Buckwheat has nothing to do with wheat and belongs to a different botanical family so is completely gluten-free and safe for coeliacs. It is thought to have originated in Asia and gradually spread across the continent to Europe several thousand years ago. It was later introduced to other parts of the world and is now grown on all continents.
Buckwheat is a wholegrain that fits well in a healthy diet, either cooked as grains or ground into flour. Buckwheat noodles have been a staple in Chinese and Tibetan cooking for centuries as buckwheat grows in mountain regions where it’s difficult to grow other crops. The buckwheat noodles’ popularity saw them adopted by other cultures, such as the Japanese and Korean, and they are what we know as soba noodles – a healthier alternative to wheat noodles.
Buckwheat flour is also popular for making pancakes and these are traditional in several European countries, as is buckwheat cooked either as a side dish, used for stuffing in savoury dishes or cooked porridge-style, sweetened and with fruit. Feel free to experiment! Buckwheat is very versatile and healthy – if you’re not sure, you can mix it with other grains for a mixed-grain risotto.
Nutritionally, it has a lot to offer – it’s a good source of some B vitamins, antioxidants and important minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese. It also contains small amounts of iron, potassium and selenium and is an excellent source of healthy complex carbohydrates, including fibre. And – one cup of cooked buckwheat contains about six grams of protein. Not bad for a humble grain, not bad at all!