Buckwheat has numerous benefits, whether as a healthy pseudocereal, popular green manure and bee pasture. This is how you plant, care for and harvest the plant.
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) belongs to the genus buckwheat (Fagyprum) within the knotweed family (Polygonaceae). Buckwheat is a so-called pseudocereal: although it does not belong to the grass family (Poaceae), it is used in a similar way to cereals. Its origins probably from Turkey and the Asian region. In Europe, buckwheat has been cultivated since the 13th century. In the Middle Ages it was a proven alternative to rye, oats and wheat. As an old cultivated plant, Buckwheat is mainly sown as a second crop on harvested grain fields. Due to its oil- and starch-containing fruits, buckwheat is highly valued in wholefood cuisine, by people with gluten intolerance, and by vegetarians and vegans.
Appearance and growth
Buckwheat is an annual, herbaceous and fast growing plant. The rather weak fibrous roots reach up to one meter (3 ft) deep, but also like to root shallowly. The heart-shaped, entire-edged leaves are attached to the red-overlaid, 50 to 70 centimeter (20 to 28 in) high and strongly branched stems. From June, numerous small white or reddish flowers appear in loose clusters in the axils of the bracts. These attract numerous insects, by which they are pollinated. The flowers subsequently ripen into edible, brown, nut-like fruits.
Location and soil
Whether dry or boggy, buckwheat grows particularly well in light, acidic soils. The location should be sunny to partial shade.
Crop rotation and mixed culture
When it comes to crop rotation and mixed cropping, there are no special requirements, as buckwheat is also compatible with itself. Buckwheat is particularly well suited as a green manure, as it suppresses couch grass and other weeds and prepares the soil well for vegetable cultivation. It lends itself to all harvested beds because of its short germination period. You can rake it into the soil with the plants after flowering and before the first frost and leave it on the bed for protection. During flowering, it is a popular bee pasture.
You can sow buckwheat broad-cast about three centimeters (1.2 in) deep and relatively thin. Choose seven to ten grams of seed per square meter. Since buckwheat is sensitive to frost, this should be done only after the last frosts. As green fertilizer, buckwheat is usually sown from July to mid-August. As seed, unhulled buckwheat from the health food store or the organic supermarket is suitable. The cultivation period is about ten to twelve weeks. You should always sow it so that you can harvest the fruits before the first frosts.
Buckwheat is very frugal and spreads rapidly even without care. However, it will not sprout again after pruning.
Diseases and pests
With buckwheat are hardly known diseases and pests.
Harvesting and using buckwheat
The ideal time to harvest buckwheat is difficult to determine because the seeds ripen gradually. Usually, the pseudocereal is ready for harvest in late August, when the lower leaves have fallen and three-quarters of the seeds are hard. It is best to cut off the seed stalks with a sickle, thresh out the grains and clean the nutlets with the help of a sieve. Similarly, you can grind the grains with a household grinder and then clean them with a flour sifter. Store the buckwheat grains in a cool and dry place in a cloth bag, this way they will keep for a long time.
Buckwheat as a healthy pseudocereal
For a healthy, varied diet, you should prepare dishes from buckwheat here and there. Buckwheat flour can be used to make pancakes, groats or flatbread. Since the fruits do not contain gluten, they are good for people with celiac disease and as a substitute for high-carbohydrate foods and dishes. Galettes are often made from buckwheat flour in France, and soba noodles made from buckwheat are popular in Japanese cuisine.
Buckwheat as a medicinal plant for venous disorders
Buckwheat is a popular plant not only in wholefood cuisine. In naturopathy, it is valued as a medicinal plant primarily because of its active ingredient rutin. The secondary plant substance specifically helps people with vein problems such as varicose veins. The ingredient can prevent swelling in the leg by reducing the permeability of the blood vessel walls so that less water enters the tissue. Vein patients pour one tablespoon of buckwheat herb over a cup of boiling water, steep the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes, and drink two to three cups of it daily over an extended period of time.