This article is about the food crop. An article about the Our Gang/Little Rascals character is at Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas.
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Common Buckwheat

Common Buckwheat
Scientific classification

Fagopyrum esculentum
Fagopyrum tataricum

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum common buckwheat, and Fagopyrum tataricum Tatar buckwheat) are plants in the genus Fagopyrum (sometimes classified as Polygonum) in the family Polygonaceae. They are often counted as grains, though unlike most grains they are not true grasses. Buckwheat is thus not related to true wheat. Buckwheat is most likely descended from wild buckwheat, though it does not share its vine-like growth habit.

Common buckwheat was domesticated and first cultivated in southwest Asia, possibly around 6000 BC, and from there spread westwards to Europe and eastwards to Central Asia and then into Tibet and China. It is documented in Europe in the Balkans by at least the Middle Neolithic (circa 4000 BC) and the oldest known remains in China so far date to circa 2600 BC. However, buckwheat pollen is present in Japan as early as 4000 BC suggesting either that (i) domestication of this plant occurred earlier than has been documented archaeologically; (ii) it spread more rapidly than previously acknowledged, or; (iii) there were two or more domestication events. It is the world's highest elevation domesticate, being that it was cultivated in Yunnan on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau or on the Plateau itself.

Tatar buckwheat was domesticated in east Asia. While it is unfamiliar to the West, it is still eaten in the Himalayan region today.

Buckwheat is a short season crop that does well on poor, somewhat acidic soils, but the soil must be well drained. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, will greatly reduce yields. In hot climates, it can only be grown by sowing late in the season, so that it will bloom in cooler weather. Buckwheat is sometimes used as a green manure, as a plant for erosion control, or as wildlife cover and feed.

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Common Buckwheat in flower

Buckwheat is one of the few seeds consumed as flour today that does not belong to the grass family (Poaceae), and it is, thus, not actually a grain. Instead the seed is an achene, more similar to a sunflower seed, with a hard outer shell and soft inner meat. The flour is noticeably darker than wheat flour, and is known (exaggeratedly) as "bl noir" ("black barley") in French. Besides the seeds, from which buckwheat flour is produced, buckwheat is also a good honey plant, producing a dark, mellow varietal honey. In Asia, the flour is made into noodles (including soba). In Europe it is more commonly made into buckwheat groats, often known as "kasha". Buckwheat contains rutin, a medicinal chemical, used for vascular disorders; it is naturally devoid of gluten, and can thus be eaten by people who react adversely to gluten.

Buckwheat pancakes, sometimes raised with yeast, are eaten in several countries. They are known as blinis in Russia, galettes in France (especially in Brittany) and ployes in Acadia. Similar pancakes were a common food in American pioneer days. They are light and foamy. The buckwheat flour gives them an agreeably earthy, mildly mushroom-like taste.

Unlike the widely consumed seeds, Buckwheat greens are toxic. Eaten in sufficient quantities, the greens can induce an ensemble of symptoms, primarily fagopyrism, an extreme sensitization of the skin to sunlight. Light pigmented livestock and fair skinned people are particularly susceptible.

In the past buckwheat cultivation was also used in orchards to increase the rate of pollination. Cultivation of buckwheat has declined sharply in the US. Over a million acres (4,000 km²) were harvested in 1918. By 1954 that had declined to 150,000 acres (600 km²), and by 1964, the last year that production statistics were gathered, only 50,000 acres (200 km²) were grown. In 1970 Russia grew an estimated 4.5 million acres (18,000 km²) of buckwheat.

The name 'buckwheat' or "beech wheat" comes from its triangular seeds, which resemble the much larger seeds of the beech nut from the beech tree, and the fact that it is used like wheat.

In the 1970s and 1980s, General Mills produced a sweetened, maple-flavored breakfast cereal made from buckwheat, which was marketed under the name Buc-Wheats.

Buckwheat is known in French as both "bl noir" (as mentioned previously) and "sarrasin".


  • McGregor, S.E. 1976. Insect Pollination Of Cultivated Crop Plants, chap. 9 Crop Plants and Exotic Plants. U.S. Department of Agriculture. As found on the website of the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center of the USDA Agricultural Research Service.[1] (http://gears.tucson.ars.ag.gov/book/chap9/buckwheat.html)
  • A.B. Damania. 1998. "Diversity of Major Cultivated Plants Domesticated in the Near East".[2] (http://www.ipgri.cgiar.org/publications/HTMLPublications/47/ch07.htm)da:Boghvede (Fagopyrum)

de:Buchweizen eo:fagopiro fr:Sarrasin ja:ソバ nl:Boekweit pl:Gryka wa:Bokete


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