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Buckwheat refers to plants in two genera of the dicot family Polygonaceae: the Eurasian genus Fagopyrum, and the North American genus Eriogonum. The crop plant, common buckwheat, is Fagopyrum esculentum. Tartary buckwheat (F. tataricum Gaertn.) or "bitter buckwheat" is also used as a crop, but it is much less common. Despite the common name and the grain-like use of the crop, buckwheat is not a cereal or grass. It is called a pseudocereal to emphasize that it is not related to wheat.

The agricultural weed known as Wild Buckwheat (Fallopia convolvulus) is in the same family, but not closely related to the crop species.Within Fagopyrum, the cultivated species are in the cymosum group, with F. cymosum L. (perennial buckwheat), F. giganteum and F. homotropicum. The wild ancestor of common buckwheat is F. esculentum ssp.ancestrale. F. homotropicum is interfertile with F. esculentum and the wild forms have a common distribution, in Yunnanmarker. The wild ancestor of tartary buckwheat is F. tataricum ssp. potanini.


The name 'buckwheat' or 'beech wheat' comes from its triangular seeds, which resemble the much larger seeds of the beech nut from the beech tree, and the fact that it is used like wheat. The etymology of the word is explained as partial translation of Middle Dutch boecweite : boek, beech; see PIE bhago- + weite, wheat.


Common Buckwheat in flower
Common buckwheat was domesticated and first cultivated in southeast Asia, possibly around 6000 BC, and from there spread to Europe and to Central Asia and Tibet. Domestication most likely took place in the western Yunnan region of China. Buckwheat is documented in Europe in the Balkans by at least the Middle Neolithic (circa 4000 BC) and the oldest known remains in China so far date to circa 2600 BC, and buckwheat pollen has been found in Japan from as early as 4000 BC. It is the world's highest elevation domesticate, being cultivated in Yunnanmarker on the edge of the Tibetan Plateaumarker or on the Plateau itself. Buckwheat was one of the earliest crops introduced by Europeans to North America. Dispersal around the globe was complete by 2006, when a variety developed in Canada was widely planted in China.

Buckwheat is a short season crop that does well on low-fertility or acidic soils, but the soil must be well drained. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, will reduce yields. In hot climates, it can only be grown by sowing late in the season, so that it will bloom in cooler weather. The presence of pollinators greatly increases the yield. The nectar from buckwheat flower makes a dark colored honey. Buckwheat is sometimes used as a green manure, as a plant for erosion control, or as wildlife cover and feed.

Agricultural production

Buckwheat output in 2006
Common buckwheat is by far the most important buckwheat species, economically, accounting for over 90% of the world's buckwheat production.

A century ago, Russiamarker was the world leader in buckwheat production. Growing areas in the Russian Empiremarker were estimated at 6.5 million acres (26,000 km²), followed by those of Francemarker (0.9 million acres; 3,500 km²). In 1970 the Soviet Unionmarker grew an estimated 4.5 million acres (18,000 km²) of buckwheat. Then Chinamarker has been the world's top producer until 2005, with Russia coming once again the top producer since 2007.

Ukrainemarker, Francemarker, Polandmarker, Kazakhstanmarker, the United Statesmarker and Brazilmarker are also significant producers of buckwheat. In the northeastern United Statesmarker, buckwheat was a common crop in the 18th and 19th centuries. Cultivation declined sharply in the 20th century due the use of nitrogen fertilizer, to which maize and wheat respond strongly. Over a million acres (4,000 km²) were harvested in the United States in 1918. By 1954 that had declined to 150,000 acres (600 km²), and by 1964, the last year that production statistics were gathered, only 50,000 acres (200 km²) were grown.

Japanmarker, Lithuaniamarker, Belarusmarker, Latviamarker, Bhutanmarker, Canadamarker, and Moldovamarker also grow significant quantities of buckwheat, for the production of both food wheat and agricultural seed. Other producers of lower quantities include South Koreamarker, the Czech Republicmarker, Sloveniamarker, Kyrgyzstanmarker, South Africa, Croatiamarker and Georgiamarker, but they no longer produce the seed needed for their harvested areas.

(s : semi-official data — e : estimated data — a : aggregated from official and estimated data)
Source: [[Food and Agriculture Organization>FAO]] statistics [12218]
Buckwheat Cultivated area




Countries 2005 2007 2005 2007 2005 2007 2005
833 600 1 305 000 7 265 e 7 700 e 605 640 1 004 850 69 500 s
834 000 e 900 000 e 8 992 8 888 750 000 e 800 000 e 87 570 e
396 200 237 000 6 933 e 6 751 e 274 700 160 000 20 500 s
36 593 32 945 33 945 e 35 558 e 124 217 117 148 3 293 e
67 531 90 000 e 10 675 e 9 777 e 72 096 88 000 e 5 500 e
55 000 142 600 10 545 e 5 610 e 58 000 s 80 000 e 3 200 s
65 000 e 68 000 e 10 000 e 10 000 e 65 000 e 68 000 e 2 600 e
46 000 e 48 000 e 10 869 e 10 833 e 50 000 e 52 000 e 2 760 e
44 700 44 600 e 6 979 e 7 623 e 31 200 34 000 e 1 341 e
28 400 21 700 5 528 e 9 631 e 15 700 20 900 2 500 e
7 106 11 500 10 227 e 11 304 e 7 268 13 000 1 000 e
10 400 13 000 e 9 519 e 6 307 e 9 900 8 200 e
4 500 e 4 600 e 14 888 e 14 782 e 6 700 6 800 e 360 e
2 257 2 650 e 9 937 e 11 320 e 2 243 3 000 e 90 e
4 000 2 000 11 500 e 11 500 e 4 600 2 300 300 e
1 000 e 20 000 e 2 000 e 26 e
811 809 17 916 e 9 406 e 1 453 761 52 e
752 800 e 6 156 e 5 000 e 463 400 e 60 e
676 314 7 174 e 9 554 e 485 300
461 500 e 8 872 e 6 000 e 409 300 e
2 811 7 200 e 3 429 e 416 e 964 300 e 252 e
378 600 e 9 179 e 8 333 e 347 500 e
1 000 e 1 000 e 3 000 e 3 000 e 300 e 300 e 65 e
45 e 31 111 e 140 e 2 e
100 e 100 e 10 000 e 10 000 e 100 s 100 e
World 2 443 321 a 2 934 918 a 8 529 e 8 385 e 2 083 925 a 2 461 159 a 200 974 a

Chemical composition

| valign="top" | Seeds
| valign="top" | Starch
| valign="top" | 71–78% in groats
70–91% in different types of flour.
Starchis 25% amyloseand 75% amylopectin.
Depending on hydrothermal treatment buckwheat groats contain 7–37% of resistant starch.
|   || Proteins
| 18% with biological values above 90%.
This can be explained by a high concentration of all essential amino acids, especially lysine, threonine, tryptophan, and the sulphur-containing amino acids.
|   || Minerals
| Rich in iron (60–100 ppm), zinc (20–30 ppm) and selenium (20–50 ppb).
|   || Antioxidants
| 10–200 ppm of rutin and 0.1–2% of tannins
|   || Aromatic compounds
| Salicylaldehyde (2-hydroxybenzaldehyde) was identified as a characteristic component of buckwheat aroma. 2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3-furanone, -2,4-decadienal, phenylacetaldehyde, 2-methoxy-4-vinylphenol, -2-nonenal, decanal and  hexanal also contribute to its aroma. They all have odour activity value more than 50, but aroma of these substances in isolated state does not resemble buckwheat.
| Herb
| Antioxidants
| 1–10% rutin and 1–10% tannins
|   || Fagopyrin
| 0.4 to 0.6 mg/g of fagopyrins (at least 3 similar substances)


Buckwheat kasha
Soba noodles, made from buckwheat flour
Soba noodles, made from buckwheat flour
Naengmyeon, Korean cold noodle soup made with buckwheat flour
A traditional Breton galette, a thin large buckwheat flour pancake

The fruit is an achene, similar to sunflowerseed, with a single seed inside a hard outer hull. The starchy endosperm is white and makes up most or all of buckwheat flour. The seed coat is green or tan, which darkens buckwheat flour. The hull is dark brown or black, and some may be included in buckwheat flour as dark specks. The dark flour is known as 'blé noir' ('black wheat') in French, along with the name sarrasin('saracen').

Buckwheat noodles play a major role in the cuisines of Japanmarker (soba), Koreamarker (naengmyeon, makguksu and memil guksu) and the Valtellinamarker region of Northern Italymarker (pizzoccheri).Soba noodles are the subject of deep cultural importance in Japan. In Koreamarker, guksu (noodles) were widely made from buckwheat before it was replaced by wheat.The difficulty of making noodles from flour that has no gluten has resulted in a traditional art developed around their manufacture by hand.

Buckwheat groatsare commonly used in western Asiaand eastern Europe. The porridge was common, and is often considered the definitive peasant dish. It is made from roasted groats that are cooked with broth to a texture similar to rice or bulgur. The dish was brought to America by Russianand PolishJewishimmigrants who called it "kasha" and mixed it with pasta or used it as a filling for knishesand blintzes, and hence buckwheat groats are most commonly called kashain America. Groats were the most widely used form of buckwheat worldwide during the 20th century, with consumption primarily in Russia, Ukraine and Poland.

Buckwheat pancakes, sometimes raised with yeast, are eaten in several countries. They are known as buckwheat blini in Russiamarker, galettes in Francemarker (savoury crêpes which are especially associated with Brittany), ployes in Acadia and boûketes (which are named after the buckwheat plant) in the Walloniamarker region of Belgium.Similar pancakes were a common food in American pioneer days. They are light and foamy. The buckwheat flour gives them an earthy, mildly mushroom-like taste. In Ukraine, yeast rolls called hrechanykyare made from buckwheat.

Farinamade from groats are used for breakfast food, porridge, and thickening materials in soups, gravies, and dressings. In Koreamarker, buckwheat starch is used to make a jelly called memilmuk.It is also used with wheat, maize(polenta taragnain Northern Italy) or ricein breadand pastaproducts.

Buckwheat contains no glutenand can thus be eaten by people with coeliac diseaseor gluten allergies. Many bread-like preparations have been developed. However, Buckwheat can be a potent and potentially fatal allergen by itself. In sensitive people, it provokes IgE-mediated anaphylaxis. While this allergy is rare in the west, it is quite common in Japan and Korea.[12219]

Buckwheat is a good honeyplant, producing a dark, strong monofloral honey.

Buckwheat greens can be eaten. However, if consumed in sufficient quantities, the greens, or, more commonly, their juice, can induce sensitization of the skin to sunlight known as fagopyrism. Fair skinned people are particularly susceptible, as are light pigmented livestock. Enthusiasts of sproutingand raw food, however, eat the very young buckwheat sprouts(four to five days of growth) for their subtle, nutty flavour and high nutritional value. They are widely available in Japan .

Medicinal uses

Buckwheat contains rutin, a medicinal chemicalthat strengthens capillary walls, reducing hemorrhaging in people with high blood pressure and increasing microcirculation in people with chronic venous insufficiency. Dried buckwheat leaves for tea were manufactured in Europe under the brand name "Fagorutin."

Buckwheat contains D-chiro-inositol, a component of the secondary messengerpathway for insulinsignal transductionfound to be deficient in Type II diabetes and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It is being studied for use in treating Type II diabetes. Research on D-chiro-inositol and PCOS has shown promising results.

A buckwheat protein has been found to bind cholesterol tightly. It is being studied for reducing plasma cholesterol in people with an excess of this compound.

Upholstery filling

Buckwheat hulls are used as filling for a variety of upholsteredgoods, including pillowsand zafu. The hulls are durable and do not conduct or reflect heat as much as synthetic fills. They are sometimes marketed as an alternative natural fill to feathers for those with allergies. However, medical studies to measure the health effects of buckwheat hull pillows concluded that buckwheat pillows do emit a potential allergen that may trigger asthma in susceptible individuals.

Buckwheat and beer

In recent years, buckwheat has been used as a substitute for other grain in gluten free beer. Although it is not a cereal, buckwheat can be used in the same way as barleyto produce a maltthat can form the basis of a mashthat will brew a beerwithout gliadinor hordein(together gluten) and therefore can be suitable for coeliacsor others sensitive to certain glycoproteins.


The buckwheat plant is celebrated in Kingwood, West Virginiamarker at their Buckwheat Festival where people can participate in swine, cow, and sheep judging contests, vegetable contests, and craft fairs.The area fire departments also play an important role in the series of parades that occur there. Each year there is a King Buckwheat and Queen Ceres elected. Also there are many rides and homemade, homegrown buckwheat cakes and sausage.

On Hindu fasting days (Navaratrimainly, also Maha Shivaratri), people eat items made of buckwheat flour. The preparation varies across Indiamarker.The famous ones are Kuttu Ki Puriand Kuttu Pakoras. In most of northern and western states they call this Kuttu ka atta .


Buckwheat is currently being researched, and actively used, as a pollen and nectar source to increase natural predator numbers to control crop pests in New Zealand

Agricultural Use

Buckwheat is raised for grain where a short season is available, either because it is used as a second crop in the season, or because the climate is limiting.

Buckwheat can be reliable cover crop in summer to fit a small slot of warm season for establishment. It establishes quickly, which suppresses summer weeds.


See also

  • Eriogonum – North American wild buckwheat


External links

  • Mazza, G. 1992. Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), the crop and its importance, p. 534–539. In: R. MacRae (ed.). Encyclopedia of food science, food technology and nutrition. Academic Press Ltd., London.
  • Mazza, G. 1993. Storage, Processing, and Quality Aspects of Buckwheat Seed, p. 251–255. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.
  • Marshall, H.G. and Y. Pomeranz. 1982. Buckwheat description, breeding, production and utilization, p. 157–212 In: Y. Pomeranz (ed.). Advances in cereal science and technology. Amer. Assoc. Cereal Chem., St. Paul, MN.
  • McGregor, S.E. 1976. Insect Pollination Of Cultivated Crop Plants, chap. 9 Crop Plants and Exotic Plants. U.S. Department of Agriculture. As found on the website of the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center of the USDAmarker Agricultural Research Service.[12220]

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