Buckwheat flour is flour ground from Fagopyrum esculentum, known more casually as buckwheat. It has a rich, nutty flavor and a very high nutritional value, making it popular in many nations, especially in Asia. In addition, this flour is gluten free, leading people with gluten intolerance to seek it out as a flour alternative. Many grocery stores carry the pure flour and buckwheat blends.
Although buckwheat is treated like a cereal crop, it is not a grass. The grain-like fruit of buckwheat is what is harvested and eaten, after the hard outer husk has been pulled away. The plant thrives in poor growing conditions and matures quickly, two things which have made it a popular choice of crop around the world. In addition to making flour from the buckwheat harvest, people also crack it into groats and steam or boil them in puddings and porridge. Buckwheat is also planted as a cover crop for beekeeping, since it produces a high volume of flavorful nectar.
To make buckwheat flour, the plants are mowed and allowed to dry before threshing to remove the inedible outer husk. The fruit is allowed to dry out completely, to prevent it from going rancid. It is ground, typically with the outer bran, which is high in fiber and other nutrients. The bran turns the resulting flour a rich brown color, with dark flecks. Then, it can be packaged for sale on its own, or blended with other flours.
Individuals with gluten intolerance should be careful about where they purchase their buckwheat flour. It is often made in facilities that process wheat, and contamination is possible. It may also be blended with wheat as a filler, so shoppers should make sure to seek out products that are clearly labeled as “gluten free.” Plain buckwheat flour can be used in an assortment of foods including pancakes and traditional Japanese soba noodles.
For people who are not limited by dietary restrictions, mixed flours with buckwheat included can be used in baking bread, muffins, and biscuits. For breads, no more than half of the total flour should be buckwheat, as it can have an impact on rising and dough performance. The rich flavor complements many foods, and can elevate a dish from the mundane to the interesting. Inclusion of buckwheat will also make a dish more nutritious, since it is high in fiber, amino acids, protein, niacin, and vitamin B, among other things.