Buckwheat, the Hidden Gluten-Free Gem, Can Do Wonders for Your Health
Feature Image: Taste
Gluten-free diets have gained enormous popularity in the recent years, which is one of the reasons I feel compelled to share my favorite gluten-free product with the bold. community—buckwheat. I, like most European immigrants, miss eating buckwheat significantly more than I miss eating other European products, and that’s because the gluten-free grain is both delicious and nutritious. Heather Tonkins, Certified Nutritionist of Tonkins Nutrition, tells us that “Not only is buckwheat safe for individuals who need to maintain a gluten-free diet, but it is also quite nutritious. Buckwheat is high in copper, magnesium, manganese, niacin, and phosphorus.”
Some of the benefits of buckwheat:
Lowers cholesterol level and and controls pressure
Improves heart health
Provides high-quality protein
Helps prevent breast cancer
Supports healthy bones
Pretty amazing, right? But wait, there’s more. Buckwheat also:
Supports mental health and prevents depression
Contains high amounts of Vitamin B
Is easy to store and cook
Is gluten-free and hypoallergenic
The benefits of buckwheat make an impressive list, don’t you think? And this is likely why it was one of the world’s first domesticated crops. Crop domestication is the process in which plants are modified by humans over time for their most desirable traits. Many sources claim that buckwheat originated in Southeast Asia five to six thousand years ago. From there, it spread to the rest of Asia, the Middle East, and finally to the Balkan area of Europe. Unlike most other grains, though, it was also popular in the United States during the colonial era. (However, it was ultimately forgotten by the 1960s.)
Though the reason for the steep decline in American buckwheat consumption is unclear, I suspect it might be related to nitrogen fertilizers. Nitrogen fertilizers became popular in the 20th century and increased the productivity of other food staples, such as corn and rice. As a result, buckwheat was produced less and less. In 1918, buckwheat took up over a million acres of land, but by 1954, only 150,000 acres were left.
Another confusing factor of buckwheat is its name. Why would it be called buckwheat if it’s supposedly gluten free? Tonkins says, “Don’t let the name fool you! Buckwheat is not wheat at all, but rather, it is a seed.” Apparently, Dutch people, going as far back as the 1540s, noticed the seed-like appearance of beech trees. And “boekweit,” in Dutch, means beech-wheat—hence, how we got the name buckwheat! (Fun fact, buckwheat is also part of the rhubarb family.)
Now that we’ve discussed the origin and benefits of buckwheat, I strongly suggest visiting a European or an Armenian store for buckwheat. While you can get buckwheat in some American stores, the texture is a bit different because of the different processing systems. (European buckwheat does not get as soft during the boiling process and, instead, stays firm.) The texture and versatility of buckwheat reminds me of rice, because you can pair these easy-to-cook grains with a variety of other foods and garnishes—fish, chicken, beef, mushrooms, vegetables, and so on.
Now that I've whetted your appetite with the origin and nutritional benefits of buckwheat, try my all-time favorite recipe: buckwheat with vegetables.
What you will need:
2 cups of water
1 cup of buckwheat
Virgin olive oil
1 medium sized broccoli
1 small cauliflower
1 sweet pepper (optional)
¼ teaspoon of paprika
How to make it:
Step 1. Boil or steam the cauliflower and broccoli. Cut the tomatoes, onions, and sweet pepper into small cubes.
Step 2. Grate the peeled carrots, place all the vegetables in a pre-heated frying pan with heated olive oil and fry for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Step 3. Add washed and dried buckwheat to the vegetables in the frying pan, and mix and fry for another 5 minutes.
Step 4. If your frying pan is deep, pour water into the pan and boil for 20 minutes. If your frying pan is not deep, move buckwheat and vegetables to a saucepan, pour in boiling water, cover with lid and boil for 20 minutes.
Step 5. Add pepper, salt, and other spices. Add chopped cilantro and slices of avocado,if desired.
Step 6. Enjoy!
You can thank me later!