What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat acts as a cereal grain but is actually a pseudocereal made from the seeds of the buckwheat plant, Fagopyrum esculentum. This plant is not a grass and isn't actually related to wheat but is instead more closely connected to the rhubarb family. The staple was once common worldwide due to its ability to grow in nearly any environment; and though improvements in farming techniques have led to a decline in its cultivation, the seed is seeing some resurgence due to its healthful properties. Compared to rice and other grains, buckwheat is rich in manganese, copper, magnesium, and fiber.
The nutrients the food contains support cardiovascular function and may also help control blood sugar levels. The fact that buckwheat is not a true grain also makes it an idyllic replacement for those with dietary restrictions. The gluten-free flour can be used to produce a wide variety of beloved baked goods, and the seeds can create palatable pastas and is particularly popular in the form of soba noodles.
Hulled buckwheat kernels, or buckwheat groats, produce a sharp earthy flavor when cooked and typically feature a soft, fluffy consistency. The kernels can also be steeped in their own juices while cooking to produce a richer, nuttier flavor. Cooked buckwheat can be served as a porridge commonly known as kasha or can be mixed with onions and mushrooms to create a delicious side dish. Though buckwheat can be prepared with the same ease and simplicity as rice, roasting the kernels prior to cooking can help bring out their intensity.
How to Cook Buckwheat
Buckwheat is easy to prepare and can be made in a matter of minutes. There are several ways to cook the groats and each method will result in a slightly different dish. Before cooking buckwheat, many prefer to soak the groats in water. Soaking the seeds allows them to attain a softer texture and facilitates a faster cook time, but doing so requires foresight as the seeds need at least 6 hours to soak properly.If you do choose to soak your seeds, simply place the groats in 3-4 cups of cold water for each cup you hope to cook. After soaking for 6 hours, or overnight, rinse the seeds in a strainer whilst stirring.
Whether or not you’ve soaked your groats, roasting the buckwheat before cooking is essential for creating kasha. If you’d prefer a different dish with a different palate, you may desire to circumvent this preparatory step; if you would like the savors of roasted buckwheat without the added step, we also sell groats that are already toasted.
How to Roast Groats (optional):
- Add small batches of the seeds into a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat. Do not add oil, fat, or butter.
- Stir for 4 to 5 minutes or to taste. Time may be reduced significantly if seeds have been soaked.
The easiest method of preparing the seeds is by boiling them. This can be achieved by placing them in a standard rice cooker and following its directions with 1½ cups of water per cup of buckwheat. Without a rice cooker, buckwheat can be boiled by following these instructions:
- Add the appropriate amount of water or broth to a pot. Season with salt and either olive oil or butter to taste.
- Boil the water
- Add buckwheat and let the mixture continue to boil on high heat for 5 minutes or until the expanded groans are visible atop the water.
- Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let sit for 5 - 15 minutes.
- Drain any remaining water and fluff with fork.
Yield: 1 cup of uncooked groats yields 2 cups of cooked buckwheat
If your finished product is mushy or excessively soft then it is likely that the groans were overcooked. Kasha and other buckwheat dishes can be cooked al dente, so test different cook times to find your prefered texture and taste and strain any remaining water when finished.