A grain that is making a comeback after its fall from popularity, buckwheat is actually a fruit seed that can be used in place of grains. Standing at 30-50 in. tall, the buckwheat plant grows fast and contains fragrant flowers. Because it grows so fast and can grow in poor soil, it is often used as a “smother crop” or a crop that is grown in a field during a period of rest to keep the field in working condition.
Though it is thought to have originally been found in Southeast Asia, its first real debut took place in the Balkan area of Europe around 4000B.C. Unlike many of the ancient grains, buckwheat has a rich history in the United States as well. It was common in colonial times. However, its popularity peaked in 1866 and by 1960 had severely declined.
The buckwheat plant also boasts a unique characteristic. It is used to make honey! Its aromatic flowers are especially attractive to bees, and one acre can produce 150lbs a season. Buckwheat’s late season honey used to be especially important to the stars and stripes especially in the northeast. However, this dark, strong honey’s popularity declined right along with the decline of buckwheat as a food, and now is so uncommon that it would probably be the most expensive honey.
As a credit to its nutritional content, buckwheat resurfaced in the 1970s in the United States. Due in part to the sudden interest in commercially prepared cereals, buckwheat has gained back some of its original popularity – enough that its nutritional benefits are being researched and made available for health seekers.