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By Nadia Marshall
What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat is often thought of as a cereal but is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb. It is not a form of wheat or any relation to it. It is a short-season crop that does well on low-fertility or acidic soils and grows quickly, ripening within 10-11 weeks after planting. The buckwheat seed is used whole or for making flour, the nectar from the buckwheat flower makes a rich honey and the hulls surrounding the seed are used as upholstery fillings, particularly for Zafus (round meditation cushions). It is one handy little plant!
What are its qualities?
From an Ayurvedic perspective, buckwheat has the following qualities...
Rasa: Astringent, Sweet, Pungent
Actions on the doshas: Balances Vata and Kapha, increases Pitta in excess
Action on the mind: slightly Rajasic
What are its medicinal qualities?
From an Ayurvedic perspective, Buckwheat is Astringent, Pungent, Sweet, Heating and slightly heavy. So, its qualities are – heating, heavy and dry. It is used as ‘food medicine’ in the treatment of diabetes, excess weight, heart disease, capillary health, dull Agni and excess Kapha (mucous/fluid) conditions. It is also used for grain-free fasts or cleanses.
The Western viewpoint.
From a western perspective Buckwheat is gluten free, low GI, alkalising and high in antioxidants, insoluble fibre, magnesium, iron and protein (it even contains all essential amino acids).
How do you eat it?
Buckwheat is super tasty and can be used whole in soups or as a side dish to meals. When using it in soups it just needs to be soaked for a couple of hours before cooking. But it is perhaps most delicious used in its flour form to make pancakes and biscuits. It is also commonly used to make soba noodles... and, increasingly, gluten-free beer!
Why do I love it?
Buckwheat is one of the few more unusual grains/seeds that I’m actually really familiar with and have been eating my whole life in.... pancakes! My Mum is Canadian and buckwheat pancakes are big in Canada you see. So, I have some yummy associations with it. But, I’d never had it whole until a few years ago and it is really lovely, fast cooking and versatile.
Should anyone avoid eating it?
Because it can aggravate Pitta if eaten in excess, pitta people or people with heat conditions shouldn’t overdo it.
Where do you get it from?
You can buy Organic Buckwheat and Buckwheat Flour from most whole-food or healthfood stores. If you live around Northern NSW you can it from Santos and also The Source in Mullum.
Finally, below are some videos showing a few ways to prepare buckwheat... as Ayurvedic Ginger Cookies, buckwheat pancakes and fennel, millet and buckwheat soup.
“Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing” by Vasant Lad
Agni - the digestive fire.
Ama or Aama - undigested food waste, toxins.
Ojas- the foundation of our immune system and longevity.
Dhatus - the tissues of the body.
Srotas - the channels of the body.
Vata - the air/ether
intelligence in the body.
Pitta- the fire/water
intelligence in the body.
Kapha- the water/earth intelligence in the body.
Sattva- the quality of purity, intelligence, peace and love.
Rajas- the quality of
turbulence and activity.
Tamas- the quality of
dullness, darkness and inertia.
Rasa - the taste of a food (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, Astringent)
Virya - second level of digestion (either Heating or Cooling)
Vipaka - third level of digestion, the deep taste of a food (can be Sweet, Sour or Pungent)
Prabhav - the 'special effect' of a food or herb/spice
Rasa - also the name for plasma tissue
Rakta - blood tissue
Mamsa - muscle tissue
Meda - fat tissue
Asthi - bone tissue
Majja - nerve & bone marrow tissue
Shukra - sexual reproductive tissue