Common buckwheat is an annual plant, growing 0.6-1.3 m tall, with reddish stems and flowers ranging in colour from white to pink. On account of its fast growth rate it is grown as a cover crop and helps in binding soils, thus checking soil erosion during rainy seasons. The plant is especially tolerant of poor quality, sandy or acidic soils.
It is a crop with multiple uses: the tender shoots are eaten as leafy vegetables, the green leaves used medicinally to promote circulation and the grains used for preparation of buckwheat flour for human consumption as well as livestock feed.
Common buckwheat is used as a cereal but does not belong to the family of the grasses (where the common cereals, such as rice and wheat, belong) hence it is known as a pseudocereal. It is a good source of protein and is consumed in many different preparations depending upon local cultures. For example, the flour is used for making noodles in China and Japan, pancakes and biscuits in Europe and North America, porridge and soup in Russia and Poland, and unleavened bread chapattis in India.
Where it is found
Common buckwheat is native to western China, Tibet and eastern India, and is cultivated in those areas as well as in the cool, moist climes of Russia, central and southeastern Asia, Europe and USA.
How to eat it
Stir-fried buckwheat noodles with vegetables
2 cups cooked buckwheat noodles (prepared as per instructions on packet); 1-2 tablespoons of cooking oil; 1 medium onion; 1-2 cloves garlic; 1/2 head cabbage chopped ; 1-2 carrots chopped; 1/2 cup of other mixed vegetables, such as chopped broccoli or whole fresh peas in the pod; 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Finely chop the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat in oil. Add the vegetables and soy sauce and cook over medium heat for a further 7-8 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Finally, add two cups cooked buckwheat noodles and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Garnish with chopped almonds or toasted sesame seeds. Serves 4.
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