Common buckwheat was domesticated and first cultivated in southeast Asia, possibly around 6000 BC, and from there spread to Europe and to Central Asia and Tibet. It was cultivated in Europe in the Balkans around 4000 BC.
Buckwheat contains about 75 per cent carbohydrate, 18 per cent protein and is rich in iron, zinc and selenium. Its protein contains all of the essential amino acids except lysine, so its protein value is over 90 per cent. It also contains significant quantities of anti-oxidants. One of these is called rutin, a medicinal chemical that strengthens capillary walls, reducing haemorrhaging in people with high blood pressure.
Buckwheat is either eaten whole or ground into flour to be used in breads, pancakes or thin noodles (Soba). It can be purchased raw to be lightly dry-roasted at home before cooking and generally combines well with vegetables. In recent years, buckwheat has been used as a substitute for other grain in gluten free beer.
Buckwheat Croquettes with Beetroot Sauce
- 1 cup raw buckwheat
- 2 cups water
- Pinch sea salt
- ½ onion (finely diced)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp barley miso
- 2 onions (diced)
- 4 carrots (diced)
- ½ cooked beetroot (diced)
- Small piece of dulse sea vegetable
- 1 garlic clove (crushed)
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
- Umeboshi vinegar
- Dried basil
- Apple juice concentrate
- Wash the buckwheat, drain and dry roast in a frying pan with no oil until the water has evaporated and the buckwheat is warm throughout (but do not burn!)
- Place buckwheat in a pot with the water and a pinch of sea salt. Put on the lid and cook on a medium flame until it boils, then reduce to a minimum flame and simmer for 30 minutes until all the water has gone.
- Add some oil to a frying pan, add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent and soft.
- Add the thyme and stir for a couple of minutes.
- Mix the onion, thyme and 1 tsp miso with the cooked buckwheat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. While the buckwheat mixture is still warm, form into sausage-shaped croquettes.
- Pan fry croquettes until they are golden brown all over. This quantity of buckwheat will make about 8 croquettes.
- Sauté the diced onions and garlic with some olive oil and a pinch of sea salt until soft and translucent.
- Add the carrots, herbs, dulse and a small amount of water. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the carrots are soft, taking care not to let the water dry out completely (it will stick and burn otherwise).
- Add the beetroot and blend all the vegetables, adding some umeboshi vinegar and apple juice concentrate to taste. Serve hot.
For information and practical tuition on cooking with whole grains, why not come along to a Cooking for Health class on Cooking with Whole Foods, in Somerset, UK, with nutrition consultant and healthy cookery teacher, Dr Jane Philpott.