Food of the Week: Buckwheat

The main goal of the whole Spirited Recipes thing is to introduce more of vegetarian (mostly vegan) meal ideas along with new or not very common ingredients.

Today, I’d like to tell you about buckwheat.

Buckwheat just as wild mushrooms is a big part of Russian cuisine. I used to eat buckwheat throughout my life in Russia quite often (sometimes even mixed with wild mushrooms, which was super delicious). Buckwheat in Russian cuisine is a very common cereal for porridge, aka kasha. Mixing cooked groats with milk and sugar is kind of pretty traditional way of consuming buckwheat kasha for kids. Buckwheat is also a common side, a foundation for a tabouli-like salad with chopped vegetables and a staple in a diet of those “on a diet”. In addition to that, buckwheat flour is often used for a delicate French crepes or Japanese soba noodles and buckwheat honey tastes insanely good.

Soon after I had moved to the States, I started craving buckwheat, dark rye bread and kefir, even though these products were not a part of my daily meal plan. I was never able find anything really close to what I was used to but it didn’t stop me from enjoying whatever was locally available.

This week I used buckwheat for making two items: chocolate granola and green bean salad. I roasted groats along with other granola ingredients for a nice crunchy texture and simply cooked in water for a salad.

Here are a few facts about buckwheat which I hope will make you curious about this “cereal”:

  • While many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel making it a suitable substitute for grains for people who are sensitive to wheat or other grains that contain protein glutens. Buckwheat flowers are very fragrant and are attractive to bees that use them to produce a special, strongly flavored, dark honey.
  • Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
  • Buckwheat is also a good source of magnesium (a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body’s use of glucose and insulin secretion). This mineral relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure—the perfect combination for a healthy cardiovascular system.
  • Eating a serving of whole grains, such as buckwheat, at least 6 times each week is an especially good idea for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
  • Buckwheat can be safely eaten by people who have celiac disease as it does not contain gluten. Buckwheat can be a good substitute for wheat, oats, rye and barley in a gluten-free diet.