"We believe that now is the time for British grown buckwheat to take its place in our food cupboards and on our tables."
"As farmers we wholeheartedly back the current movement towards reducing food miles and buying locally. We are really excited to be producing our own flour from our crop, and controlling the whole process from seed to bag. "
An Environmentally Friendly Crop
Our buckwheat is clean grown without the use of artificial pesticides or fertiliser. It relies on insects for pollination and the clusters of small pinky white flowers are very attractive to bees. Its flowering season lasts from July right through to early October, long after most plants have finished flowering, its nectar providing a valuable food source for bees and other pollinators.
Buckwheat flour is slightly darker in colour than wheat flour and, if it is wholemeal, flecked with dark specks of hull. It has a characterful slightly nutty flavour which marries well with savoury dishes, chocolate, fruits, and nuts.
There are many different varieties of buckwheat and milling processes which produce different flavours and textures of flour. You may have come across buckwheat flour that has a slightly bitter taste, or a grainy texture, but that is down to the type and the milling process. We have chosen a variety that produces a full bodied nutty flavour without any bitterness, and we sift out most of the hull during the milling process to produce a soft fine flour with a few finely ground specks of hull.
What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat, or Sarrasin is a flowering plant cultivated for its grain like seeds. The common name “buckwheat” is misleading, as the plant is not related to wheat or grasses at all, but is instead related to rhubarb and sorrel. It is referred to as a pseudocereal because the pyramid shaped seeds contain complex carbohydrates and can be used in cooking in much the same way as cereals.
The buckwheat seeds, can be milled into a fine flour, which is used for many culinary purposes, or dehulled and cooked whole to make dishes similar to risotto or porridge.
You may well have come across it on holiday in the crêperies of Brittany as the main ingredient of their savoury ‘galettes’, or in Japanese ‘sorba noodles’, Polish ‘kasha’, or Russian ‘blinis’.
Naturally Gluten Free and a source of Vitamins and Minerals
Buckwheat is naturally gluten free, so may be consumed safely by celiacs and others with gluten intolerance, so long as it is processed in a gluten free environment.
It is a highly nutritious seed, providing a good source of protein, fibre and healthy complex carbohydrates. It also contains many essential minerals, and vitamins, including a range of B vitamins.
A Short History of Buckwheat
Common buckwheat was first domesticated and cultivated in China thousands of years ago, from whence it spread to Central Asia, and Tibet, and then on to the Middle East. It came to Europe in the Middle Ages with the returning Crusaders, hence the alternative name of ‘Sarrasin’, and was one of the earliest crops introduced by the Europeans to North America. The similarity of the seeds to beech masts (seeds) lead to the name of “boch”, or buck wheat in germanic languages.
Its popularity stemmed from its ability to grow in poor soils, and the high nutrient value in the seeds, making it an ideal staple crop. In France and northeastern United States it was commonly grown in the 18th and 19th centuries but cultivation declined sharply in the 20th century due to the introduction of nitrogen fertiliser which greatly increases the yield of maize and wheat, but decreases the yield of buckwheat. However it remains a favoured crop in Northern and Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, and in China.
Despite its popularity in many parts of the world, the UK never seems to have taken to growing buckwheat. It was noted in a survey by a well travelled British agriculturalist, Charles Vancouver, in 1810 that although buckwheat was widely consumed, mostly as food for the poor in Europe, it was often served in well-to-do households in America as breakfast cakes, but in England it was only used by the gentry as pheasant feed, or occasionally as a green manure in preparing for other crops. This still seemed to be the case in 2010 when we first attempted to grow it on a small field at Court Hayes, but in recent years it has become more popular with the wider appreciation of global gastronomies, and we believe that the consumption of buckwheat as part of our British diet is well overdue.