Buckwheat

This week the spotlight is on Buckwheat.  Modern buckwheat was first domesticated and cultivated around 6000BCE in Southeast Asia.  Today it is grown all over the world. In the garden we have been saving lots of buckwheat seeds to expand our seed inventory because it is such a versatile crop.

Our major use of buckwheat in the garden is as a cover crop.  A cover crop is a crop that is not planted solely for consumption but for other benefits such as cycling nutrients in the soil, suppressing pests and disease, or improving the organic matter of the soil.  Buckwheat is very efficient at “mining” for phosphorous.  With its long taproot it is able to bring immobile phosphorous from the subsoil into the topsoil, making the nutrients available for the next plant.

Buckwheat Stand

Buckwheat Stand

In our rotation, we grow a cover crop mix including buckwheat before planting tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.  The extra phosphorous made available by the buckwheat is utilized by the tomatoes to produce large and plentiful fruit. Another bonus of using buckwheat is how fast it grows. If it is warm enough outside, buckwheat will mature between 30-45 days. Densely planted, this fast growth has a weed suppressing effect, outpacing competing weeds and shading them out before they can mature.

Saving buckwheat seeds at the Center

Saving buckwheat seeds at the Center

One of our favorite traits of buckwheat is its attractiveness as a forage for beneficial insects.  Every morning our stands of buckwheat are swarming with native bees, beneficial wasps and other pollinators.  Buckwheat is even prized in honey bee production as its nectar provides a dark amber colored honey.  This is particularly useful here at Kusamala as we continue to expand our hives for honey production!

Our honeybees foraging nectar

Our honeybees foraging nectar

Outside of its agricultural benefits, buckwheat has also been used for thousands of years in cooking.  From the Russian Blinis (buckwheat pancake) to Japanese Soba Noodles, buckwheat has found its way into cuisines all over the world.  Here at Kusamala, we prefer its young tender leaves and harvest them for nutritious salads.  In the future, we hope to dehull the buckwheat and roast the seeds to make granolas and other crunchy snacks. Moreover, its high protein content makes it appealing for vegans and vegetarians.  Below is a recipe for buckwheat granola courtesy of Sarah Britton of My New Roots food blog.

Buckwheat Granola

Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients:
3 cups / 300g rolled oats (gluten-free if necessary)
1 cup / 200g buckwheat
1 ½ cups / 65g coconut flakes
1 cup /125g hazelnuts (walnuts are also delicious)
¼ cup / 30g chia seeds
½ tsp. fine grain sea salt
¼ cup / 35g coconut sugar
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup cocoa powder (organic, fair-trade if possible)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°F.
2. In a large bowl combine oats, buckwheat, coconut flakes, chia seeds and coconut sugar. Roughly chop nuts and add them to the mix.
3. In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, melt coconut oil. Add honey or maple syrup, vanilla, salt and cocoa powder. Whisk to combine until smooth.
2. Pour liquid ingredients over dry and fold coat.
3. Spread mixture out in an even layer on a lined baking sheet and press firmly with the back of a spatula to ensure that the mixture is compact. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, flip granola in large chunks, and place back in oven to bake for another 10 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes until toasted and fragrant. The dark colour of the granola makes it hard to tell if it is cooked or not, so go by smell. Another good way to test it is by tasting a hazelnut, which takes the longest to cook – it should taste nutty and pleasantly roasted.