Did you know that buckwheat groats are safe to eat if you have celiac? The name is somewhat confusing, isn't it? After all, wheat is off limits on a gluten free diet.
But actually they have nothing to do with wheat, and are instead a relative of the rhubarb and dockweed (yes, the leaves you use if you get stung by a nettle)!
Buckwheat plants are quick growing and their flowers are a magnet for honey bees, who then produce a delicious, dark buckwheat honey.
There is even a use for the discarded hulls (outer layer) - organic buckwheat pillows. These are great if you suffer from headaches, neck pain, sleep issues or snoring!
But it is the seeds that we are mainly interested in here.
One use for the fresh seeds is to sprout them, just like alfafa or mung beans.
Roasted groats are known as Kasha, but in Eastern European and Russian cookery that name is given to a porridge made from the groats, similar to my recipe below...
Serves 2 - 4
Place the groats, sugar and dried fruit in a saucepan.
Pour over the milk or milk substitute and bring the pan to the boil.
Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
I also like to sprinkle some seeds, such as hemp or pumpkin, on top before I serve this. It is wonderfully warming for those cold winter mornings.
Buckwheat porridge is not just a breakfast meal though. It can also be served as an accompaniment to a main course, in either a sweet or savory form.
Buckwheat is often mixed with other types of flour, such as brown rice, like I have done for my recipe for buckwheat pancakes, or blinis. These can be served with butter, jam, honey or syrup, or alternatively with smoked salmon or caviar and sour cream.
Buckwheat flour weighs heavier than wheat flour, for example 1 cup of buckwheat flour will be around 6 ounces where 1 cup of all purpose wheat flour weighs just 4.5 ounces, which is one reason it is often combined with lighter flours in gluten free recipes. (For a list of flour substitutes and their weights, compared to wheat, click on the link.)
Being a darker colored flour, the addition of white tapioca starch or cornstarch, for example, can also avoid baked goods being too brown in appearance.
Including buckwheat in your gluten free diet is an excellent way to pack in some extra nutrition, especially if you also have diabetes to contend with! Studies have shown that it can be beneficial in the management of your blood sugar and lowering your blood cholesterol levels.
Add the fact that it contains all eight essential amino acids required by the body, it's low glycemic index rate and high fibre levels, and you end up with one of the world's healthiest foods.