Sunday, May 6, 2012

Buckwheat Love

A repost from my original blog, updated with my favorite buckwheat cracker recipe.

A field of buckwheat
Buckwheat is an unusually fast-growing crop with a variety of uses. Its flexibility and wide adaptation led it to be grown on more than a million acres in the U.S. in the late 1800s, even though it is not native to our country. 

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were two of the first American farmers to grow buckwheat and recognize the benefit to their crop rotations. With increased focus on specializing in the major commodities during the 1900s, buckwheat become much less common. In recent years, some farmers in north Missouri grew buckwheat under contract with a major buckwheat processor. Overall acreage in the U.S. has climbed to more than 70,000 acres, with millions of acres grown worldwide. Russia, where buckwheat is native, has the largest acreage of buckwheat.
buckwheat groats ready to be ground into flour
    I have thought about growing buckwheat on a couple of occasions. Mostly occasions where I am shocked at the price of a one pound sack of buckwheat flour.  I really like to use buckwheat in cooking and baking and it is becoming a staple here at my little homestead.  However, since it is not a crop normally grown in Texas and also not a largely grown crop, the prices for it are high.  Also there is not much information available about growing it as a food source in Texas.  So I had really sort of dismissed it as a viable crop here on the farm. 
     I recently found buckwheat seed at Homestead Heritage.  We calculated what we would need and purchased enough seed to plant 2 acres.  And in my mind I was thinking of the section in the Little House book Farmer Boy where Almonzo describes his father planting a field of corn and a field of rye for Ma’s Injun Rye bread and cornbread for the year.  And then I envisioned my Mr. P walking out and scattering buckwheat seeds so that my kids could someday recount "Pa" planting a field of buckwheat for "Ma’s" buckwheat crackers and buckwheat pancakes.  When I asked the store clerk about harvesting it, he gave me a funny look and said that they don’t grow it for food, but rather for the bees. Well, my bubble wasn’t burst.  Just because they weren’t growing it for food, didn’t mean that I couldn’t.
     On the way home from the farm store I googled buckwheat on my iPhone.  I know it isn’t very Ma Ingalls, but really, I think she’d have googled. if she’d had an iPhone.  and internet.   and electricity.  and technology of any kind.  In my research I found out quite a bit about buckwheat.  We now have 2 acres planted and are crossing our fingers that we don’t get a late frost.  "Pa" didn’t hand scatter as I imagined, but used a tractor to plow up the earth and a little green plastic wagon thing to broadcast the seed, which was still a nice picture memory.  This is our first year to have bees and the bees will be blessed with the lovely white flowers from this year’s crop.  And maybe down the line as we learn more about growing buckwheat, I’ll be able to harvest some groats and make my favorite buckwheat crackers and pancakes.  And then in my old age I can hear the children reminisce about their father indulging their mother and planting buckwheat for crackers and pancakes.  A mother can dream can’t she?

Here is a recipe I love to make.  The last time I made these crackers, I had to rush out to help a friend with some goats kidding (the joys of being known as a small handed woman), so I jokingly refer to them as buckwheat birthing crackers.  The recipe is from The Yeast Connection Cookbook

Buckwheat Crackers
1 c. buckwheat flour
1/4 c. arrowroot or tapioca starch (another starch would work well too)
1/4 t. salt
3 T. sesame seeds
2 T. Sesame oil (NOT optional...this provides much flavor)
1/2 c. water.

Preheat oven to 400*.  Mix the flour, starch, salt and seeds in a small bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the oil and water.  Stir with a fork.  I found the easiest way to prepare the crackers is to pat the ball of dough into a rectangle and put it on an oiled cookie sheet (or a silpat)  I then put wax paper on top of the rectangle and roll it out thin while on the cookie sheet.  I then cut it into squares with a pizza wheel.  Martha Stewart would measure the squares, but I don't.  I think they taste the same no matter if they are all uniform in size.  If desired, you may salt the tops.  

For baking, reduce the oven temperature to 350*.  Bake for 12 minutes and then remove the edges which will brown and be done sooner than the center.  I then just keep checking them until they are evenly browned.  The original recipe says to leave the crackers in the oven for 10-20 minutes with the oven OFF to get them super crispy.  I have never done this as they seem to be fine without this.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.  I suspect you can also use wheat flour, although I haven't tried it that way.  As the recipe is stated, it is dairy free, egg free, corn free and gluten free cracker.  If you have little ones with allergies, they will appreciate this recipe very much.
Mrs. P


  1. It all came up and was really quite pretty with it's tiny white flowers. The bees loved it. It could have been harvested, but we didn't. We wanted to see if it would volunteer up again. It didn't. It's an interesting crop and apparently the grain has a flavor that you either like or don't like. I like it as do most of the kids. Mr. P thinks it is similar to dirt in flavor.