Buckwheat – It’s a Pseudocereal
If you’re gluten-intolerant, then you probably already know about buckwheat.
If you’ve browsed health sites online, you might have read about pillows filled with buckwheat groats. My favorite u-neck travel pillow is called a Bucky, and yes, it’s filled with buckwheat hulls.
If you’re a world traveler, you might know that buckwheat is popular in Russia – in particular, the dark, toasted buckwheat groats called kasha, often served as a breakfast cereal, similar to how I have oatmeal.
If you’re just an average person, you might think that buckwheat is something from ‘the olden days.’ And it’s true, my grandmother used to make buckwheat pancakes once in a while. We’re talking back in the 1950’s.
Buckwheat pancakes didn’t seem as sweet as regular pancakes, and I loved the intense, somewhat bitter/nutty flavor. Once I was an adult making my own way in the world, I used to buy buckwheat pancake mix at my favorite health food store. Guess I was too lazy to make them from scratch.
What’s a Pseudocereal?
That’s pretty easy. According to Dictionary.com, a pseudocereal is –
“any of several plants, such as buckwheat and quinoa, that produce fruits and seeds used as flour but are not of the grass family.”
In essence, then, psuedocereal is just a fancy name for non-grasses, non-wheats that are used very much like cereals/flour. Two other popular pseudocereals are quinoa and amaranth.
Where I live in Central Java, Indonesia, I can’t buy buckwheat flour. It’s sometimes available in one of the stores in Jakarta that imports lots of products to cater to the large expat population living there. But I don’t get to Jakarta very often, so I brought some with back with me the last time I visited family in the U.S.
Since I wasn’t sure how soon I’d use my precious buckwheat flour, I put it in the freezer. After all, I didn’t want to use it up all at once. I didn’t know when my next trip to the U.S. would be, so I wanted to ration it out over time. Once it was in the freezer, though, it got pushed to the back whenever I added something new, and I ended up forgetting about it.
Not too long ago, I was moving things around in the freezer and saw my precious buckwheat flour. Still unopened. Seeing it put me in the mood for some buckwheat pancakes, so I went online to find a good buckwheat pancake recipe from scratch. No buckwheat pancake mix for me any longer.
In my search for the perfect buckwheat pancake recipe, I found some amazing information about buckwheat. Information that surprised me and might surprise you as well.
- Buckwheat isn’t a wheat and isn’t even related to wheat or any of the grasses in the wheat family. Three cheers for having no gluten. Buckwheat is actually the seed of a fruit related to rhubarb and sorrel.
- It’s chock full of easily-absorbed minerals and antioxidant plant compounds and has even more fiber than my breakfast oatmeal.
- It consists mainly of carbs but scores low to medium on the glycemic index. That means that buckwheat’s carbs break down slowly and keep you feeling full for a long time, so buckwheat doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar – a real plus for diabetics. In fact, some of buckwheat’s soluble carbs seem to help lessen the typical rise in blood sugar that comes after eating.
- It doesn’t have a lot of protein, but because buckwheat contains all the essential amino acids, it’s considered a complete protein – great for vegans and vegetarians. And if that’s not great enough, the amino acids in buckwheat help to boost the protein content of grains and beans eaten on the same day.
- It has been shown to lower cholesterol. Raise your hand if you need to lower your cholesterol.
- It seems to work the same way that hypertension drugs do. In other words, it reduces blood pressure without all the nasty side effects of those drugs.
- I could go on and on about the benefits of buckwheat, but I just like the taste.
How Can You Get Buckwheat into Your Diet?
These benefits might sound very good, but you may be wondering how you can incorporate buckwheat into the food you eat on a daily basis. Here are just a few suggestions.
- If you like to bake, substitute some (or all) of the regular wheat flour with buckwheat flour. It’s good in bread, muffins, cookies – and of course, pancakes.
- Make your next noodle dish with buckwheat noodles.
- If you enjoy oatmeal for breakfast, substitute part of the oats with cooked buckwheat groats.
- Do you make soup? Add cooked buckwheat to your soup or stew, and it will reward you by being more nutritious.
- Keep some cooked buckwheat in the frig to pop into your next salad.
You can find buckwheat flour, buckwheat groats, buckwheat noodles. There’s even buckwheat tea. But if you’re like me and love buckwheat pancakes, try this great recipe at Simply Recipes. The View from Great Island has a great recipe for buckwheat biscuits, and Olga’s Flavor Factory has a great recipe for kasha with mushrooms and bacon. (Those are not affiliate links. I just want to set you on the right path.)
You can often find buckwheat groats or flour in the bulk sections of your favorite health food grocery store. And you can find buckwheat pancake mix if you want to take the easy way.
Do you use buckwheat? Do you like it?
Previously published on Medium.