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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a commonly cultivated crop plant. For other uses, see Buckwheat

Not to be confused with bulgur wheat.


Scientific classification

Kingdom: Plantae

Clade: Angiosperms

Clade: Eudicots

Order: Caryophyllales

Family: Polygonaceae

Genus: Fagopyrum
Species: F. esculentum

Binomial name

Fagopyrum esculentum


 Polygonum fagopyrum L. 1753

 Fagopyrum cereale Raf.
 Fagopyrum dryandrii Fenzl
 Fagopyrum
emarginatum (Roth) Meisn.
 Fagopyrum
emarginatum Moench 1802
 Fagopyrum fagopyrum (L.)
H.Karst., invalid tautonym
 Fagopyrum
polygonum Macloskie
 Fagopyrum sagittatum Gilib.
 Fagopyrum
sarracenicum Dumort.
 Fagopyrum vulgare Hill ex
Druce 1913
 Fagopyrum vulgare T.Nees
 Polygonum emarginatum Roth
Field of buckwheat in Bumthang (Bhutan)

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), also known as common buckwheat, Japanese

buckwheat and silverhull buckwheat,[2] is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds and
as a cover crop. A related and more bitter species, Fagopyrum tataricum, a
domesticated food plant common in Asia, but not as common in Europe or North
America, is also referred to as buckwheat.

Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, as it is not a grass. Instead,
buckwheat is related to sorrel, knotweed, and rhubarb. Because its seeds are eaten and
rich in complex carbohydrates, it is referred to as a pseudocereal. The cultivation of
buckwheat grain declined sharply in the 20th century with the adoption of nitrogen
fertilizer that increased the productivity of other staples.


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. The word may be a translation of Middle
Dutch boecweite: boec (Modern Dutch beuk), "beech" (see PIE *bhago-)
and weite (Mod. Dut. weit), wheat, or may be a native formation on the same model as

the Dutch word.[3]


Common buckwheat in flower

The wild ancestor of common buckwheat is F. esculentum ssp. ancestrale. F.
homotropicum is interfertile with F. esculentum and the wild forms have a common
distribution, in Yunnan, a southwestern province of China. The wild ancestor of tartary
buckwheat is F. tataricum ssp. potanini.[4]

Common buckwheat was domesticated and first cultivated in inland Southeast Asia,
possibly around 6000 BCE, and from there spread to Central Asia and Tibet, and then
to the Middle East and Europe. Domestication most likely took place in the western
Yunnan region of China.[5] Buckwheat is documented in Europe in Finland by at least
5300 BCE[6] as a first sign of agriculture, and in the Balkans by circa4000 BCE in
the Middle Neolithic. Russian-speakers call buckwheat гречка (grechka) meaning "of
Greece", due to its introduction in the seventh century by the Byzantine Greeks; the
same is the case in Ukrainian and Lithuanian.

The oldest remains found in China so far date to circa 2600 BCE, while buckwheat
pollen found in Japan dates from as early as 4000 BCE. It is the world's highest-
elevation domesticate, being cultivated in Yunnan on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau or
on the plateau itself. Buckwheat was one of the earliest crops introduced by Europeans
to North America. Dispersal around the globe was complete by 2006, when a variety
developed in Canada was widely planted in China. In India, buckwheat flour is known
as kuttu ka atta and is culturally associated with the Navratri festival. On the day of this
festival, food items made only from buckwheat are consumed.[7]

Seed and withered flower of buckwheat

Buckwheat grain

Buckwheat, a short-season crop, does well on low-fertility or acidic soils, but the soil
must be well drained. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, reduces yields. In hot
climates it can be grown only by sowing late in the season, so that it blooms in cooler
weather. The presence of pollinators greatly increases the yield. The nectar from
buckwheat flower makes a dark-colored honey. It is sometimes used as a green
manure, as a plant for erosion control, or as wildlife cover and feed.

The plant has a branching root system with one primary root that reaches deeply into
the moist soil.[8] Buckwheat has triangular seeds and produces a flower that is usually
white, although can also be pink or yellow.[9] Buckwheat branches freely, as opposed to
tillering or producing suckers, causing a more complete adaption to its environment than
other cereal crops.[8] The seed hull density is less than that of water, making the hull
easy to remove.[9]

Buckwheat is raised for grain where a short season is available, either because it is
used as a second crop in the season, or because the climate is limiting. Buckwheat can
be a reliable cover crop in summer to fit a small slot of warm season. It establishes
quickly, which suppresses summer weeds.[10] Buckwheat has a growing period of only
10–12 weeks[11] and it can be grown in high latitude or northern areas. [12] It grows 30 to
50 inches (75 to 125 cm) tall.[10]

Historical data[edit]

Historically, the Russian Empire was the world leader in buckwheat

production.[13] Growing areas in the Russian Empire were estimated at 6.5 million acres
(2,600,000 ha), followed by those of France at 0.9 million acres (360,000 ha).[14] In
1970, the Soviet Union grew an estimated 4.5 million acres (1,800,000 ha) of
buckwheat. As of 2016, it remains a key cereal.[15][16]

In the northeastern United States, buckwheat was a common crop in the 18th and 19th
centuries. Cultivation declined sharply in the 20th century due to the use of nitrogen
fertilizer, to which maize and wheat respond strongly. Over 1,000,000 acres
(400,000 ha) were harvested in the United States in 1918. By 1954, that had declined to
150,000 acres (61,000 ha), and by 1964, the last year annual production statistics were
gathered by USDA, only 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) were grown. However, it may benefit
from an "explosion in popularity of so-called ancient grains" reported in the


In 2016, world production was 2.4 million tonnes, led by Russia with 50% of the world
total and China with 17%.[16]



 71–78% in groats
 70–91% in different types of flour[18][19][20]
 Starch is 25% amylose and 75% amylopectin.
 Depending on hydrothermal treatment, buckwheat groats contain 7–37% of resistant


 Crude protein is 18%, with biological values above 90%.[21] This can be explained by
a high concentration of all essential amino
acids,[22] especially lysine, threonine, tryptophan, and the sulphur-containing amino

Buckwheat contains 0.4 to 0.6 mg/g of fagopyrins (at least 6 similar substances)[28][29][30]

Aromatic compounds[edit]

Salicylaldehyde (2-hydroxybenzaldehyde) was identified as a characteristic component

of buckwheat aroma.[31] 2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone, (E,E)-2,4-
decadienal, phenylacetaldehyde, 2-methoxy-4-vinylphenol, (E)-2-
nonenal, decanal and hexanal also contribute to its aroma. They all have odour activity
value more than 50, but the aroma of these substances in an isolated state does not
resemble buckwheat.[32]

In a 100-gram serving providing 343 calories dry and 92 calories cooked, buckwheat is
a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of protein, dietary fiber, four B
vitamins and several dietary minerals, with content especially high (47 to 65% DV)
in niacin, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus (table). Buckwheat is
72% carbohydrates, including 10% dietary fiber, 3% fat and 13% protein (table).

Gluten concerns[edit]

As buckwheat contains no gluten, it may be eaten by people with gluten-related

disorders, such as celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or dermatitis
herpetiformis.[33][34] Nevertheless, buckwheat may have gluten contamination.[33]

Negative reactions[edit]

Cases of severe allergic reactions to buckwheat and buckwheat-containing products

have been reported.[35]

Buckwheat contains fluorescent phototoxic fagopyrins.[28] Seeds, flour, and teas are
generally safe when consumed in normal amounts, but may cause fagopyrism in people
with diets based on high consumption of buckwheat sprouts, and particularly flowers or
fagopyrin-rich buckwheat extracts.[36] Symptoms of fagopyrism in humans may include
skin inflammation in sunlight-exposed areas, cold sensitivity, and tingling or numbness
in the hands.[37]



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Buckwheat flour

Buckwheat products

Soba noodles made from buckwheat flour

Kuttu ke pakore, a snack made from buckwheat flour, India

Black buckwheat tea (黑苦荞茶) produced in Sichuan Province, China

The fruit is an achene, similar to sunflower seed, with a single seed inside a hard
outer hull. The starchy endosperm is white and makes up most or all of buckwheat flour.
The seed coat is green or tan, which darkens buckwheat flour. The hull is dark brown or
black, and some may be included in buckwheat flour as dark specks. The dark flour is
known as blé noir (black wheat) in French, along with the name sarrasin(saracen).

Buckwheat noodles have been eaten by people from Tibet and northern China for
centuries, as wheat cannot be grown in the mountain regions. A special press made of
wood is used to press the dough into hot boiling water when making buckwheat
noodles. Old presses found in Tibet and Shanxi share the same basic design features.
The Japanese and Koreans may have learned the making of buckwheat noodles from

In India, on Hindu fasting days (Navaratri, Ekadashi, Janmashtami, Maha Shivaratri,

etc.), fasting people in northern states of India eat foods made of buckwheat flour.
Eating cereals such as wheat or rice is prohibited during such fasting days. However,
since buckwheat is not a cereal, it is considered acceptable for consumption during
Hindu fasting days. While strict Hindus do not even drink water during their fast
(observing Nirjal Upwas), others just give up cereals and salt and take a meal prepared
from non-cereal ingredients such as buckwheat (kuttu). The preparation of buckwheat
flour varies across India. Well-known buckwheat flour recipes are kuttu ki
puri (buckwheat pancakes) and kuttu pakoras (potato slices dipped in buckwheat flour
and deep-fried in oil). In most of the northern and western states, buckwheat flour is
called kuttu ka atta.
Buckwheat noodles play a major role in the cuisines
of Japan (soba),[38] Korea (naengmyeon, makguksu and memil guksu) and
the Valtellinaregion of Northern Italy (pizzoccheri). Soba noodles are the subject of deep
cultural importance in Japan. In Korea, guksu (noodles) were widely made from
buckwheat before it was replaced by wheat.[citation needed] The difficulty of making noodles
from flour with no gluten has resulted in a traditional art developed around their
manufacture by hand.

Buckwheat groats are commonly used in western Asia and eastern Europe.
The porridge was common, and is often considered the definitive peasant dish. It is
made from roasted groats that are cooked with broth to a texture similar to rice
or bulgur. The dish was brought to America by Ukrainian, Russian,
and Polish immigrants who called it kasha, and they mixed it with pasta or used it as a
filling for cabbage rolls, knishes, and blintzes; buckwheat prepared in this fashion is thus
most commonly called kasha in America. Groats were the most widely used form of
buckwheat worldwide during the 20th century, eaten primarily in Estonia, Russia,
Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland, called grechka in Ukrainian or Russian. The groats can
also be sprouted and then eaten raw or cooked.

Buckwheat pancakes, sometimes raised with yeast, are eaten in several countries.
They are known as
buckwheat blinis in Russia, galettes in France (savoury crêpes made with buckwheat
flour, water, and eggs are associated with Lower Brittany, whilst savoury galettes made
without eggs are from Higher Brittany), ployes in Acadia, and boûketes (which are
named after the buckwheat plant) in the Wallonia region of Belgium. Similar pancakes
were a common food in American pioneer days. [39] They are light and foamy. The
buckwheat flour gives them an earthy, mildly mushroom-like taste. In Ukraine, yeast
rolls called hrechanyky are made from buckwheat. Buckwheat flour is also used to
make Nepali dishes such as dhedo and kachhyamba.

Farina made from groats are used for breakfast food, porridge, and thickening materials
in soups, gravies, and dressings. In Korea, buckwheat starch is used to make a jelly
called memilmuk. It is also used with wheat, maize (polenta taragna in northern Italy) or
rice in bread and pasta products.

Buckwheat is a good honey plant, producing a dark, strong monofloral honey.

Energizing and nutritious, buckwheat is available throughout the year and can be
served as an alternative to rice or made into porridge.

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.

Buckwheat, groats, cooked

1.00 cup
(168.00 grams)
Calories: 155
GI: low


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Buckwheat provides for
each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source
according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of
these nutrients provided by Buckwheat can be found in the Food Rating System
Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Buckwheat,
featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating
System Chart.
 Health Benefits
 Description
 History
 How to Select and Store
 Tips for Preparing and Cooking
 How to Enjoy
 Individual Concerns
 Nutritional Profile
 References

Health Benefits
A Grain That's Good for Your Cardiovascular System

Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to lowered risk of developing high
cholesterol and high blood pressure. The Yi people of China consume a diet high in
buckwheat (100 grams per day, about 3.5 ounces). When researchers tested blood
lipids of 805 Yi Chinese, they found that buckwheat intake was associated with lower
total serum cholesterol, lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the form linked to
cardiovascular disease), and a high ratio of HDL (health-promoting cholesterol) to total

Buckwheat's beneficial effects are due in part to its rich supply of flavonoids,
particularly rutin. Flavonoids are phytonutrients that protect against disease by
extending the action of vitamin C and acting as antioxidants. Buckwheat's lipid-lowering
activity is largely due to rutin and other flavonoid compounds. These compounds help
maintain blood flow, keep platelets from clotting excessively (platelets are compounds in
blood that, when triggered, clump together, thus preventing excessive blood loss, and
protect LDL from free radical oxidation into potentially harmful cholesterol oxides. All
these actions help to protect against heart disease.

Buckwheat is also a good source of magnesium. This mineral relaxes blood vessels,
improving blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure—the perfect
combination for a healthy cardiovascular system.

Better Blood Sugar Control and A Lowered Risk of Diabetes

The nutrients in buckwheat may contribute to blood sugar control. In a test that
compared the effect on blood sugar of whole buckwheat groats to bread made from
refined wheat flour, buckwheat groats significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin
responses. Whole buckwheats also scored highest on their ability to satisfy hunger.

When researchers followed almost 36,000 women in Iowa during a six-year long study
of the effects of whole grains and the incidence of diabetes, they found that women who
consumed an average of 3 servings of whole grains daily had a 21 percent lower risk of
diabetes compared to those who ate one serving per week. Because buckwheat is a
good source of magnesium, it is also important to note that women who ate the most
foods high in magnesium had a 24 percent lower risk of diabetes compared to women
who ate the least.

Canadian researchers, publishing their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food
Chemistryhave found new evidence that buckwheat may be helpful in the management
of diabetes. In a placebo-controlled study, a single dose of buckwheat seed extract
lowered blood glucose levels by 12-19% at 90 and 120 minutes after administration
when fed to laboratory animals with chemically-induced diabetes. No glucose reduction
was seen in animals given placebo. The component in buckwheat responsible for its
blood glucose-lowering effects appears to be chiro-inositol, a compound that has been
shown in other animal and human studies to play a significant role in glucose
metabolism and cell signaling. While researchers do not yet know precisely how it
works, preliminary evidence suggests chiro-inositol makes cells more sensitive to insulin
and may even act as an insulin mimic. Results of the Canadian study were so promising
that one of the lead investigators, Roman Przbylski, is currently collaborating with
Canadian-based Kade Research to develop new buckwheat varieties with much higher
amounts of chiro-inositol. Although the animals used in this study had the equivalent of
Type 1 diabetes in humans, the researchers are confident that buckwheat will exert
similar glucose-lowering effects when given to animals with Type 2 diabetes, which is
the next study on their agenda. Type 2 or non-insulin dependent diabetes, which is by
far the most common form in humans (90% of diabetes in humans is Type 2), is
characterized by an inability of cells to respond properly to