Cooking & Baking With Buckwheat - Gluten-free And Versatile!
What is buckwheat? This is a question you may have pondered on occasion, while browsing the aisles of wholefood and organic stores. It is usually to be found amongst the other grains, rice, millet, oat groats, barley, couscous etc. However buckwheat, despite its name, is not technically a grain. It actually belongs to the rhubarb family of plants. In appearance it has a peculiar, rather pyramidal shape, is darker-coloured towards the points of the pyramid, and comes in roasted or unroasted versions. The roasted buckwheat is a reddish brown shade, while the unroasted is more of a light green.
Buckwheat is a traditional staple in Asia and Eastern Europe.1 It can be cooked rather like rice or any other whole grain, as a carbohydrate-rich accompaniment to a main dish or as part of a soup, stew or casserole. Alternatively it is available ground into a flour, to be used in baking. A very traditional way to use buckwheat flour is as one of the ingredients in blinis. These are buckwheat and wheat flour pancakes, often served with sour cream and caviar, which are a popular dish in Russia and a famous aspect of their cuisine.
Buckwheat Baking & Buckwheat Sprouts
Buckwheat flour has a very strong, ‘dark’ flavour and no gluten, and for these reasons is not suitable for using in baking on its own. It is usually combined with wheat flour. As it has no gluten it cannot be used to make bread on its own, but can be added to wheat and other gluten-rich flours to make bread, cakes and cookies etc.
Unroasted buckwheat can be sprouted to use as a salad vegetable. Just soak a couple of tablespoons in a jar overnight, pour off the soaking water in the morning and cover the jar mouth with muslin attached with a rubber band. If you tip the jar upside down and rest it in a bowl or dish, excess water will drain out. Then rinse the buckwheat grouts a couple of time a day, drain and replace upside down in the bowl. After around seventy-two hours they will begin to sprout. Buckwheat sprouts have a light, delicate, delicious taste and are very refreshing.
Buckwheat, Rutin, Piles & Varicose Veins
You may also lately find buckwheat tea in some health-food and wholefood shops. This is rich in the bioflavonoid rutin (as is buckwheat itself). Rutin has been acclaimed by some researchers as being excellent for the integrity and health of blood vessels. This is highly relevant for sufferers of haemorrhoids and varicose veins. Buckwheat is a very very rich source of bioflavonoids: other powerful sources are citrus fruit (especially the white pith) and blackcurrants.3,4
In general nutritional terms, a cupful of buckwheat has been quoted as containing one hundred and fifty-four calories, nearly six grams of protein, four and a half grams of fibre, a little over a gram of fat and 33.5 grams of carbohydrate. Regarding vitamins and minerals, it is notable for its satisfactory iron and calcium content and is a good source of magnesium and manganese.1, 2
Buckwheat: an interesting nutritional and culinary ingredient. Why not have a little adventure: next time you’re in the whole-food shop, pick up a packet of buckwheat!
1. Atlas, N. "The Essential Guide To Grains." Vegetarian Times. (Aug 1989): pp. 6-15.
2. The George Mateljan Foundation. "Buckwheat." www.whfoods.org 2001-2009. (20/12/2009.) <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11>
3. Duke, J.A. "The green pharmacy: new discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases." USA: Rodale Press, 1998.
4. Matejova, E., Sykorova, S., Janovska, D. "Determination of rutin content in Tartary Buckwheat." Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Buckwheat. 2007: p.389.
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