15 August 2011



Bee on Buckwheat Flowers (photo link)

Buckwheat is a grain that will grow on most poor soils. It delights most in dry locations, a soil inclined to gravel or sand. It has many qualities that recommend it highly as an article to be grown for the purpose of filling the soil with vegetable matter, of which it has been much exhausted in the states which we have known.

In the first place, it will grow and produce a handsome layer for the plough on lands that will produce nothing else. In the second place, we do not find it an exhausting crop. We can raise it many years in succession on our poorest lands without any manure, and we very commonly save fifteen or twenty bushels of the grain from an acre. This plant has a very small fibrous root and is easily pulled up by the hand. It has also a large branching top that never could get its support from this root. It has probably greater facilities for procuring nourishment from the atmosphere than most plants have.

All theory and all experience unite in showing that this plant takes less from the soil than any other of the same size. In the next place, it has a rapid growth; six weeks in Massachusetts, being long enough to bring it in full blossom, when it should be ploughed in. Two crops may therefore be turned under in one season, and then it will be early enough (Sept. 1st) to sow down winter grain and grass seed. Another advantage attends the raising of this for grain or for green crops—the expense is not great. It usually bears the same price of oats, and is worth quite as much for fattening animals, and one bushel of seed is enough for an acre. When it is raised for the purpose of saving the grain, we often sow but half a bushel. The straw is also greedily eaten by young cattle and horses. Yet we have known large piles of the straw to be burned in the field where it was thrashed.

The policy of raising so many acres of Indian corn on poor and reduced land, must be abandoned. When more buckwheat can be raised on the acre than is obtained of Indian corn, it should be substituted for corn in a great measure, for it requires not a sixth part of the expense to produce it.
[Thomas’s Farmer's Almanac]

Buckwheat Kernels


Have you ever smelled a field of buckwheat in full blossom? It has an earthy-sweet, distinctive smell that some people do not like, but I love it. In fact, I stopped by a field of buckwheat the other day just to savor the aroma and the sight of it for a few moments.

Bees have a particular fondness for buckwheat. The honey they make from buckwheat flowers looks blackish but if you hold a jar of it up to the light, you will see that it is actually a rich mahogany color, and full of healthy goodness.

A lot of people sow buckwheat in their garden as a "green manure" and till the plants under (before they go to seed) as a type of organic fertilizer. I've done this many times over the years. And, as today's almanac excerpt explains, the old-timers did the same on whole fields. This was, of course, before synthetic chemical fertilizers came along—all farmers were "organic" farmers in the Agrarian Nation of 1842. 

By the way, buckwheat is not a wheat or cereal grain. Technically speaking, it's more of a fruit. 

A field of buckwheat in blossom. Though you can't see any bees in the picture, if you were standing beside that field on a sunny day, you would see it humming with busy bees.


Buckwheat flour makes great pancakes and the groats make a hearty porridge. Buckwheat groats are buckwheat kernels that have had their husks removed. I've always wondered how they peel all those husks off without damaging the triangular-shaped seed inside. Here is a recipe for buckwheat porridge that sounds wonderful. And it looks good too...

Buckwheat Porridge—A Down-To-Earth Breakfast!


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Jon in California said...

Just what I needed to read! Gave me a kick in the pants and I got out and planted 4000 SqFt of buckwheat yesterday.

Brian G. Heyer said...

I'll 2nd Jon's comment.

I sowed a small patch as an experiment just large enough to see if our few laying hens will enjoy picking through it as 'hay.' In several weeks we'll bundle it (miniaturized shocks, I guess) to air dry, careful to catch any shattered grain. I visualize suspending the shock from the coop ceiling and letting them pick through it. Better yet, a small wall mounted hay basket with a small tray to catch seed drops so the nutrition isn't lost in the bedding.

(All this thought and effort for a few tasty eggs! We think of it as an experiment station to see what works. It will certainly be cheaper labor-wise to just buy a few premium alfalfa bales for the winter.)

A widowed neighbor showed us her husband's 4H chicken project book from the mid-40's. He'd included a feed supplement brochure from the time which recommended feeding hay to hens and hogs. Agriculture is going to have to rediscover what we've forgotten.

Wild Ed said...

There is no way to hull buckwheat without one of the commerical type hulling machines and they are quite expensive.
Wild Ed's Texas Outdoors

Herrick Kimball said...

Way to go!

You are absolutely correct in saying that agriculture is going to have to rediscover what has been forgotten.

Wild Ed,
So you're telling me that if I want to make my own oat groats, I have to peel them by hand?

Wild Ed said...

By hand or buy an expensive huller. Unless you can find company you can pay to hull your crop. jmho
Wild Ed's Texas Outdoors