beechnuts, therefore requiring special milling equipment to remove the outer hull and make them edible. After being de-hulled, buckwheat shows a brownish-light green color. Roasted buckwheat aquires a stronger nutty flavor, while unroasted it keeps a milder taste. It can also be ground into flour (used in the famous breton Crepes, italian Pizzoccheri or Russian blini) and mixed with gluten-containing flour for baking.
As all whole grain products, buckwheat has a good content of fiber and a low glycemic index, being thus suitable for diets of diabetic people. Moreover it is useful for prevention of diabetes type 2 thanks to its content of chiro-inositol, a compound that seems to increase cell sensitivity to insulin.
Because of its high amount of flavonoids such as rutin and quercitin, powerful antioxidants, its intake has been connected to reduced risk of developing high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. Buckwheat also provides a good source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and copper. Finally it is important to underline that despite its relatively low (11%) content of proteins, buckwheat contains all the 8 essential aminoacids, even lysin. Nutritionally speaking, a real bomb!
Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to TCM, buckwheat has a cool energy and it’s sweet in flavour. Its action goes mainly to the digestive system (Spleen and Stomach), but also on Large Intestine and Heart (reinforces blood vessels). Buckwheat becomes a very powerful tool in case we need to give our body a good source of energy but at the same time we want to drain Dampness and purify Heat, because it moves energy downwards, being therefore a good food to eat during spring-time.
Cooking with buckwheat:
Try the grains: toast it in a pan with a little bit of oil and then let them cook in double amount of water (covered) till the water dries. You’ll find a nice base for warm salads, a substitute for cous cous or rice.
Tempt yourself with its flakes: a perfect breakfast in a porridge (we made it with almond milk!) or simply mixed with some yogurt and, why not, fresh berries.
Wanna test yourself with some low-gluten kneading? Pizzoccheri are perfect in this season, and we shared last year our (lighter) version!
Do you want to know more?