Those who know me know that I love banging on about buckwheat...
It truly is (in my eyes) a miracle plant. Its delicate little seed pods hold a whole host of nutrients; copper, iron, magnesium and fibre. What’s more it’s gluten free and low in sugar.
Once the seed pods have been cracked open and the groats removed from their tough outer shell, they can be used for many a delicious dish and snack. From buckwheat pancakes and waffles to soba noodles in ramen. The flour is perfect for gluten free cakes – I love the nutty texture it gives banana bread and its sticky texture is great for binding spring vegetable fritters without having to use eggs. The groats make a delicious, low sugar porridge when soaked overnight and blended with pecans, warm almond milk, banana and cinnamon in the morning.
But it’s not just the health and culinary benefits which give buckwheat the miracle plant status; its goodness is as far reaching below the soil as it is above. Buckwheat is great for restoring soils; often sown as the first plant after forest clearance. Below ground its shallow, dense root system has a wide surface area perfect for nutrient uptake such as phosphorous. Whilst above, its delicate white flowers are magnets for pollinators like bees and hover flies.
Buckwheat is a staple food in Eastern Europe and Russia where it is widely grown. In the UK however this unassuming little plant is lesser known, although it is slowly becoming more trendy with the growth of the gluten free and plant based crowd. My journey to find a buckwheat grower led me to farmers in Poland, France, Austria, Bulgaria and Uzbekistan. The buckwheat in our brownies currently comes from Lemberona who grow their own buckwheat on their organic farm in Austria.
But last year, a farmer who lives locally to me in Wiltshire decided to take a risk and try growing it on his farm. Wilfred Mole is a radical, regenerative farmer, a self-proclaimed feminist, a fierce protector of wildlife and nourisher of biodiversity. He has torn down all fences on the farm, allowing deer to roam free, created what he calls a ‘mouse hotel’ next to one of the owl boxes, to allow them to hunt and thrive, grown wildflowers along the banks of fields to create havens for butterfly and pollinators and planted hundreds of trees.
Jess on Wilfred's farm
On no better farm could our buckwheat thrive. Last year we harvested 1mt which has been used for seed for this year’s crop. It was sown just two weeks ago and being a quick germinator has already started to sprout up.
In September I will join Gerwyn, the farm manager on the combine harvester once again to oversee the harvest of our very own Natural State buckwheat. Grown in harmony with nature and a lot of love, from Mr Mole and his farming team.