Buckwheat

Growing Buckwheat

The area we live in is not ideal for buckwheat, but I do grow it anyway, just a small patch for crepes or pancakes. Buckwheat likes cool nights and warm days, too cold and it doesn’t grow properly, too hot and it doesn’t produce grains.

Sowing

I sow most grains in rows 40 cm apart (for easy maintenance), but as buckwheat doesn’t create tillers as wheat or rye, the crop is “thinner”, I do 2 rows 10 cm apart every 40 cm, individual seeds around 10 cm apart and 1 cm deep.

Care

Apart from weeding I don’t do anything else. As the plants grow quickly, weeding once is enough.

Harvest

In 2 to 3 months from sowing one can harvest. Timing is very important. Buckwheat does set flowers continually until cold weather will eventually put it to an end, which is the reason I prefer sowing buckwheat in summer and harvest in autumn. Cool nights and warm days are ideal for the growth and production of grains, cold weather towards the end of the growing process will stop flowering and the grains tend to mature faster.

If you are growing buckwheat in other seasons or warmer climate, you need to find the right time for harvest, when around 3/4 of the grains are mature, as each plant will have ripe grains, green ones and flowers as well. If you leave it too long, the ripe grains will scatter, too early and you get lots of immature seeds and flowers.
One does also need to look out for typhoons as they will harvest all the ripe grains instead of you.

Once the plants reach ideal time for harvest, I cut them with a sickle (using actually a Japanese “kama” just because it is cheaper here and easy to get) and spread on drying frames to mature and dry for a week. Few grains might scatter during the drying but as I have nets underneath I don’t need to worry about losses.

Threshing

Buckwheat - Threshing Buckwheat - Threshing Buckwheat - Threshing

Threshing is quite easy, I use the same threshing method I use for wheat and other grains, but one can easily just put the buckwheat into a sack and hit it with a stick or just pick the grains by hand right in the garden for small amounts.

The final product is pretty messy though, the grains are buried in lots of leaves and stems.

Winnowing

Buckwheat - Winnowing Buckwheat - Winnowing
First I use a rough sieve to collect the larger stems and grains and then using a d.i.y. winnower I get rid of anything lighter than the grains.

Final Cleaning

Buckwheat - Final Cleaning Buckwheat - Final Cleaning Buckwheat - Final Cleaning Buckwheat - Final Cleaning

I am finding cleaning buckwheat the trickiest from all grains I grow. If anyone knows a better method, please comment below. After winnowing there are always some pieces of leaves and stems left. Washing and straining does get rid of them, together with some smallest and lightest grains and dirt.

I do the washing in a large bowl, into which I put the buckwheat and fill it with water almost to the top. I stir it quickly with hand and let it sit for about 10 minutes. The ripe and heavier grains should sink to the bottom while the “rubbish” will float on the surface. I do collect the rubbish from surface with a small sieve. It looks like I am loosing some of the grains which look ok but are floating on the surface together with the green ones and the stems, but I didn’t find a better method yet. After 2-3 repetitions of the stirring and collecting the green stuff I use a sieve with larger holes to strain all the collected buckwheat at the bottom of the bowl and rinse it few times to get rid of some leftover dirt and stems adhering to the grains.

As with all grains, after winnowing I wash and then usually dry them. With buckwheat, because I use it straight away as flour for crepes or pancakes, I do the drying while roasting.

Roasting Buckwheat

roasting buckwheat

In a pan on low heat (in my case just a touch higher than the lowest heat setting) I roast it for about 20 minutes, doing just a thin layer of buckwheat at a time (in my pan roughly 100-200g at a time).
After roughly 20 mins, when the buckwheat starts having a nice roasted smell it is ready and can be milled into flour. I do mill it as is and then use a fine sieve to get rid of the brown “skins”.

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